Walid's Wanderings

Reflections on life, good-and-evil, family, humanity, and anything else that occurs to me, usually when I travel. Right now I am on a 6-year trip through Lebanon, the homeland I had never really lived in before.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We Gave at the office

With a new year starting, my siblings and I had to pay yet another installment of estate tax towards a sum that was due in 2003. Somehow we decided to pay in installments based on some expectation of an estate tax amnesty that was floated by the late Rafic Hariri before he died. Goerge W wanted to do the same for a time window thet maybe he expected George H W to not survive. Well, days came and days went and lo and behold, uncle Rafic did leave us in a most unfortunate way and guess what: no estate tax amnesty BUT little goatee boy Saad still did not have to pay a cent of estate tax. I know I know there are rumors here and rumors there about what was taken by whom when and from whom and what have you and where did you get it from. But it is a stone cold fact that Sadd Hriri did not pay a cent of estate tax. I have heard it confirmed from two extremely reliable sources. In fact, I am willing to proclaim to the world right on this blog that if Saad Hariri can produce a government recept for the estate tax he owes then I will willingly vote for him in the next election. And if the moon is made of green cheese then I can fly and dodge bullets at the same time.

I'm not sure it is completely clear what this means. We all know how much every Lebanese owes if the national debt is to be paid back, and we can blame whomever for that fact, but there are no to opinions about whom to blame for the loss of revenue that resulted from Saad Hariri's failure to pay estate tax into the same coffer that owed 40 billion US dollars on our behalf. Heres is my convservative estimate:

  • Rafic Hariri had about 16 billion US dollars to his name when Forbes compiled "richest men" statistics the year before he died, but when the year after that came, Forbes estimated about $16 billion for each of at least four heirs, of whom Saad was one.
  • A lot of this fortune is obviously in real estate, which is the only form of wealth on which Lebanese estate tax is automatically levied (due to lax reporting requirements for any other forms of wealth).
    • Let us conservatively assume the Saad inherited $8 billion in Lebanese real estate, and $8 billion in untraceable other assets
    • On $8 billion, a 12% tax rate applies, meanign he owed the state of Lebanon $960 million.
    • Using a very generous 5 million Lebanese taxpayers, this means that, in paying down our naitonal debt, we could have been saved $192 per person if Saad was not the sort of person who can get a 1-man exemption from estate tax (Poos Geroge W had to deprive teh US treasury of billions in order to make his exemption stick).
    • If you count my wife and kids as Lebanese taxpayers, we are looking at a loss of $960 in our household.
  • How much did YOU pay at the office for the privilage of having these types lead our country?

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