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Catalan party leader stands by Andalusian tax-dodge jibe

Joan Puigcercós defends claims that Catalonia hardest hit by taxman

Joan Puigcercós, the leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), was unrepentant on Monday over comments he made at the weekend stating that "the Spanish tax agency is embedded in Catalonia, investigating our businessmen on a weekly basis, while Madrid is a fiscal paradise and in Andalusia nobody pays at all." Puigcercós earned the reproach of Economy Minister Elena Salgado, who said that the ERC leader's comments were "out of place."

"These are very unfortunate words because in Andalusia, as in the rest of Spain, taxes are paid as laid out in the Constitution, which states that citizens pay taxes in accordance to their capacity to do so," Valeriano Gómez, the employment minister, said. "Catalonia is one of the regions that pays the most tax because it has one of the highest incomes. Andalusia, to its detriment, has a lower capacity to pay tax."

Puigcercós, though, was not to be swayed. "What I said is tested and proven: the inspections in Catalonia are very harsh. The data for tax collection shows that Catalan residents paid 311.2 million euros after being investigated, more than double Madrid's 155 million euros, and Andalusia paid 54 million euros. If we add the fiscal deficit of 22 billion euros, Catalonia is the worst hit. They didn't like what I said because it was in the middle of a meeting? Fine. But figures are figures," he concluded.