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A TAXING PROBLEM

PHOTO: PAUL HOGAN.
PHOTO: PAUL HOGAN.


By all accounts the actor Paul Hogan – better known for his screen name "Crocodile Dundee" – was a "regular guy". Prior to his discovery as a comedian and then a world famous film star of the Crocodile Dundee series, he once held down a job on a crew tasked with painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge; suffice it to say, he wasn’t a guy born with a "silver spoon in his mouth".

Recently he’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons. According to the Australian Tax Office, Mr. Hogan was a participant in a scheme to avoid taxes on $34million of his income that involved the illegal use of off-shore tax havens; it was alleged that a lot of his takings as a profit participant in his Crocodile Dundee films went into this fraudulent scheme that tax officials named the "Wickenby Operation".

While there is no doubt that an individual has the right to the "enjoyment" of the fruits of his or her legal labour, I found myself blogging as follows on the feedback section of the Australian newspaper that printed the article on "Croc":

As a "regular guy" Mr. Hogan was the beneficiary of the public’s largess. He enjoyed a publicly funded education, public healthcare, the protection of his life and liberty and probably looked forward to a pension at the termination of his bridge painting gig. Why then you ask, must the first impulse be of anyone that enjoys a positive turn of fate, be to immediately seek out opportunities to defraud – or at the least deny – the very societies that have shaped and formed them in the way of payment of taxes? Isn’t this at the very least bizarre?

Personally I attended a State of California University as an in-state student. The annual subsidy that made my fees affordable enough for me to be self sufficient – the hidden cost of education – was in the $8-10,000 per year range; over an undergraduate career followed by two years of post graduate education let’s conservatively estimate the investment of the State of California in my humble self at close to $60,000!

It is perverse logic to suggest that my first impulse on graduation should be to seek out means to avoid paying taxes rather than contributing to the system that benefitted me so. Nigerians must do the same! This idea that "once I start to see services I’ll start to pay" is completely illogical and is the proverbial "cart before the horse".

The current joke about Nigerian society is that it is the only society where upper middle class people – professionals and the like – drive around in bullet-proof cars; these cars are the manifestation of the underinvestment in the society, otherwise they would not be deemed necessary.

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