Friday, June 14, 2013

14/6/2013: EU's FTT: One Tax, Multiple Problems

FTT - Financial Transactions Tax - has been the pet project of pure love for Eurocrats and Socialistas in the Member States, hungry for revenue. It has been labelled a 'Robin Hood Tax' because the politicians attempted to sell it as a tax on filthy-rich financial services to redistribute to starving unemployed, presumably, despite the simple fact that in the un-competitive and fragmented market for financial services that is Europe, such a tax - any tax - will be fully passed onto ordinary savers, investors, depositors and in general onto the users of financial services.

The EU Commission published volumes of commissioned - made-to-order - research that shows just how brilliant an idea the FTT really is: it will raise loads of revenues, harm no one and will not reduce financial markets efficiency. Stopping just short of declaring the FTT to be a panacea to common cold, the EU enthusiastically propagandized the idea despite the simple fact that vast majority of academic research on the topic of transactions taxes finds that they are either ineffective as means for revenue raising or costly in terms of economic efficiency.

I wrote about this (see link at the bottom of this post below) and will continue to write, not because I long for an easy life for the bankers or financial investors, but because I recognise the fact that investment markets are necessary to the functioning of the society and the economy, and because I also recognise that more open, less restricted, but well-regulated and strictly enforced financial services are better than anything that Brussels et al can conceive in their technocratic dreams.

So in line with the past record, here's another study ( that explores "...whether the FTT is likely to correct the market failures that have contributed to the financial crisis, how well the FTT is likely to succeed in raising revenues, and how the FTT compares to alternative taxes in terms of efficiency."

The study finds (emphasis is mine) "... little evidence that the FTT will be effective in correcting
market failures. Taxing of transactions is not well targeted at behaviour that leads to excessive risk and
systemic risk creation. The empirical evidence does not suggest that the introduction of an FTT reduces
volatility or asset price bubbles. Transaction taxes will likely reduce investment in trading activity and
information acquisition, but also raise the costs of insurance against currency and interest risks by
companies, insurers and pension funds. The welfare effect of that is unclear."

"The FTT will likely raise significant revenues, in spite of the fact that the tax base is highly elastic. In the short term, the incidence of the tax will be chiefly on the current holders of securities. Ultimately, the tax will be borne in part by end users, and we estimate the likely effects on economic growth."

"When compared to alternative forms of taxation of the financial sector, the FTT is likely less efficient given the amount of revenues. In particular, taxes that more directly address existing distortions (such as the current VAT exemption for banks, and the bias towards debt financing) provide more efficient alternatives."

And here's a report from the Open Europe think-tank on the FTT, assessing the EU Commission response to the concerns of the eleven - that right, eleven - member states: (

Quote: "The Commission's response ranges from weak to capricious to outright ridiculous. For example, when it says that "we're not aware of any credit crunch" in Europe."

What else is new?

Note: I wrote about the concerns around the issues of repos and hedging here:

Links to past articles on FTT:
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