Former heads of state and government call on President Biden and fellow G20 leaders to back global deal to tax the ultra-rich


Close to 20 former heads of state and government of G20 and higher-income countries, including former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, former Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven, former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gilliard, former Prime Minister of France Dominique de Villepin and former President of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, called on current G20 leaders —including US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer— to support a “new global deal to tax the world’s ultra-rich individuals” in an open letter published today. Ensuring the ultra-rich pay their fair share “would reduce inequality and raise trillions of dollars necessary for investments in industrial policy and a just transition.”

The former leaders state in the letter that “Brazil’s G20 proposal underlines the opportunity to write a new story about taxation for the first time in a generation” at a time when “billionaires, globally, are paying a tax rate equivalent to less than 0.5 percent of their wealth.”

The Brazilian government, in its presidency of the G20, is championing a new global tax standard on taxing the ultra-rich. The letter by former heads of state and government of G20 countries comes alongside talks across G20 capitals to back the deal, and ahead of a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 25 July. Governments including Brazil, South Africa, France and Spain have already voiced their support.

The leaders write: “rare is a proposal that asks us as former leaders to rally in unity —and that we recognize as politically possible. This, clearly, is one.”

Stefan Löfven, former Prime Minister of Sweden and Member of Club de Madrid, said:

“Brazil’s sensible proposal to set new global standards to tax the wealthiest individuals is a strategic economic game-changer that all G20 leaders must get behind. With leaders like President Biden championing bold new proposals, we’re witnessing a groundbreaking shift. But for these efforts to be truly effective governments need to cooperate internationally.

“The leaders of the world’s most powerful economies are uniquely placed to offer the stewardship that people are crying out for today. Backing Brazil’s credible G20 proposal could be one of the most important multilateral steps in recent history: it would not only raise billions of dollars for countries vital investments in people, but also offer the new global consensus the world needs for fairer taxation.”

Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and Vice-President of Club de Madrid, said:

“Brazil’s proposal for a global deal to tax the wealthiest people is the kind of responsible economic statecraft that governments need today. By getting behind this agenda, G20 leaders would show they’re taking on oligarchic levels of extreme inequality and the harm to democracy that it creates.

“We need a world in which the wealthiest are taxed in every country, and not allowed to dictate the rules for their own benefit. Brazil is showing us how. By backing President Lula’s G20 effort, leaders are giving multilateralism hope: proving that governments can cooperate to create fair rules for all.”

The former world leaders state that “global capital does not respect national borders,” noting that while national action is “indispensable”, it “alone can only go so far.” The former presidents and prime ministers write that “tax avoidance and evasion by the ultra-rich succeeds when governments fail to work together.”

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Member of Club de Madrid, said:

“Brazil is to be commended for bringing the issue of a global tax standard on the world’s billionaires to the G20 table. This builds on an earlier G20 decision to support a global minimum tax of fifteen per cent on multinational companies. The latter initiative took years to come to fruition. Both initiatives build global cooperation to tackle tax avoidance.”

The letter, which was coordinated by Club de Madrid and Oxfam, warns that “the share of income of the top 1 percent of earners has risen by 45 percent over four decades while top tax rates on their incomes were cut by roughly a third.”