Knowing more about where our taxes go would help balance the arguments around future hikes

Knowing more about where our taxes go would help balance the arguments around future hikes

Every month, the PAYE system engages with my salary, as it does for most people who work in Ireland.

Hyper-efficient systems ensure that a large slug of my gross pay is whipped out and diverted to the exchequer.

While the efficiency of that process is admirable, why is more information not transmitted back to the employee in exchange for so much cash?

In other parts of the economy, any money or economic action involving a consumer giving something away is met with an avalanche of communication.

Indeed, there is an obligation on private companies to provide customers with extensive details on their accounts.

Yet, the PAYE system gives back very little information.

Anodyne communications from the Revenue, once a year, provide a cold account, summarising how much tax was taken, but with very little else attached.

Is it too much to expect that handing over in excess of 50% of large parts of your gross salary should warrant a more detailed accountability?

For a start, it might be good to actually thank individual taxpayers for chucking significant amounts of their hard-earned pay into the exchequer. More importantly, it would be of value to explain how the tax collected from any individual is actually utilised.

A pie-chart, for example, that outlined how much of my taxes went to health, education, policing, and so on, would provide transparency.

A table that detailed how my specific tax payments have changed over the past five years would be informative, too.

Perhaps that type of data would give individuals a greater level of attachment to the country that their taxes finance.

It might also make people, in general, more aware of the contribution they make to the workings of the State.

Providing detail of this type would also help balance the various debates that go on around tax.

Too often, lobby groups get media airtime to argue why their clients have to be given more cash by government.

These battles are positioned in an ‘us versus them’ context, which presents government as some distant entity not connected to ordinary individuals.

In fact, these lobby groups are asking individual taxpayers to cough up more money for their demands, or else this will push the State into higher borrowings.

If taxpayers had better information on how much of their money was going into each part of the State’s mechanisms, it would help balance the arguments in favour, or against, more taxes and spending.

Like many people, I have no problem diverting material sums of my salary to play a part in funding Ireland.

Like others, I’ve been doing that for a number of decades.

Combined, employee taxes have provided the backbone of funding for everything from schools to roads, hospitals and infrastructure.

These are all assets necessary to support an efficient and progressive economy.

However, I do have an issue with the manner in which politicians and lobby groups assume responsibilities and control over those sums of money, which, when aggregated across all employees, are enormous amounts of cash.

There is a tendency to present spending decisions or pay awards as gifts provided by — or secured by — individuals with power, whereas the resources actually come from the pockets of employees.

Too often, the voices of individual taxpayers are lost in the media spin and in the press releases that dominate the narratives about health and education.

A better level of communication with each taxpayer, outlining exactly how his or her money was deployed in the State over the previous year, would help balance these debates and give Mr or Mrs Taxpayer a better voice in national debates.

Joe Gill is director of origination and corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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