In the current political climate, with the financial crisis still fresh in the memory (even though the height of the crisis was almost a decade ago), political parties can almost certainly expect to gain some votes with proposals to impose higher taxes on banks. At the very least, it’s hard to imagine such a policy being a vote loser. But what is politically popular doesn’t necessarily equate to effective tax policy.
Some would say that the banking sector got off very lightly for its role in creating the financial mess that still hasn’t been fully cleared up. But governments have to be very careful in how they structure additional taxes on banks, because as the Australian Bankers’ Association warned in response to the recent announcement of a new levy on Australia’s five largest banks, such measures can have “unintended consequences.”
Poland is a good … Read More »
The trouble with governments is that they tend to have short memories. This is especially the case in your average democracy, where the lifespan of a government is usually no more than a few years. This can mean that sometimes they fail to learn from history. And one of the latest countries that looks like it could be about to repeat a fatal economic policy error is Sweden, which intends to increase the banking sector’s tax burden in the next Budget.
Now, I expect few people will have very much sympathy with the banks when they complain about being overtaxed, given that the industry has largely got away with a great deal. But governments do have to be mindful that punishing the banks can have unintended consequences. Sweden’s bankers are already warning that the proposal to abolish the interest deductibility of … Read More »
Belgium has had a bit of a bad rap recently, having been very publicly rebuked by the European Commission for allowing some multinationals to pay not very much tax; it could do with a bit of a pick-me-up. So Belgium, congratulations on finally coming to your senses and recognizing the flaws in the insane EU financial transactions tax proposal.
When you think about it, the very reason why we’re having the debate about corporate tax avoidance is because of the bankers. When everything was going swimmingly, in the Halcyon days before the financial crisis, fewer people seemed to care how much tax big companies were paying, or, to be more accurate, the media wasn’t that interested in the subject so people didn’t read or hear about it as much. Now, it sticks in the throats of many that ordinary taxpayers are … Read More »
It’s difficult to know what to make of George Osborne’s sixth budget as the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (that’s finance minister to the rest of the world). In the days leading up to the last budget of the current Parliament, Osborne promised that headline-grabbing gimmicks would be absent from his speech. But with the general election less than two months away, he would have been almost foolish not to have sprinkled the Budget with at least some fairy dust in the form of tax cuts for low- and middle-income workers and pensioners – winning over the substantial “gray vote” is one way to ensure electoral success. And sprinkle he did. The taxation of savings will be more or less abolished for ordinary savers, while another increase in the personal income tax allowance will ensure that most low-paid workers … Read More »
If there was an award for the silliest tax initiative dreamt up by the unelected Eurocrats in Brussels over the course of the last couple of decades, the savings tax directive and the CCCTB (that’s the common consolidated corporate tax base, for the uninitiated) would be up there competing for the top prize. But surely the proposed financial transactions tax would win hands down. It’s not that I feel sorry for the banks targeted by this tax. On the contrary; it is because of them that this idea has come about in the first place. I suppose you could say that even without the financial crisis, the Šemetas and Moscovicis of this world (Francois Hollande’s former finance minister has now taken over from Šemeta as Tax Commissioner) would be pushing for a so-called Tobin tax, or Robin Hood tax, whatever … Read More »
So, in the great stand-off between Ireland and the OECD, Dublin has been the one to blink first, with the Irish Government having announced in the 2015 Budget new corporate residency rules that will put paid to the infamous “Double Irish” international tax planning technique so beloved of American technology and pharmaceutical firms. This is not really surprising, given the amount of pressure Ireland has been under from the international community with regard to its corporate tax regime. What was more unexpected was the speed with which Ireland has acted, especially since it has fought tooth and nail against the likes of the EU and the OECD for years to ensure that Irish tax laws are decided in Ireland. But ultimately, perhaps the Double Irish just wasn’t worth the hassle anymore. Physical investment on the other hand, is. Ireland is … Read More »
Something has gone very wrong somewhere when an American passport, historically that most prized of possessions, is considered a curse rather than a blessing. But the statistics don’t lie: the Treasury Department’s own figures show just over 1,000 people handed back their passports or their green cards in the first quarter of 2014, an increase of almost 50 percent compared with Q1 2013. And this is no freak either, because these numbers have been steadily rising for the past two or three years. What these raw figures don’t tell us is why people are turning their backs on America in increasing numbers, and there could be any number of reasons, political or practical. However, let’s face it, most of us are thinking it: tax is the reason. But more specifically FATCA, which went into full force (almost) on July 1. … Read More »
One does have a modicum of sympathy for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, albeit a tiny one. Regularly lambasted by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – led by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who has emerged as Britain’s answer to Senator Carl Levin in America – and the mainstream media for being soft on corporate tax avoidance and cosying up to large multinationals in a series of so-called “sweetheart” tax rulings, HMRC is also castigated by the same set of critics for an increasingly heavy-handed approach in its numerous tax compliance campaigns. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you could say. On the first point, the criticism of the department has been a tad harsh. HMRC can only uphold the laws which are set by parliament in the first place, and a study of five sweetheart deals by … Read More »
Switzerland is probably fairly happy that international attention this week was being devoted to a French bank, for a change, and newly-announced figures for the money the country generated from applying the EU’s Savings Tax Directive may also have created a small frisson of satisfaction among the country’s financial leaders. For others, who don’t understand why, at first blush USD570m doesn’t seem to be a derisory amount of money to have extracted through a tax of 30 percent on interest payments, even if it was down 20 percent on last year, but hold hard: while there are no robust figures for total Swiss assets under management, a semi-official figure published last year suggests that they amount to about USD6 trillion, representing more than a quarter of global AUM. USD570m is 30 percent of USD1.9bn, which is an astronomically small proportion … Read More »
In Russia, they dream in winter; but in Greece they dream in summer. Because it’s too cold in the first case, and I suppose because it’s too hot in the second. At all events, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is promising to reduce all types of tax over the next few years, and predicts EUR55bn of incoming investment over the same period. There are a few inconvenient factlets standing in his way, however, and we won’t even consider the fractured state of Greek politics. First, GDP has shrunk by more than 25 percent since recession hit in 2008, and continued to fall in the first quarter of 2014; second, the unemployment rate increased in the first quarter of 2014 to about 27 percent, and in the 15 – 24 year age group is running at 57 percent; third, Greece has been … Read More »