Mississauga, April 29 (CINEWS): Close on the heels of the Panama Papers comes the revelation that Canadian corporations kept $40 billion in offshore tax havens last year. Outraged? I’m not! It only reinforces what my hair dresser said. The rich will never give you their money, they have the means to protect it and will go to great lengths to do so.
I am inclined to think that the more money an individual makes the less likely inclined he or she is to part with it. This is irrespective of how high or low on the income scale you might be. Moreover, the outwardly moralistic middle-class is not exempt.
We shake our fingers at the high-profile tax evaders but our ‘social’ outrage might be prompted more by envy than morality. Were we in that ‘enviable’ position, chances are we’d be guilty of doing the same. As the deadline for filling personal taxes approaches, for instance, many up and down the financial ladder will be furiously looking for ways to reduce their owing to the CRA. Most are not above using any means to defraud the government of their dues. What’s worse is that they don’t believe they are doing anything wrong. Justifications of ‘Mr. A and Mr. B also do it’ and ‘why should I part with my hard earned money’ or ‘what do I get in return’ quite easily suppress the weakening voice of conscience.
This prompts the question of whether our moral compass shifts as our financial standing improves. A bit of introspection might reveal some disturbing truths, taxman aside you were probably more willing to share when there was less to go around. An HR manager once revealed his surprise at how employees in the lower income bracket were more likely to contribute to a cause and much more than their higher-earning colleagues.
Somewhere on the road to amassing money antipathy replaces empathy. Once removed from the situation, we tend to have no time or patience for the struggling or less fortunate believing them to be lazy or useless. After all, if we could make it so can they. If they can’t or don’t, we are certainly not looking to give them a leg up at our cost.
Certain studies also revealed that charitable contributions are not necessarily governed by altruism. Donations are often associated with prestige and made to validate an individual’s rise in financial status or gain social favour. One particular study undertaken to determine economics of giving went as far to suggest that public recognition and felicitation of donors might serve to increase their contributions. Tax deductions are also an added incentive to donate. The higher the income, the bigger the gain.
In fact economists Robert McClelland and Arthur Brooks see giving as a U-shaped pattern with people in the lowest and highest income groups give larger proportions of their incomes to charity than individuals in middle-income groups. The poor believe they must give and rich have disposable income to do so.
While the poor and low income earners have little to worry about on the tax or charitable front and the top 2 percent are largely insulated from travails of the bottom 98 percent, it is the middle-class that feels the most squeezed and therefore most likely to commit moral hara-kiri. Some believe they are only emulating the rich in stepping on the backs of those below them.
One school of thought suggests that morality is often sacrificed on the altar of ambition. An individual who is fueled by the desire to get ahead might be willing to cast his principles aside to achieve his goals. A Harvard and University of Utah study substantiated this theory when it found that students whose focus was on money exhibited weaker ethics and were more likely to step out of their morality.
Money sows mistrust, weakens social bonds and ends friendships. As the researchers of the above study wrote, “A cost-benefit analysis ensues which focuses on the self to the exclusion of others.” Let’s get our mantra right—money is a means to an end and not an end in itself. And more importantly does the end justify the means? Something to think about as you get ready to file your taxes, no?