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Eight statistics May 20, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Crime, Ethics, Inequality, Inequality, Ireland, Justice, Rights, Uncategorized.
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I think the eight numbers in these two lines say so much. They are from an Irish Times story on Monday. The ‘he’ is Fr Peter McVerry.

… there had been 3,183 prosecutions for welfare fraud, worth €43 million. This had led to 48 people being jailed for 12 years in total, he said.

Yet in the same period there were only 39 prosecutions for tax evasion worth €2.25 billion. These led to six people being jailed for a total of 3¾ years.

We need a graph to illustrate that. And I hope they form the basis of lots of submissions to the Department of Justice’s consultation on crime.

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1. Tim - May 21, 2010

Had to smile at this one!
I do imagine there’s a hell of a lot more people scamming welfare than dodging tax, though.
I’m also going to set myself up for a verbal battering here, but, it might be thought of as less criminal to try to hang on to some of one’s own money than to defraud others of theirs! :D

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2. Budapestkick - May 21, 2010

There seems to be a contradiction between your words and the facts presented above.

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3. Tim - May 21, 2010

how so?

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Tim - May 21, 2010

whatever the law on the two subjects, it clearly looks as though the state considers welfare fraud worse than tax evasion (which is also fraud, I suppose).

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WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2010

But that’s precisely the problem. Individuals at the level of tax fraud simply don’t consider, and the state doesn’t consider, that their crimes are on a par with people who defraud welfare, and yet the former are vastly more injurious to the society than the latter (that’s not by the way an argument for ignoring welfare fraud). And I think this mentality, almost one of ‘it’s not real – money – when it’s over x hundreds of thousands’ permeates the financial sector too. Those who have inflicted grievous injuries to this society through their machinations in say Anglo-Irish don’t regard the funds they’re pushing around as being in some sense ‘real’ or having an effect.

I’ve even said it before, that the scale of the misdeeds – their ramifications are so great economically, societally and in terms of governance, that individual punishment seems simply impotent in engaging with it.

I don’t know if serious sentencing would change that mindset – more rigorous regulation would probably be more useful – but I cannot see how it would hurt, and at the very least it would introduce a greater degree of justice into the equation.

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Tim - May 21, 2010

Well I don’t think either of those groups should be in jail at all, as that privilege should be reserved for the violent rather than the financially lawless.
The main difference is that one case is fraud AND theft, while the other is just fraud. Both crimes are committed over the mid- to long term, both are committed with intent. Both sets of funds are notoriously hard to recover.
I would have thought there was a legal reason rather than a political one for any difference in sentencing. In terms of justice, I would be interested to know what the average punishment is, though, rather than the cumulative.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 21, 2010

“one case is fraud AND theft, while the other is just fraud”

I’m curious to know the rationale behind that statement.

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Tim - May 21, 2010

Fraud to keep your own money vs fraud to take someone else’s

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LeftAtTheCross - May 21, 2010

Ok, I see what you’re saying now. Difference of opinion on who owns what though. Does the state not “own” the tax owed by an individual or corporation? Maybe not in a legal sense.

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sonofstan - May 21, 2010

Witholding tax is not ‘keeping your own money’ – it’s refusing to pay your share for state services for yourself and others, and therefore, anytime you use a hospital, send your child to school or even drive or walk down the road, you’re stealing. D’uh.

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Pope Epopt - May 21, 2010

I’ve always had a conceptual problem with this notion of ‘your own money’.

Any money I have earned or ‘made’ through ‘entrepreneurial activity’ has always come to me with the sense that it was mostly made of past work that was passed on to me through the good fortune of having been born in a relatively rich country, having benefited from a free education and a wide range of intellectual, cultural and material resources.

That’s why I’m drawn emotionally to a communist or gift economy. My tiny brain just can’t work out what’s really mine to ‘keep’ and what’s yours.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 21, 2010

Yep, but people who believe that “greed is good” and that individual “betterment” is what drives society really do believe that the fruits of their labour belong to them alone. It’s mind boggling. Well this particular wage slave is just too tired to argue the toss at this stage of a friday afternoon, the sunshine outdoors is beckoning me to come and play.

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Tim - May 21, 2010

On reflection, given that there are so many tax loopholes, there is really no excuse for not paying your share.

It’s just a sore point at the moment, as I’ve just done the family taxes here in Canada … my wife pays more in tax than I actually earn, which just makes everything worse :/

Having said that, SoS, nobody (I think) minds paying tax to live in a fair society with clean streets and good hospitals, etc, but do any of us?

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Pope Epopt - May 21, 2010

Enjoy the Irish summer LATC. Long may it last. The apple blossom has been spectacular this year and with strong winds / hail to hammer it off the boughs before those pollinators can get at it!

Far fewer bumble bees and no honey bees that I’ve seen yet, this year, though. God I truly hope the crash in the population is a temporary thing!

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Pope Epopt - May 21, 2010

That should have been ‘without strong winds and hail’ for those in Canada and further afield!

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LeftAtTheCross - May 21, 2010

Thanks Pope, you’re right, haven’t seen bees out here in Meath yet either.

Tim, one final comment from me, that talk of people “not minding” paying taxes is sort of beside the point, paying tax is a legal requirement, it’s not optional, you don’t get to negotiate payment on the basis of what you get in return.

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Pope Epopt - May 21, 2010

On personal finances – snap!

I share your pain, to perpetrate a ghastly cliché.

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Tim - May 21, 2010

Pope- LOL

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4. Dr. X - May 21, 2010

I was talking to a nurse last night. She told me that her hospital is supposed to run at 75% capacity, just to have beds clear in case there’s an emergency or some other unforeseen event.

Trouble is, her place of work regularly runs at 125% capacity.

That’s the real cost of tax fraud and tax evasion in this country.

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5. NollaigO - May 21, 2010

Many months ago on this board I advocated a campaign to get the CAB to chase the big financial criminals who have caused far more social misery than ” the old dope peddlers with their powdered happiness”.
The reports, that I hear from afar, of the antics of the financial elite are just incredible. Is it really true that Anglo Irish bank loans to Séanie and his ilk have been written off ?!

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Ramzi Nohra - May 21, 2010

there should be a prize for quoting Tom Lehrer on an Irish leftist blog. I salute you!

The stats do show the state takes the idea of fraud from the rich a hell of a lot less seriously than fraud by the poor.

That despite the fact that former often have plenty but want more, and the latter often have nothing and just want something.

(Simplistic I know as some welfare fraud is the result of organised gang activity etc).

Tim- I appreciate what you’re saying re kepping the fruits of your own labour etc, but that is not the state’s reason for the relative lack of action on tax fraud. Essentially its fear of frightening middle/upper class voters.

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6. Babeuf - May 21, 2010

Speaking of fraud by the rich…

“The remarkable success of this tax haven [Ireland] means that roughly 20 percent of Irish gross domestic product is actually “profit transfers” that raise little tax for Ireland and are owned by foreign companies. Since most of these profits are subject to the tax code, they are accounted for in Ireland where they are lightly taxed; they should not be counted as part of Ireland’s potential tax base.”

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/irish-miracle-or-mirage/

There’s a post/discussion on this analysis over at Dublin Opinion:

http://dublinopinion.com/2010/05/20/ireland%E2%80%99s-politicians%E2%80%A6-are-making-things-ever-worse/

Although, full article is well worth reading.

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7. Phil - May 21, 2010

Apparently, one type of prosecution is ten times more likely to lead to a jail sentence than the other. I suspect this is partly because a lot of non-compliant corporate behaviour is rectified through regulation backed by the credible threat of prosecution, whereas for welfare fraud prosecution is all there is.

Having said that, I’m completely with you on the implied point about relative priorities (i.e. that the justice system’s r. p.s are screwed).

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8. ejh - May 22, 2010

I do imagine there’s a hell of a lot more people scamming welfare than dodging tax, though.

I’m inclined to doubt this. How much VAT gets fiddled? How many dubious tax-deductible expenses claims get made? How much income goes undeclared?

I could do any of these three things without much danger of detection and by extension, I imagine many self-employed people do.

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sonofstan - May 22, 2010

There’s also a perception that welfare fraudsters are all rolling in it, combining a full time wage with the labour – generally not true: if you’re on assistance, and you take a days work, you lose your benefit for the day c 33euro pd – even if you only work for a few hours. and you need to get a form stamped by the employer and go up to your local SW office – often a fair distance away, especially outside the cities. So the temptation to blag it is there. Not saying it’s ethical, but if you’re trying to get by on 196e pw, it’s not hard to see why some people might give it a go. Or else take a few nixers for cash.

In contrast to that, in the short period when I ran a business and we were faced with doing our first tax return, we took some advice from an accountant. if I’d done everything he suggested – all perfectly legal – I’d have paid no income tax at all on an income that, had I been a PAYE employee, would have put me well into the higher bracket then. In the end, i only claimed for stuff i could justify to myself, but i still ended up paying about half what i would have had i been an employee. And I bet there’s many less scrupulous – or timid – that me.

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