Gemma McGough, one of the founding members, is a self-made millionaire having succeeded in the realm of entrepreneurship. She shared with Express.co.uk the campaign to raise wealth taxes and lower charges for the working class, saying “paying more tax is not going to make any wealthy people poor”.
Ms McGough grew up in a working class family, and didn’t go to university, explaining she understands what it is like to fear the postman bringing a bill one cannot pay.
She said: “I remember growing up without a car and ice on the inside of the windows because the house is so cold.”
She began her career at just 16-years-old working in the regulatory sector which she enjoyed, and met her now ex-husband when he was a customer.
The pair set up a company in competition, as Ms McGough put it “just got lucky”, and put in gruelling hours for high income in a high growth industry.
The pair sold the business and Ms McGough invested the proceeds in the stock market, she said: “That’s how I became wealthy enough to qualify for the Patriotic Millionaires.”
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However, recalling her past she noted: “The reality is that paying an extra two percent tax on my wealth would not send me back there. You’re always going to be fine, if you’ve passed a certain threshold in your wealth it’s almost impossible to become poor. Paying more tax is not going to make any wealthy people poor.”
Patriotic Millionaires UK is the British arm of the Patriotic Millionaires movement which began in the US. It originally started during the pandemic when Ms McGough was one of only 40 people in the UK signing the Millionaires for Humanity petition.
The petition requested that the Government use the wealth of the rich to help pay for the pandemic.
Ms McGough is now one of 20 gunning Patriotic Millionaires UK, all of which come from different industries and most are self-made like herself.
She explained: “We have a shared mission to campaign for raising taxes on the wealthy like ourselves. It’s easy for the poor to say ‘We should tax the rich’ but when the rich say ‘We’ve got enough, we should be taxed too’ it does help the argument.
“I don’t like the fact that society is so unequal, life is very hard for most people and it’s very easy for somebody like me. We can engage in philanthropy and use that money for good, but tax and philanthropy are different things. We need a change in the tax system.”
Ms McGough admitted her guilt because of her wealth, despite working 60 hour weeks when her business was starting out, saying: “Lots of people work really hard and really long hours and don’t make it so I did feel guilty for having done well.”
The campaign has come across a lot of obstacles, namely the resistance to such a big change from various factions of society.
She said: “The narrative is still that tax is a bad thing and especially in troubled times where people feel protective of themselves and their wealth so it’s understandable. On the other hand if you look at how much money you’ve got compared to other people who are struggling to feed their children or heat their homes now it’s a reality check.”
The campaign has been recognised by the Government and received a response for their idea.
Ms McGough explained: “We got a letter from the Treasury saying that they feel that the current tax system is already adequately taxing the wealthy.
“We often see people arguing things like if you tax the rich, they’re the ones creating the jobs and they’ll leave the country. Those are arguments made by a very small fraction of the super rich to keep things the same.
“None of the things we are campaigning for will affect anyone outside of the one percent, so unless you are part of the one percent then the changes will be a benefit. We don’t need billionaires anyway.
“I think maybe 200 years from now we’ll be looking back at this time where you’ve got people starving to death and billionaires living alongside one another on the same planet is grotesque inequality. The wealthy are paying less tax proportionately to their income than the lower middle classes. It’s just common sense!”
She also added many people argue why individual millionaires don’t just voluntary pay more to the Government if they wish to.
To this, she replied: “That’s like telling Extinction Rebellion to just be vegan then! It’s not actually going to solve the climate crisis and any individual millionaire voluntary paying more tax isn’t going to solve inequality.
“I think if you’re middle class working hard every day the notion of wealth tax can seem like if you finally make it and you’re wealthy then they’re going to tax you on that. But that’s not the case.
“We’re campaigning for less tax on work and more tax on wealth, like equalisation of capital gains tax with income tax that would be fairer. You’re currently paying more tax on the money than you’re earning than the money that the stock market is earning for you which is stupid.”
The campaign is wanting to put in place an annual wealth tax in the UK, implementing two percent on wealth over £3.67million, three percent on wealth over £36.79million and five percent on wealth over £735million.
Collectively, the campaign states, this will raise an annual £43billion without impacting anyone outside of the one percent in theory.
She concluded: “We’re not impacted by rising energy and food prices, we’re still making money and getting wealthier. For most families in the UK they’re getting poorer. The argument against it gets thinner and thinner.
“There’s an easy fix, tax the wealth more and push it back down into the system so everyone else can lead a better life. The growing inequality has completely eroded democracy, if it carries on we won’t have a functioning society in the future. We’re losing our empathy for others.
“The correlation between hard work and success is only linked for the lucky. The living wage isn’t really enough to live on, especially not with the increase in costs. I don’t know how people can manage. There’s a lot of social narrative that’s wrong.”