Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Expert joins calls for tax on bankers

Economic experts have unearthed “hard evidence” supporting TUC claims that a tax on bank transactions would raise billions of pounds currently being hived off Britain’s public services.

Institute of Development Studies published its latest findings yesterday, which argued that a financial transaction tax (FTT) could be viably implemented across Europe. The research sparked fresh calls for the government to introduce a Robin Hood tax in Britain.

The institute will tell a gathering of economists, policy makers and academics in Brussels today that an FTT on bankers making foreign exchange transactions would raise as much as £15 billion worldwide.

The charity will add that in Britain alone it could raise £7.5bn — roughly the same as the country’s entire aid budget.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber argued that the findings confirmed that a Robin Hood tax is completely viable and could play a key role in reducing deficits and supporting economic growth.

He said: “As more European governments sign up to a Robin Hood tax, it’s time for the British government to admit that banks are not contributing their fair share towards repairing the mess they’ve created and publicly commit to a stronger tax on banks and major financial institutions.”

John Christensen of Tax Justice Network, an independent organisation analysing the harmful aspects of tax evasion, tax avoidance, tax competition and tax havens, argued that an FTT would not only reduce opportunities for making profits on ultra-low margin trades, it would also potentially raise billions of additional revenue to offset the ongoing damage caused by the financial crisis.

He said: “Bankers may well howl in protest but very few, if any, will act on their threats to leave the country.”

The findings by the institute were laid out in the first comprehensive review of the feasibility of FTTs, dubbed The Tobin Tax: A Review of the Evidence.

Report author Dr Neil McCulloch stressed that the evidence of a significant source of currently untapped revenue cannot be ignored when most of the world’s financial centres are driving through large spending cuts.

“There has never been any compelling economic case against what is a very modest tax on activity by banks and other financial institutions,” said Roger Seifert, professor of industrial relations and human resources at Wolverhampton Business School.

But he added that the main problem has always been and remains the lack of political will by those running the economy for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher said: “It is not markets that need to be stabilised, but the people whose lives are derailed by market speculation. The revenue raised from FTT could secure real investment in jobs and support those ravaged by rising fuel and food costs — increasingly caused by speculative trading.”

"Speculative trading is exacerbating crises around the world. A financial transaction tax (FTT) should, like green taxes, have a deterrent as well as a revenue raising effect. This report highlights both how feasible and beneficial a FTT would be."

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on Tue 14 June

Download the IDS report in full

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