Opinion

Mick Jagger might give away his fortune. Imagine what a windfall tax on oil states could do instead

Mick Jagger's back catalogue income could make a difference to many. Rich nations could learn from his example

Mick Jagger might give away some of his fortune. Photo: Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterstock

Mick Jagger’s kids are shuffling nervously. This week the everlasting Rolling Stone said he might not leave his back catalogue income to his children. The post-1971 Stones bounty, if it were to be sold in the manner of Springsteen’s or Dylan’s, would earn him and Keith Richards a nice coin. Jagger reckons he’d have $500 million to pass on.

“The children don’t need $500 million to live on,” he said, triggering, you’d think, some frantic chat on the offspring’s WhatsApp group. Suddenly, Mick will be getting messages out of the blue telling him She’s The Boss is REALLY GREAT. And he should be proud of all he achieved. And he always brings satisfaction to the world – LOL! And anyway, £500m between eight of them isn’t THAT much. So….

Mick Jagger has said he might leave it to charity, and “maybe do some good in the world”. A noble aim. It would be a significant bequeathment. The Rolling Stones have a history of supporting charities from Children in Need to Medecins Sans Frontieres. Relationships may be getting warmed up again.

As a student of the London School of Economics (LSE), Mick would be well aware of the tax implications of passing on that lump of dough. The great messy sprawling Stones classic Exile On Main Street was largely recorded in Villefranche-Sur-Mer during a period as tax exiles. But if he were to give it all away the volume of cash heading to the exchequer in the UK, or the public purse wherever his money sits, would not really be of relevance. It doesn’t feel like his idea is motivated by any personal greed.

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The idea of giving it all away is fascinating. There are a few of the global super wealthy who have signed up to the Giving Pledge, set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. At present many of the world’s billionaires have pledged to give away $600 billion. That could help a huge number of people move out of poverty for good. So, don’t wait lads until you shuffle off. It leads to questions over whether private individuals should be funnelling money into projects to help plug gaps left by nation states. I don’t have any issue with that. If your personal wealth is beyond the GDP of the majority of the nations on the earth, you have something of an obligation to get some of that back for greater good.

But, if you are uncomfortable with that, there are ways to get very rich nations to do more. Gordon Brown came up with one this week. Noticing that oil and gas rich countries have enjoyed a remarkable income bonanza in the last two years (as many people struggle in the post-Covid era of galloping inflation and choking energy price rises, that we’ve all been told are linked to Russia’s war on Ukraine) Brown suggested a simple solution; a windfall tax. Rather than focus on huge private corporations like BP and Total, he’s focused on the countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Norway that operate nationally owned oil companies and generate over 80% of production worldwide.

A relatively small windfall tax of 3% from the petrostates could make $25 billion a year. That money, said Brown, could help countries in the global south lift people out of poverty cut greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the effects of climate change. We know that one of the effects in the poorest nations of climate change is emigration, and increasingly bitter and nasty politics of that in the west, so this would have a multi-positive outcome.

Gordon Brown is frequently somebody worth listening to. We’ll see if anything comes from it. Actually, perhaps he and Mick Jagger could put their heads together and solve this thing. ‘Gordon, Gordon, this’ll get your rocks off!’

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