FRENCH CATHOLIC EMPLOYERS' QUIZ
By HENRI ROLLET.
The French Catholic employers association (Le Centre Francais du Patronat Chretien) recently conducted an inquiry among its members about their fulfilment of the obligation which springs from the words of Our Lord: " Render
to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
The inquiry bluntly asked: Do you cheat the Exchequer? If so, by how much ? How do you explain and justify this ? What kind of conscience have you got in regard to your obligation to pay taxes ?
This intimate quiz has raised a lively interest in France in circles much wider than those of the Catholic employers.
An analysis of the answers received substantiates the following facts:
Only a very few do not cheat the Exchequer at all. The burden of present taxation is very heavy and the exact discharge of obligations towards the exchequer requires a real spirit of sacrifice. Nevetherless, it is recognised as a valid obligation.
Most of those who answered the inquiry reveal the anxiety which the alternative causes them: either to make a true return of their incomes and have to pay too heavy a tax, or to hide their true income.
The number of the replies and the substance of them show that conscience in the matter of taxes is not completely lost. It is a sign of a Moral resistence to the proven corruption in France in the last ten years.
The greater number of those who do not make a true income-tax return say they can see no other means of ensuring the continuance of their businesses. Some think that to pay a ruinous and inflated tax goes quite beyond their obligation to "Caesar." So, plaintiff and judge in their own cases, they fix the limit of what they consider just. Another argument is that when the State deducts at source a heavy tax on the higher incomes it is endeavouring to redistribute money between the classes, which is an object quite foreign to the nature of a tax. as such, and so cannot have its obligation in conscience. A fourth argument, used particularly by doctors, lawyers, technical consultants, etc., says that the State
only imposes the higherrat rn
because it presumes that false only imposes the higherrat rn
because it presumes that false are made and small taxes evaded. Taxes imposed in such a spirit invite deceit and evasion.
After this revealing inquiry the Centre Francais du Patronat Chalkn took two practical steps.
It called a general meeting of its members and sent a statement to the authorities on its views as to how to re-establish honesty in taxation matters.
The meeting of the Catholic employers was addressed by their Chaplain, Fr. Arnou, S.J., who reaffirmed to them in the clearest possible terms the Christian morality of the subject.
Whatever the politics of the Government or the taxpayer, the citizen is bound in conscience to pay his taxes. The obligation, by its nature, is grave and those who evade it altogether, or to any great extent, are guilty of a grave sin against social justice.
The statement sent to the Government claimed that all reforms would be valueless unless they aimed at making the whole country conscious of the Exchequer and of the reciprocal duties and obligations between those who pay the taxes and those who spend public money.
"The taxpayer," it states, " does still take the payment of taxes as a matter of conscience, but he wants to share the cost of Government as an associate not just as a source of money ' to be squeezed and taxed without mercy.'"
The statement also puts forward some practical suggestions: (1) That taxes be fewer in number, simple and intelligible. (2) That evasion of tax is not made a reason for increasing the rate of tax, (3) That rates of tax should remain stable and not be subject to constant change.
(4) That all should be made taxpayers according to their ability. (5) That the administration of public finance should be subject to honest and intelligible accounting.
(6) That the taxpayer should not be presumed to be a cheat and should be treated with civility.