Opinion pieces

Letter: The true cost of extreme wealth

Sir, – The accumulation of extreme wealth by the world’s richest individuals has become an economic, ecological and human rights disaster, threatening political stability in countries all over the world. Such steep levels of inequality undermine the strength of virtually every one of our global systems and must be addressed.

Decades of falling taxes on the richest, based on the false promise that the wealth at the top would somehow benefit us all, has contributed to the rise in extreme inequality. Our political choices allow ultra-wealthy individuals to continue to use tax shelters and enjoy preferential treatment to the extent that, in most countries, they pay lower tax rates than ordinary people.

At the same time, the world has seldom had more need for the richest to pay. For the first time in decades extreme poverty is increasing and nearly two billion people live in countries where inflation has outstripped wage growth. Furthermore, time is rapidly running out for countries to make the necessary green investments that would align themselves with the 1.5 degrees of warming cap called for in the Paris Agreement.

Across the world, people are desperate for change. Public polls in all G20 countries show overwhelming support for political action to curb inequality and tax extreme wealth.

A current international petition on wealth taxation has hundreds of thousands of signatures.

As economists, millionaires, and political representatives, we agree: we cannot allow extreme wealth to continue corroding our collective future.

In 2021 the G20 and others worked together to ensure that multinational corporations should pay a minimum level of tax.

The G20 must now collectively agree to raise taxes on the richest individuals, through truly inclusive and ambitious international collaboration to tax wealth and to stop tax competition and avoidance by the richest people.

Our shared ambition must be to make our international and national systems work for everyone, not merely those who have money and power. With this in mind, we call on the member states of the G20 to work together to enact new tax regimes – at national and international levels – that eliminate the ability of the ultra-rich to avoid paying their dues and introduce new rules that determine higher taxation of extreme wealth.

An international agreement on wealth taxes would shrink dangerous levels of inequality while also allowing leaders to raise vital funds to tackle the multiple challenges facing our world.

This will not be easy but it will be worth it. Much work has already been done. There is an abundance of policy proposals on wealth taxation from some of the world’s leading economists. The public wants it. We want it.

Now all that’s missing is the political will to deliver it. – Yours, etc,

JOE O’BRIEN, Minister of State,






TOM McDONNELL, Nevin Economic Research Institute



BERNIE SANDERS, United States senator

BRIAN ENO, Musician and composer

YVES LETERME, Former prime minister of Belgium

For full list of signatories see https://taxextremewealth.com/signatures

This letter was organised by Patriotic Millionaires, the Institute for Policy Studies, Earth 4 All, Millionaires for Humanity, and Oxfam


September 7, 2023

first published

The Irish Times

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