Millionaires call for higher taxes to help pay for Covid-19 aid

People wearing masks wait to enter the Hialeah Hospital in Hialeah, Florida, on July 9, 2020.
People wearing masks wait to enter the Hialeah Hospital in Hialeah, Florida, on July 9, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - Dozens of millionaires from the United States and six other countries have a message for their governments: "Tax us. Tax us. Tax us."

Calling themselves the Millionaires For Humanity, more than 80 wealthy individuals - including Walt Disney heiress Abigail Disney, former BlackRock managing director Morris Pearl, screenwriter Richard Curtis and Danish-Iranian entrepreneur Djaffar Shalchi - are petitioning for higher taxes on the rich to help pay for the billions in new government programmes made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Today, we, the undersigned millionaires and billionaires, ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently," according to the open letter.

"As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world," the letter read. 

"No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards.  We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. 

"But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis." 

Their missive, which comes ahead of this weekend's G-20 meeting, isn't the first such appeal.

Even before the pandemic upended public finances, a cohort of 200 or so wealthy people calling themselves the Patriotic Millionaires - a group that include Ms Disney and Mr Pearl - were pressing for a more progressive tax system.

As countries scramble to respond to the economic impact of the global pandemic, some have already mooted introducing higher taxes. 

In the UK, the Institute of Fiscal Studies think-tank has said higher taxes were inevitable for many, not just the super-wealthy. 

Earlier this month, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez indicated his government could introduce higher taxes and Russia will also target higher earners. 

Saudi Arabia has increased sales tax to offset the repercussions of the virus and a slump in oil prices. 

The "Millionaires for Humanity" letter was a collaboration between groups including Oxfam, Tax Justice UK and the Patriotic Millionaires of high-net worth US individuals.