There’ve been a few news articles recently about new tax laws in Romania, intended as lighthearted LOLs with headlines like Romanian witches to cast anti-government spell. Much of the news coverage has consisted of chuckling at the idea of witches protesting with curses and spells, and aren’t those silly old superstitious women even stupider than we thought, if they think they shouldn’t have to pay tax.
The new laws require self-employed workers and people who work cash-in-hand to pay tax for the first time, affecting many Romanians – including those who make a living off the traditions of witchcraft and fortune telling.
Of course, the Romanians are going to continue in their tradition of dramatic protest, with a call for witches to assemble on the southern plains and the banks of the Danube River to protest – there are even claims that they will threaten the government with concoctions of mandrake, cat excrement and dead dog.
Though these reports have been treated lightheartedly in the UK media, they are taken more seriously in Romania, where superstition is treated a great deal more seriously. In 2009, it was claimed that the loser of the presidential election was sabotaged with negative energy and strategic use of the colour purple, which is believed to ward off evil and grant superiority to whoever wears it. Indeed, the winner of the election, President Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days in an attempt to harness its power.
But regardless of who is effected – be they witches, astrologers and fortune tellers, or embalmers, valets, driving instructors or workers in any of the other professions traditionally not listed in the Romanian labour code – the new laws are totally regressive and fucked up.
Taxation in Romania is based on a flat-rate income tax of 16%, and corporate tax is between 3 and 16%, depending on the size of the company – meaning that the people earning the least amount of money are taxed in the same bracket as the super rich and the big corporations.
Flat rate taxation has been widely adopted in Eastern European post-communist states desperate to attain the free-market capitalist dream as quickly as possible. The former Soviet countries have been cut up and sold off, and most workers’ rights and welfare have been sold off with them – whereas Western European countries like ourselves, who have never been subject to a so-called socialist regime, have had strong trade union movements to fight for our rights. To date, no Western European country has introduced a flat-rate income tax, instead having higher rates of tax on higher bands of income to finance improved social welfare measures.
Payments to witches and other self-employed, cash-in-hand workers in Romania are typically very small, at around 10 leu (less than £2) per consultation. Why should poor women, often travellers, earning a few pounds a day have to give 16% of the pittance they earn to the government – who will then use it to prop up the capitalist system that provides nothing for its citizens most in need?
As one self-identified witch, Bratara Buzea, 63, (who was imprisoned in 1977 for witchcraft under Ceausescu’s regime – despite Ceausescu and his wife Elena having their own personal witch) said:
We do harm to those who harm us. They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it.