A transactions tax?

The UK’s chief financial regulator is for it. Sarkozy is for it. Time for a coordinated move?

The Financial Times reports that the chief financial regulator in the UK has endorsed a “Tobin tax” on financial transactions.* With Sarkozy already on board, this might pave the way for coordinated movement by the governments of all the big financial centers; otherwise, anyone who imposes such a tax risks simply chasing transactions abroad. From both an equity perspective and an efficiency perspective, a transactions tax would be hard to beat, and the potential revenues are huge.

In the struggle to rein in income inequality and adequately fund public services, a transactionsn tax would be an enormous win. At the same time, there seems to be consensus among governments about cracking down on tax evasion and the banking havens that facilitate it. One argument against taxing the rich has been that capital mobility and the ease of evasion makes doing it virtually impossible. But if the U.S. and the EU can get together, that may cease to be possible.

We may get to see what Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are really made of.

* Megan McArdle points out that the label “Tobin tax,” used loosely in the article, properly applies to a tax on currency transactions. But many of the same arguments apply to securities transactions. I’m less clear on how they would work with loans, derivatives, etc.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “A transactions tax?”

  1. Governments enact laws and enter into treaties with other nations so as to determine how companies and other taxpayers should be taxed. These laws are then interpreted by taxpayers, taxing authorities and, ultimately on occasion, by the courts.

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