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Taxing of Homeless People in Madrid, Spain

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In January 2019, Citizen Truth published an article, written by Will Bacha, reporting that Madrid started taxing the city’s homeless population. According to the article, city officials are claiming that the taxing of homeless has been going on for years for government assistance programs.  In Madrid, homeless people can receive “minimum income benefits” through a program titled “Renta Mínima de Inserción,” which directly translates to minimum insertion income. The program requires the applicant to report financial earnings as well as their way of making a living.

When the government receives each individual report, it then deducts those earnings from the amount of assistance given to each person living on the streets. According to Bacha’s reporting, a major issue of this system is that the government thinks that all homeless people beg on the street, or have an income. Homeless people have been forced to declare an income that they do not make. Luis Saenz, a social worker that works with homeless people in Madrid was quoted in the article saying that when a homeless person does not declare any earnings, the government thinks they are lying.

It seems that government programs like RMI are set up with the appearance of alleviating homelessness, but some of these rules and restrictions are actually harmful to those they intend to help. As Citizen Truth reports, 11.6% of the current RMI beneficiaries have been enrolled in the program for over a decade  The stigma that comes with reporting no income at all, which results in reporting a false income, prevents many from breaking away from needing RMI assistance.  This cycle harms those who need the assistance, but the forced report of an income and the tax that follows, allows the government to spread funds among more people.

The income tax on Madrid’s homeless received limited corporate news coverage despite having a direct effect on Spain’s largest city. The author of the Citizen Truth’s article, Will Bacha, cited El País, a Spanish newspaper and local sources that reported on this issue in October 2018. However, Bacha expands on the impacts of the tax and continuously growing poverty in Spain. Spain’s edition of the Huffington Post posted an article, written by Carlota Estefanía, detailing economic inequality in Spain, but this coverage did not mention Madrid’s homeless tax.

Source: Will Bacha “Taxing the Homeless for Begging and Street Art,” Citizen Truth, January 24, 2019, https://citizentruth.org/taxing-the-homeless-for-begging-and-street-art/.

Student Researchers: Korie Cadigan, Chantel Cohen, Ryan Leahy (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Daniel Christof

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