Pope Francis receives a gift from Italy's revenue agency Pope Francis receives a gift from Italy's revenue agency 

Pope: Taxation should favor wealth redistribution for public services

Pope Francis urges members of Italy’s taxation authority to implement Gospel values as they work to favor the redistribution of wealth and support public services for society’s neediest members.

By Devin Watkins

The Pope met Monday with a delegation of the Agenzie delle Entrate, Italy’s revenue agency, and reflected on the Biblical roots of taxation and its purpose in society.

The theme of taxation, noted Pope Francis, appears regularly in the Bible, and was an aspect of every government that ruled over the Holy Land.

“The Bible,” he pointed out, “does not demonize money, but offers an invitation to use it correctly, to not become slaves to it, and not to turn it into an idol.”

Even the Biblical kings of Israel imposed taxes on their subjects, he said, making it part of life even in ancient times.

Biblical taxation

Tithing, said the Pope, is a little-known but interesting aspect of taxation, in which a tenth of a person’s revenue is given to the king, as Abraham did after he received a blessing from the priest-king Melchizedek.

The Old Testament book of Leviticus employed revenue from the pre-existing practice of tithing to support the priestly tribe of Levi, freeing them up from manual labor to serve in the Temple of God.

“The tithe for the Levites helped mature two realities in people’s consciences: that of not being self-sufficient, because salvation comes from God; and that of being responsible for one another, beginning from those most in need.”

Pope Francis also explored the conversions of the tax-collectors Zacchaeus and Matthew due to their personal encounters with Jesus.

“Matthew,” he said, “may have even continued to manage his own wealth, even those of others, but he certainly did so with a different logic: that of service to the needy and sharing with the brothers and sisters, just as the Teacher taught him.”

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Redistribution of wealth for common good

Pope Francis went on to explore the guiding principles of Italy’s Revenue Agency: legality, impartiality, and transparency.

Legality in fiscal matters, said the Pope, serves to “balance social relationships, removing strength from corruption, injustices, and inequalities.”

He added that legality safeguards everyone and is a “guarantee of equality”, though a cultural shift is required to see taxation as a “sign of legality and justice.”

“[Taxation] must favor the redistribution of wealth, safeguarding the dignity of the poor and the least, who always risk being trodden underfoot by the powerful. The taxman, when he or she is just, promotes the common good.”

He pointed to the social doctrine of the Church and Scripture to urge everyone to promote the common good by understanding the “universal destination of goods.”

Legal equality and public services

Impartiality in tax collection, said Pope Francis, affirms that “no citizens are better based on their social class, but that everyone is entrusted in good faith to be faithful builders of society.”

Though cases of tax evasion and illegality abound, he added, employees of the Revenue Agency can also attest to the millions of people who pay their taxes and contribute to the common good.

Transparency, noted the Pope, is an important aspect in both tax collection and government spending on healthcare and other state-run institutions.

“Transparency in the management of money, which comes from the sacrifices of many workers, reveals freedom of spirit, and teaches people to be more motivated in paying their taxes, especially if fiscal revenue contributes to overcoming inequality, making investments to create jobs, guaranteeing good healthcare and schooling, and creating infrastructure that facilitates social and economic life.”

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31 January 2022, 12:43