Hanging London out to dry: The impact of an EU Financial Transaction Tax

This article was co-authored with Adam Baldwin and previously published at adamsmith.org.

Our new report, released today, assesses the impact of a Financial Transaction Tax (aka Robin Hood Tax) on Britain’s economy. The results are eye-watering – it would destroy the City’s derivatives trading sector, hit Britain’s growth and ramp up market volatility. The executive summary is below:

1) The European Commission has proposed a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) on all securities traded with at least one party within the European Union. A tax of 0.1% would be applied to shares and bonds trades and 0.01% to derivatives trades, including over-the-counter derivatives, of which London is a world centre.

2) The EC’s impact assessment projects a 1.76% hit to long-term (20-year) growth across the EU. This would amount to a £25.58 billion cost to the UK economy over this period, and a £185 billion cost to the total European Union economy (2010 prices). This is based on a direct application of the cost to Britain’s economy. The true figure is likely to be far greater, because of Britain’s disproportionately large financial sector (and especially its derivatives trading sector).

3) The EC impact assessment also projects up to a 90% decline in derivatives trading if its proposed Financial Transaction Tax is implemented. The City of London is the centre of global over-the-counter derivatives trading, accounting for nearly half (45.8%) of all global interest rates derivatives turnover. This would adversely and disproportionately hurt the London economy, and would destroy a socially-valuable financial activity that is integral to the modern British economy.

4) Contrary to some supporters of the FTT, the tax would increase market volatility. There is no empirical support for the idea that the FTT would reduce volatility. Indeed, by making transactions more costly, the tax would make markets less responsive to new information and more prone to violent lurches up and down. Academic models of the tax have been inconclusive at best.

5) The FTT would reduce market liquidity in all securities markets. 40% of the London Stock Exchange’s volume is based on high-volume, low-margin transactions, which would be wiped out by the FTT, making markets far more illiquid. Markets’ ability to incorporate new information into asset prices would be undermined.

6) Unemployment would rise if an FTT was introduced. At the margin, the FTT would mean less investment and less output. The tax, if implemented in 2014 as proposed by the EC, would slow down an economic recovery and reduce capital investment. The EC’s long-run projection for this is a 4.5% reduction in investment.

7) If the FTT was only introduced in the EU or G20, many traders currently operating in the UK would relocate to places like Hong Kong, Singapore or Zurich. There is little scope for a worldwide FTT – even types of trades that are affected in a minor way by the FTT would likely move en masse to other jurisdictions that would flourish as FTT-free zones.

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2 replies on “Hanging London out to dry: The impact of an EU Financial Transaction Tax”
  1. says: Gary

    The Tobin Tax would bring down the City ? That den of fractional reserve banking, old boys cliques, the destroyer of productive industry , and the largest taxpayer funded welfare basket case in the world ? Bring it on !

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