Tax invasion

It is mostly small countries, many of them in Europe. Their most important good: privacy. Laws that hide bank accounts and protect data. What they fear most: attention. Naturally then, Liechtenstein was not pleased when German officials began far-reaching investigations, tracking down a large number of German citizens with secret accounts in Liechtenstein. The claim: tax evasion, on a very large scale.

There are some legal issues about how the crucial data was obtained (apparently the BND (the German secret service) bought the information from an undisclosed source). But mostly reactions in the news have ranged from outrage at the systematic way in which monetary elites have manipulated the system to sheer schadenfreude about them being caught.

But it actually seems difficult to agree with either sentiment. Not just because most people engage in some form of instinctive tax evasion – the difference in absolute numbers and income level is too significant for that. It is more the nasty suspicion that this is not a victory for the man on the street at all. In fact, neither side seems particularly worthy of empathy. The moral standing of the monetary elites in question has suffered a number of severe blows in the past few years due to numerous other scandals. But can we really rejoice in the triumph of a state that is essentially a success in eliminating privacy?

Beyond the legal issues, moral questions are lurking. Questions about the legitimacy of taxes and the duties one might have to society, questions about privacy and respect thereof in light of the opportunity of obtaining data.

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