The fictional tax and the culture of effort

Article in CajaSiete Blog de, 28 march 2017

Leopoldo Cólogan

I have always thought that the best way to increase revenues through the collection of taxes involves encouraging and boosting economic and social activity by establishing simple taxes that are understood by all those that have to pay them, and not by creating notional and unfair taxes which do not correspond to reality, and by setting an example in the management of these resources so that society notices them through the improvement of services and general welfare.

This reflection is very recent, and is a result of the rulings recently passed by the Plenary of the Constitutional Court, on 16 February 2017 and 1 March 2017, which establish that legislators are not authorised to tax notional and inexpressive wealth and economic capacity. Although it might seem obvious, this premise has an important practical application in our day-to-day business, and that of which the Constitutional Court has reminded us is extremely helpful.

What is more, this ruling states that on the mere basis of having been the title holder of urban land for a given period of time, a citizen cannot make relevant declarations without having to face an increase in value and economic capacity that is subject to taxation. If this were not the case, they would be prevented from fulfilling their obligation to pay taxes, not in an arbitrary manner, but solely on the basis of their economic capacity.

All this has reminded me of the lecture that I attended last week on the problems regarding the taxation of water in the Canary Islands, in which I was able to witness the excellent lectures given by Professor Francisco Clavijo and the prestigious lawyer Martín Orozco, who were introduced by the equally prestigious lawyer Felipe González.

I was impressed by how many people filled the Cajasiete Conference Hall where the event took place. This reminded me of another era, in the 1980s, which brought back memories of newspaper headlines such as “Twenty thousand people march against the Water Law” and “Cólogan: the solution to the Water Law conflict is dialogue”.

“In the Canary Islands, we should feel proud of the efforts of many generations.”

At this point, the question is what does not taxing artificial wealth have to do with the fiscal issue of water in the Canary Islands. In my view, a lot because tax treatment is currently given to income earned from water as if it was income from movable capital and not as it is – income earned from the sale of something owned where you can deduct expenses that you actually incurred to be able to obtain yields. That is to say that a notional situation is created that does not correspond with reality, which leads to taxation of an amount that does not correspond with the actual financial capacity, if, clearly, you cannot deduct expenses that are required to obtain yields, of which the costs represent the effort necessary to obtain them.

Let us not forget, as it was explained on that day, that the right of utilisation is a right in rem relating to immovable property, water in its natural state, in a lake, in a river or underground, that once someone exercises this right and extracts and channels this water, he or she becomes the owner of it, as it is the result of his/her activity.

In the Canary Islands, we should feel proud of the efforts of many generations that have carried out admirable hydraulic works that deserve to be considered tourist attractions, showing these channels on vertical walls, in ravines, wells and galleries as if they were “water mines”.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the work carried out by the notary Marcos Guimerá Peraza in 1967, which reminds us that the origin predates the conquest with the authorisation of the Catholic Monarchs to distribute the land and water among those that contributed towards it and records what Fray Lesco said regarding the island of Lanzarote, “If there were water here to light, adventurers of the underground would have arisen, the tunnel dreamers from other islands, worthy of legend”.

Value should be placed on the effort and it should never be penalised. It is appropriate that the new generations bear in mind that it is even more important to strive than the result that one obtains. This will help them overcome the different situations that arise in life.

Finally, and in view of the recent presentation of the “European Wheelchair Basketball Championship of 2017” to be held in June in the south of Tenerife, I cannot avoid mentioning the athletes who will participate in it, as a clear example of effort and achievement.