In an article in the leading German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, European Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta qualifies the arguments of the opponents of the FTT as “irresponsible.” He goes onto debunk the myths which they build up, particularly with regard to the alleged consequences of the tax on growth, jobs and retail business.
An all-round great read:
It is irresponsible to instigate fears
Little by little the financial transaction tax approaches its implementation. There is increasing consensus on many aspects of the Commission’s proposal, and with regard to the remaining controversies there are constructive contributions being made. Simultaneously a massive wave in support for the FTT has emerged among citizens. For them, the benefits of this tax are clear: An equitable distribution of the tax burden, a more stable financial sector and considerable additional revenues.
The more the financial transaction tax approaches implementation, the shriller – hardly by chance – the rhetoric of its opponents. They twist the Commission’s official data and thereby invent apocalyptic scenarios concerning the impacts of the tax on growth, employment and competitiveness.
Instigating such unfounded fears is inexpensive and irresponsible. An open and straightforward debate on the FTT is, of course, of central importance, but it must be based on facts. And it must be conducted with the sense of proportions and really refer to the existing proposal. It is time to get rid of some of the myths surrounding our proposal for a Financial Transaction Tax.
First of all, concerning the economic impacts in the EU, the FTT will neither damage growth and competitiveness nor lead to more unemployment. From an isolated perspective every tax causes economic costs. However, the costs of the FTT are small and, absolutely legitimate, given the enormous support the financial sector has been granted in the recent years.
Furthermore, the costs have to be offset against the positive effects from the use of the revenues of the FTT. If the expected annual 57 billion Euros are used to consolidate national budgets, to lower other taxes or to invest in public services and infrastructures, the financial transaction tax will surely have a positive impact on growth and employment in Europe.
Secondly, forget the argument that ordinary citizens and enterprises will have to shoulder the main burden of the tax. Firstly we must remember that current account operations by citizens and enterprises do not fall under the tax. 85 percent of the transactions affected by the FTT are operated exclusively among financial institutions. Even if the financial sector should pass on a part of the costs to its clients, this would be negligible: for example, if somebody is purchasing stocks for 10.000 Euros, they can easily afford a tax of 10 Euros for such a transaction.
Finally, those who allege that the FTT will lead to a massive flight of financial markets from Europe have either not read or not understood the proposal of the Commission. Precisely in order to prevent tax evasion, the proposal contains measures to mitigate this risk: a low tax rate, a broad tax base and the “home country principle.” If financial actors want to avoid the FTT, they would have to completely give up their European clients. This is rather unlikely to happen.
Those who combat the FTT must be asked, which alternatives exist? Many member states have reached the limit of what they can bear as austerity measures. Should this small tax on the financial sector be worse for growth and competitiveness than a further increase of income and corporate taxes or further cuts in public expenditures?
If the ordinary citizen must accept higher taxes on wages, food and fuels as well as restrictions on basic public services, can it not be expected, that the financial sector too contributes its part?
The FTT opens the possibility to unlock a significant source of revenue and to rebalance the tax burden – and to make it borne by those who can afford it.
Translation: Markus Gaudek and Peter Wahl