Monday, November 23, 2009

US Clashes With UK Over New Tax Proposal

The United States and United Kingdom usually agree on economic policies, according to Tax Girl leaders from each countries have publicly taken different views on a proposal to tax financial transactions to fund banking rescues.

UK Prime Minister (for now) Gordon Brown is in favor of such a tax, referred to as a so-called “Tobin Tax”, as a way to take the burden off taxpayers in the midst of financial crisis. The idea would be to implement a tax or levy, also characterized as an insurance fee, to be implemented across the board on financial institutions in all economic centers including the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Brown described it as a “just distribution of risks and rewards.”

But US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he would not support such a tax, adding that it should not be the position of those today to pay for future risks. He did not, however, rule out the idea of any responsibility by banks to pay for the economic crisis – he just apparently feels that it’s too soon to consider a tax in the face of other alternatives.

Interestingly, Russia appeared to be in agreement with the US with Russian finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, also voicing skepticism over the tax. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also expressed concern over the tax.

However, Max Lawson, the senior policy adviser for Oxfam was enthusiastic about the UK proposal, saying:

Gordon Brown today signaled that payback time for banks could be just around the corner. A tax on banks would be a major step towards clearing up the mess caused by their greed.

While the two day G20 Summit has ended, the matter is far from over. The International Monetary Fund is already looking into this very issue with an eye towards what it’s calling a financial sector tax. One way or the other, we’ll see further discussion on this…

Tax Girl

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