Chalks Corriette, PTPI, Belgium
I have just been to a presentation at the Estonian embassy. It is quite clear that the people driving change in Estonia, have no need to think outside the box. In fact, the evidence suggests that they never had a box in the first place. Not only was Estonia the birthplace of Skype, they have now made Uber a legal taxi service! This means that a small tax is added to all Uber transactions, and paid directly to the state. As the whole process is automated, Uber taxi drivers now pay more tax in Estonia than traditional taxi drivers, and the price remains highly competitive. What this shows is that if you look at everything as an opportunity you will inevitably find a workable solution.
Estonia have set up an e-citizenship program which allows people with a certified identity, to access services and/or start a business or NGO. This is not an opportunity to avoid paying tax, it is an opportunity to access many innovative services that will soon be available. As Europe develops a single digital market, there will be a need to have an electronic profile allowing services to be authenticated, and the purchaser validated. The potential for this is quite wide ranging. Services can be provided to businesses, individuals and very importantly governments.
With an authenticated digital profile my services can be purchased and paid for anywhere in the world, with the correct taxes being applied, and those taxes electronically directed to the correct Government office. Whilst this may seem controversial it would help government cash flow, make it more difficult for people to hide behind complex tax setups, but more importantly it opens the door for young people as sole-traders. When this system comes into play the young, who are generally more comfortable with technology, can easily establish a small business, with an online trading profile and their taxes and other benefits would be automated. This also means that their customers must pay for their services through the same technology.
Interestingly, much of the development is already in place and will soon be Live. Estonia believes that governments can earn money in many ways by supporting their citizens to do business simply. They have a flat rate tax of 20% and business pays a standard 33% social tax for employees – with no additional contribution from the employee. In Estonia, they earn money by providing innovative services, such as the Uber example and by taking advantage of what innovation can do to empower citizens and improve transparency.
From July 2016 a similar type of digital identity will become available in Belgium. It will be interesting to see if the Belgian government will be able to ditch its box, and match the pace of innovation that is coming out of Estonia. If they miss the opportunity people like me, will jump on board the e-citizenship program and access services that way.
From our friends at Wikipedia
Estonia officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km).
The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, covering 45,339 km2 (17,505 sq miles) of land, and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Population is 1,313,271.