MEP La France Insoumise Manon Aubry will be present to discuss with the public the preview of Yannick Kergoat’s film “The (Very) Great Escape” at the Star Saint-Exupéry cinema on Monday 12 December. A specialist in tax evasion, the leader of the left-wing group in the European Parliament talks about his fight to reduce inequalities through taxation.
For more social justice, she does not give up her fight against tax evasion. MEP for rebellious France and co-chair of the European United Left (GUE) group in the European Parliament, Manon Aubry began to engage with this theme within the non-governmental organization Oxfam. Member of the sub-committee dedicated to tax evasion in the European Parliament, she will be at the Star Saint-Exupéry cinema on Monday, December 12, after the screening of Yannick Kergoat’s film “The (Very) Great Escape” at 20:00. Interview.
Rue 89 Strasbourg: you intervened very early against tax evasion. Where did this commitment come from?
Manon Aubry: Before Oxfam, I worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the tax practices of mining companies. The DRC is a cobalt-rich country. But it remains a poor country, especially because the tax system is unfair and does not allow the state to raise the taxes necessary for the redistribution of wealth.
Then I returned to France and I worked for Oxfam at the time of the tax evasion revelations like the Panama Papers, LuxLeaks, etc. Every time this situation is taken as a fact, an achievement: Billionaires and multinationals do not pay their taxes. To me it is a scandal. You cannot reduce inequality without redistributing wealth. It is therefore necessary to take an interest in the tax issue. When the richest evade their obligation to pay taxes, it raises the democratic question of tax consent. Why do we pay our taxes when the wealthy don’t?
You have seen Yannick Kergoat’s film. What did you think of it?
The film shows very well the impact tax evasion has on our daily lives. The hospital robbery at the end is staged by Oxfam. When Total, Google, Amazon or Bernard Arnault do not pay their taxes, our hospitals find themselves in pain. Today, our hospitals are not able to handle bronchiolitis. Still, it is a basic disease that can be managed when you have the necessary equipment.
The film also explains that we deliberately wanted to make the tax issue complex so that no one would understand anything. However, this is not a technical issue, it is a political issue. Are we ending tax benefits? The question is not really that complex. The problem is not the lack of a solution, it is a political problem. And the film shows it well on the list of tax havens. How can a list be drawn up, while allowing states like Ireland or Luxembourg to participate in the creation of this list?
How did this movie make you feel?
A legitimate feeling of anger, an anger that I have had for years since I have been working on this subject for a long time.
At the same time, I had the feeling of the progress. About ten years ago we were whistleblowers on tax evasion. In a few years it has become clear that tax evasion is practiced on a large scale and that we are not equal in relation to tax evasion. It is well said in the movie: tax evasion is a sport for the rich and for multinational corporations, especially corporations I would say.
Finally, it is hoped that there will be a global awareness of tax evasion to turn this awareness into political action. Regarding the transparency of multinational companies, I have been working on this file since I worked at Oxfam and now as a member of the European Parliament. Recently, negotiations at European level have resulted in limited transparency that does not allow us to assess what Total or Google will have to pay in taxes. It was later discovered that France’s position had been shaped by the position of the employers’ association Medef (thanks to revelations from the media Context, editor’s note). This is quite symptomatic of the difficulties we encounter and of the collaboration between financial interests and regulators. It’s like asking Monsanto to regulate GMOs.
Is the phenomenon getting worse, or has the policy succeeded in reducing tax evasion?
In the race for tax evasion, the states have finally woken up. But they only start walking when the tax dodgers run, much faster. So if you look at the actions of the states, they’ve certainly taken things up… but the gap to catch tax evaders is widening because the methods of evasion are becoming more complex and evolving ever faster.
In your opinion, the fight against tax evasion takes place above all in the European Parliament?
It is clear that the European level is the most interesting for taxation. However, on this issue of taxation, a unanimous vote among all member states is necessary to legislate. So with states like Luxembourg, Ireland, Malta or the Netherlands, it is difficult to change the legislative framework.
With disobedient France and the group of the European left, we have always defended the idea of being a forerunner with a universal tax. Its principle would be to calculate the tax that the company would have to pay at international level and to take over the French share according to the number of employees and the national turnover. The idea is to do it unilaterally as a Frenchman, then inspire neighboring states like Spain and Italy and end up proposing European regulation. France is the second European economy. It can show the way and lead to a change that would be implemented in Strasbourg. Especially because with this race for tax competition, the tax rate will be 0% in 2050 at the rate we’re going for.
What can those who see this film?
We can act at all levels. This film is published in collaboration with Oxfam, Attac, League of Human Rights. These associations fight daily to put tax evasion on the political agenda. We can already support these associations or get involved.
Personally, I didn’t dream of politics, but we found no other way to change the tax rules than to take the power to change laws, to vote for universal tax, you have to change the general tax law… Those who profit from taxes evasion, they only await people’s defeatism and renunciation. But the revolution of 1789 was partly born out of a tax revolt, especially by the Third Estate, who no longer wanted to pay tithes. Tax injustice, and more recently the Yellow Giles, must structure our rebellion and our mobilization. We are not doomed to have Total or Arnault not paying taxes. By being numerous, and thanks to this film, I believe we can turn the tide.