November 10th, 2023

Tax rollercoaster

black and silver calculator beside black pen

There are but a few western countries which unlike the rest of the world set tax filings of their citizens for complete public disclosure. In practice, this means that everyone can see the filings of an individual's income tax and capital tax. In addition, the information of the most wealthy individuals is handed freely out to media, and then shared for everyone so easily that it will not even require a trip to the local tax office to find out how much they have made.

Having free access to general information about taxation would be understandable on the basis of academic research. Having access to filings which can be pinpointed to a single individual, however, is obviously politically motivated regulation.

Now, it is that time of the year again! From the perspective of taxation – barring any corrections which might get noticed only afterwards – the year 2022 is at an end, and all the information is out there for anyone to see. Most simply use this to spy on their friends, relatives, coworkers, boss, or famous people. At times, this can also be utilized for gathering intelligence as well: when making a salary request at the time of applying for a new job, for instance.

But for the vast majority, this is just about experiencing the rollercoaster of various emotions: greed, ambition, fascination, dislike, and most of all envy. If only all those people who spent the time searching for data about the lives of others only spent that same time to help themselves achieve better results the world would most likely be a far better place. Even if it is a great thing that there are many different kinds of people on this planet (which it is!), success breeds success.

As for the reasoning behind this rollercoaster of emotions in the form of making tax filings public information I have yet to find a good answer. The only one that I have gotten so far is that it creates more transparency in the society. This is true, obviously, if transparency equals making private information legal to share publicly. Would you willingly stand on the street, shouting out how much cash you are carrying and have in your bank account to by-passers? Probably not, since that would be stupid. Ergo, it is a stupid answer, not a good one.