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From left, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici talks with Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem during the EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels Feb. 12, 2013. (Yves Logghe/AP)
From left, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici talks with Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem during the EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels Feb. 12, 2013. (Yves Logghe/AP)

11 EU states to adopt global financial transactions tax Add to ...

A financial transactions tax to be adopted by 11 EU states should raise €30-billion to €35-billion each year but the levy will apply worldwide, the European Commission said Thursday, sparking a sharp reaction from opponents led by Britain.

The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) imposes a tax of 0.1 per cent on a trade in shares and bonds, and of 0.01 per cent for derivative instruments.

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The Commission said that if any of these investments originate in one of the 11 FTT states, then they can be taxed wherever they are traded, giving them a global reach.

The British government, which led opposition to the original 2011 proposal on concern over its impact on the giant London financial centre, said this “unilateral (tax) … will hit growth for the countries taking part, which is why Britain was right not to participate in such a measure.”

Business organization the Institute of Directors in London was scathing, rejecting any suggestion the 11 EU states could enforce the tax in Britain, which like all EU members, retains full national control over taxation.

“This is a daft idea which will throw grit in the wheels of the market, catching not just banks but also customers, pension funds and businesses,” said Simon Walker, head of the group.

“Any attempt to extend it to the U.K. by the back door would violate the (EU) single market. We are fully entitled to transact business in financial products issued in France, Germany or the other countries on our own terms, under our own tax regime,” Mr. Walker added.

After failing to get support from all 27 EU states, France and Germany pushed ahead with the tax under the EU’s Enhanced Co-operation procedure and they were joined by Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

EU finance ministers last month cleared the tax, seen as a way of clawing back state money spent in propping up the banking sector during the debt crisis.

EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta said the FTT “is an unquestionably fair and technically sound tax, which will strengthen our Single Market and temper irresponsible trading.”

Asked by reporters how the FTT could apply to countries refusing to sign up, Mr. Semeta said he saw no problem and that discussions would resolve such issues.

The FTT has three main objectives, Mr. Semeta said in a statement, firstly strengthening the EU Single Market by “reducing the number of divergent national approaches to financial transaction taxation.

“Secondly, it will ensure that the financial sector makes a fair and substantial contribution to public revenues.

“Finally, the FTT will support regulatory measures in encouraging the financial sector to engage in more responsible activities, geared towards the real economy,” he said, highlighting the political drive to make the financial sector pay for some of the excesses blamed for causing the debt crisis.

The statement said the FTT will to be based on a “residence principle” which could have far-reaching implications. “This means that the tax will be due if any party to the transaction is established in a participating Member State, regardless of where the transaction takes place,” it said.

The “residence principle” is expressly aimed “to safeguard against the relocation of financial transactions,” according to background notes provided.

The tax will also incorporate an “issuance principle” as a further safeguard against avoidance of the tax, the statement said. “This means that financial instruments issued in the 11 Member States will be taxed when traded, even if those trading them are not established within the FTT-zone.”

Supporters of the tax such as Oxfam pressed for speedy adoption of the FTT.

“The smart design and the scope of the FTT … will make it difficult for financial institutions to avoid or evade the tax,” the charity said in a statement.

“It is vital that this proposal is adopted in full to ensure the financial sector contributes its fair share to the costs of the crisis, which is hurting hundreds of millions around the world.”

The FTT proposals now go to the European Parliament and EU leaders for approval.

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