Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Carrot Rebellion

You may have heard that Spain has gotten itself into an economic mess. In an effort to avoid more stringent EU austerity measures, it has increased a number of taxes. The one that interests us today is the value-added tax. The VAT on selected foods is 4%, whereas the VAT on clothing went from 18 to 21%. The VAT on theater tickets also went to 21%.
There is a village called Bescano in Catalonia. Catalonia is in the northeast part of Spain, adjacent to France, and it boasts a strong separatist sentiment. On September 11, which is Catalonia’s National Day, an estimated 1.5 million people filled the streets carrying signs such as "Catalonia, the next independent state in Europe." A recent poll showed that 51% of Catalans would vote in favor of separating from Spain.
Bescano is a small village, but it boasts an impressive theatre troupe. Problem is that one in four local residents is unemployed, which makes it difficult to sell theater tickets. Increase the VAT to 21% and you have a near-insurmountable problem. What to do?
The theater decided to sell a carrot as admission to the theatre. The carrot costs over $15, but it entitles one to free admission. The VAT on a carrot? It is 4%.

The Spanish media have called this the “Carrot Rebellion,” and there is the expected tut-tuts from government officials. Each person who does not pay his “fair share” raises the burden on everyone else, or so goes the party line. It may even constitute “tax evasion,” says one.
The theater has the support and backing of the local mayor.
My thought? No disrespect to a difficult fiscal situation, but I find it clever.

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