ROME — Pope Francis met with a delegation from Italy’s internal revenue service Monday, praising them for their work and holding up taxation as a necessary tool for redistribution.
Modern tax collectors are often looked upon with suspicion just as they were in the times of Jesus, the pontiff said, but they provide an essential service to the common good by redistributing wealth.
“A certain culture of suspicion can unfortunately extend to those who enforce the laws,” Francis said. “Yet this is a fundamental task, because legality protects everyone and is a guarantee of equality.”
“Laws make it possible to maintain a principle of fairness where the logic of interests generates inequalities,” he added. “Legality in the fiscal area is a way to balance social relations, removing forces from corruption, injustice, and inequality.”
“But this requires some education and cultural change,” the pope continued. “As is often said, people often see the tax system as a ‘reaching its hands into their pockets.’”
In reality, he declared, “taxation is a sign of legality and justice. It must promote the redistribution of wealth, protecting the dignity of the poor and the least, who always risk being crushed by the powerful.”
“Taxation, when it is right, is a function of the common good,” he asserted. “Let us work to increase the culture of the common good, so that the universal destination of goods is taken seriously.”
“Your work appears thankless in the eyes of a society that puts private property at the center as an absolute and fails to subordinate it to the style of communion and sharing for the good of all,” Francis commiserated.
“Alongside the cases of tax evasion, payments under the table, and widespread illegality, you could recount the honesty of many people who do not shirk their duty and pay their dues, thus contributing to the common good,” he said.
“The scourge of evasion is answered by the simple rectitude of many taxpayers, and this is a model of social justice,” he added. “The impartiality of your work affirms that no citizen is better than others based on their social level, but that everyone is recognized for their good faith in being loyal builders of society.”
“Taxation is often perceived negatively if it is not clear where and how public money is spent,” the pope stated. “There is a risk of fueling suspicions and discontent. Those who manage the assets of all have a serious responsibility not to get rich from it.”
People will be more motivated to pay their taxes if tax revenues “help to overcome inequalities, invest to generate more jobs, guarantee good healthcare and education for all, and create infrastructure that facilitates social life and the economy,” he said.
“Please keep your free healthcare system, please!” the pope urged, departing from his prepared text. “Defend it, so we do not fall into a paid healthcare system, where the poor have no right to anything. This is one of the beautiful things about Italy: please keep it.”