Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tax Culture in Totalitarianism

Tax Culture in Totalitarianism / Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 25, 2014

Approximately four years into the process of the reinstatement of
private labor in Cuba, official data acknowledges the existence of over
400,000 "self-employed" throughout the country, representing a
percentage of workers that pay taxes to the State, a force to be
reckoned with, given their great tax contribution to the State and the
jobs they generate, that is, close to half a million individuals
producing foods and services, offering income to others, and
contributing to the country's economy, supporting at the same time the
State and its many institutions which are just as parasitic.

The authorities, through their media, have been insisting on how
important it is for Cubans to gain experience and awareness regarding
the "tributary culture" (paying taxes), since the era of "state
paternalism" ended, along with its policies of subsidy; everyone should
strive to earn a living based on their own capacity and resources to
safeguard the revolution's social benefits, namely the supposedly
extraordinary standards of health and education that we enjoy on the Island.

Cynicism aside, the logic of the need for a tax culture is undeniable in
any moderately functional society. But in the case of Cuba – are we ever
going to stop being a "case"? — It appears that the tax culture that we
now aspire to, which was destroyed by the government with the
Revolutionary Offensive, is destined to flow in only one direction: from
those who provide the tax to the tax institutions, but never the other
way around.

Thus, a particular economic variant comes into play in virtue of which
the producers must assume the burden of a heavy tax to the State, but
the State is not required to report the amounts collected or the fate of
the funds collected.

Silent taxes

But there are longer standing taxes whose fate is also unknown. For
decades, Cubans have contributed taxes to the Sate-party-government
through a system of evaluations from multiple quasi-State organizations
that it created.

For example, if we use the official statistics, which indicate there are
about 3 million State employees whose average salary is 400 pesos, and
if we consider that they are affiliated with the Workers Center of Cuba
and, as such, they donate one work day each year destined for a
non-existent territorial militia, their contribution in this context
would be about $50 million annually — about 16.66 pesos per capita — not
counting what they pay in dues to their unions, which, paradoxically,
represent the interests of employers, who benefit both from what the
employees produce as well as what they pay into the unions.

Recently a friend and colleague speculated about the contributions of
the 800,000 members of the ruling and only party. Using an extremely
conservative estimate, my friend found an estimated 50 pesos per year
per militant, which produced $40 million annually in contributions to
the State.

In addition to these estimates, there are taxes collected from mass
organizations, such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution
and the Federation of Cuban Women, a minimal amount, but significant
because of large number of their affiliates, or the Young Communists
Union, "the revolution's youth vanguard", in which both students and
workers are active.

All these organizations, in turn, are supported by a monstrous (and
expensive) infrastructure ranging from office buildings, furniture,
fleets of vehicles, employees, materials and resources, even wages, fuel
costs and electricity, etc., producing absolutely nothing.

As for the huge bureaucratic apparatus of government and its repressive
forces, it is impossible to calculate their living costs. In this sense,
many Cubans, especially the so-called "self-employed", have begun to do
their accounts and they wonder if it is not too much of a contradiction
to help support the same system that plunders and represses and that, in
addition, continues treating them like lepers.

Because, at the end of the day, the tax culture is not — as the
government pretends — the imposition of a consciousness of servitude to
the Master State in order to keep supposed supreme ideals that, so far,
only benefit the State. The tax culture is born and consolidated from
the self-awareness that individuals acquire when they reach economic
independence, a road that sooner, rather than later, will have to start
to flow in both directions.

Cubanet, 20 February 2014, Miriam Celaya

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Tax Culture in Totalitarianism / Miriam Celaya | Translating
Cuba -

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