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Ten EU countries agree on aspects of a financial-transaction tax
December 8, 2015 / 11:38 AM / 2 years ago

Ten EU countries agree on aspects of a financial-transaction tax

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ten euro zone countries agreed on Tuesday on some aspects of a harmonized tax on financial transactions and gave themselves until the middle of next year to reach agreement on remaining issues, including tax rates, the group said in a statement.

European Union (EU) flags fly in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

A financial-transaction tax (FTT) is intended to recover some of the public money used to support banks, to curb speculative trading and to unify the various levies already charged in several EU countries.

Talks on imposing one have been dragging on since 2011. In September of this year, ministers from Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain said they had made progress and they expected a political agreement in December.

The statement said all share transactions, including intraday trading, would be taxed. The tax would be paid by traders in one of the countries participating in the scheme on shares issued in those countries.

“In order to sustain liquidity in illiquid market configurations, a narrow market-making exemption might be required,” said the statement. France had insisted on such an exemption.

The ministers said they would analyze whether it would be better to tax all shares, regardless of where they were issued.

ESTONIAN CONCERNS

Estonia, which did not sign the agreement, had been worried that because most of the shares traded by its financial institutions are issued outside the participating group, it would hardly get any revenue. At the same time, its traders would have an incentive to move their business elsewhere.

The ministers also agreed that derivatives transactions should be taxed “on the principle of the widest possible base and low rates and it should not impact the cost of sovereign borrowing”.

They said option-type derivatives should be taxed on the option premium. For other types of derivatives, the taxable base could be a term-adjusted or non-term-adjusted notional amount, depending on whether the instrument has a maturity date.

They also agreed to further analyze the impact of the tax on the real economy and pension schemes as well as the financial viability of the tax for each country.

“On the basis of these features, in order to prepare the next step, experts in close cooperation with the Commission should elaborate adequate tax rates for the different variants,” the statement said.

The proposal of the European Commission from 2013 envisaged a tax rate of 0.1 percent on share and bond trades and 0.01 percent on derivatives trades.

“A decision on these open issues should be made until the end of the June 2016.”

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, editing by Larry King

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