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Europe Authorizes “Robin Hood Tax” on Financial Transactions

Support for the tax on stocks, bonds, and derivatives was so strong among EU finance ministers that it wasn’t even necessary to take a formal vote.

This article was originally published by the Institute for Policy Studies.

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EU finance ministers were scheduled to vote January 22 on whether to authorize 11 member states to proceed with the introduction of a financial transaction tax (FTT). As it turned out, the ministers didn’t even have to take a formal vote because it was obvious that there was sufficient support to move ahead.

The 11 countries are Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia. It will be possible for other governments to opt in at a later date. And in fact, the Netherlands has expressed interest, but they want to negotiate an exemption for their pension funds.

The aim of this proposal is “for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets.”

Next steps

The next step is for the European Commission to make a proposal for the tax. The proposal will be based on one introduced by the Commission in September 2011 that would apply a 0.1 percent tax rate on trades of stocks and bonds, and a 0.01 percent rate for derivatives trades. As described in the European Council statement released today, the aim of this proposal is “for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets.”

The proposed tax is based on the “residence principle,” meaning that a financial transaction would be taxed in each case where a resident of one of the participating EU member states was involved even if the transaction was carried out in a country that is not a participant.

The tax proposal will have to be adopted by unanimous agreement of the participating member states. EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta says it is possible that the tax could enter into force beginning January 1, 2014.

Destination of revenue remains unclear

Although some press reports have said the funds will go towards bailing out European banks, there is no agreement yet on how revenues will be allocated.

International campaigners who have been advocating for financial transactions taxes for several years will be redoubling their efforts to demand that revenues to go towards social and environmental purposes.


Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank in Washington DC. She’s also the co-author of the IPS report, America’s Bailout Barons: Taxpayers, High Finance, and the CEO Pay Bubble. This article was originally published by the Institute for Policy Studies.

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