Currency transaction tax

A currency transaction tax is a tax placed on a specific type of currency transaction for a specific purpose. This term has been most commonly associated with the financial sector, as opposed to consumption taxes paid by consumers.


Types of currency transaction taxes

There are several types of currency transaction taxes that have been proposed, the most prominent being the Tobin tax and the Spahn tax.

Tobin tax

A Tobin tax is a tax on all spot conversions of one currency into another. Named after the economist James Tobin, the tax is intended to put a penalty on short-term financial round-trip excursions into another currency. Tobin suggested his currency transaction tax in 1972 in his Janeway Lectures at Princeton, shortly after the Bretton Woods system effectively ended.[1]

Spahn tax

In 1995, Paul Bernd Spahn suggested an alternative involving "a two-tier rate structure consisting of a low-rate financial transactions tax, plus an exchange surcharge at prohibitive rates as a piggyback. The latter would be dormant in times of normal financial activities, and be activated only in the case of speculative attacks. The mechanism allowing the identification of abnormal trading in world financial markets would make reference to a "crawling peg" with an appropriate exchange rate band. The exchange rate would move freely within this band without transactions being taxed. Only transactions effected at exchange rates outside the permissible range would become subject to tax. This would automatically induce stabilizing behavior on the part of market participants."[2]

On June 15, 2004, the Commission of Finance and Budget in the Belgian Federal Parliament approved a bill implementing a Spahn tax. According to the legislation, Belgium will introduce the Spahn tax once all countries of the eurozone introduce a similar law.[3] In July 2005 former Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel called for a European Union Tobin tax which he thought would base the communities' financial structure on more stable and independent grounds. However, the proposal was rejected by the European Commission.

Special Drawing Rights

On September 19, 2001, retired speculator George Soros put forward a proposal, Special Drawing Rights or SDRs that the rich countries would pledge for the purpose of providing international assistance, without necessarily dismissing the Tobin tax idea. He stated, "I think there is a case for a Tobin tax... (but) it is not at all clear to me that a Tobin tax would reduce volatility in the currency markets. It is true that it may discourage currency speculation but it would also reduce the liquidity of the marketplace." [4]



In 1994, Canadian economist Rodney Schmidt noted that "in two-thirds of all the outright forward and currency swap transactions, the money moved into another currency for fewer than seven days. In only 1 per cent did the money stay for as long as one year. While the volatile exchange rates caused by all this rapid movement posed problems for national economies, it was the bread and butter of those playing the currency markets. Without constant fluctuations in the currency markets, Schmidt noted, there was little opportunity for profit."[5]

"This certainly seemed to suggest the interests of currency traders and the interests of ordinary citizens were operating at cross-purposes."[5]

"Schmidt also noted another interesting aspect of the foreign- exchange market: The dominant players were the private banks, which had huge pools of capital and access to information about currency values. Since much of the market involved moving large sums of money (typically in the tens of millions of dollars) for very short periods of time (often less than a day), banks were perfectly positioned to participate. Among swap transactions, which represented a major chunk of the foreign exchange market, 86 per cent of the transactions were actually between banks."[5]

A representative of a “pro Tobin tax” NGO argued as follows: "[The Tobin tax] is designed to reduce the power financial markets have to determine the economic policies of national governments. Traditionally, a country’s central bank buys and sells its own currency on international markets to keep its value relatively stable. The bank buys back its currency when a ‘glut’ caused by an investor selloff threatens to reduce the currency’s value. In the past, most central banks had enough cash in reserve to offset any selloff or ‘attack’. However, this is no longer the case. Speculators now have more cash than all the world’s central banks put together. Official global reserves are less than half the value of one day of global foreign-exchange turnover. Many countries are simply unable to protect their currencies from speculative attack."[6]

"By cutting down on the overall volume of foreign-exchange transactions, a Tobin Tax would mean that central banks would not need as much [reserve money to defend their currency. The tax would allow governments the freedom to act in the best interests of their own economic development, rather than being forced to shape fiscal and monetary policies according to demands of fickle financial markets."[6]

Currency transaction taxes that have been implemented

In early November 2007, a regional Tobin tax was adopted by the Bank of the South in Latin America, after an initiative of Presidents Hugo Chavez from Venezuela and Néstor Kirchner from Argentina.[7]

Chronology of supporters, opposers and other significant events

See also the Supporters and Opposers of the Tobin tax

  • 1972 - Supporter: James Tobin, author of a "tax on foreign exchange transactions"[8][9][10][11] which was later dubbed "Tobin tax"
  • June, 2000 - Thomas Palley publishes "Destabilizing Speculation and the Case for an International Currency Transactions Tax" [12]
  • April 1, 2001 - Supporters: Peter Wahl and Peter Waldow publish "Currency Transaction Tax - a Concept with a Future"[13]
  • In 2001 the charity War on Want released The Robin Hood Tax,[14] a report presenting their case for a currency transactions tax. War on Want also sets up the Tobin Tax Network to develop the proposal and press for its introduction.
  • September, 2006 - The term "currency transaction tax (CTT)" was used in a publication by Stephen Spratt[15]
  • October, 2007 - Rodney Schmidt publishes The Currency Transaction Tax: Rate and Revenue Estimates [16]

See also


  1. ^ James Tobin (July/October 1978). "A Proposal for International Monetary Reform". Eastern Economic Journal. Eastern Economic Association. pp. 153–159. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  2. ^ Paul Bernd Spahn (June 16, 1995). "International Financial Flows and Transactions Taxes: Survey and Options". University of Frankfurt/Main; Paper originally published with the International Monetary Fund as Working Paper WP/95/60.. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  3. ^ ECB (2004). Opinion of the European Central Bank (CON/2004/34)
  4. ^ Asia Society: Speeches
  5. ^ a b c Linda McQuaig (March 22, 1998). "The Cult of impotence; Making Sure the Rich Stay Rich". Toronto Star; republished by Hartford Web Publishing. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  6. ^ a b Robin Round (January–February, 2000). "Time for Tobin!". New Internationalist. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  7. ^ SIN PERMISO - artículos en la WEB
  8. ^ Der Spiegel - German interview translated into English (Sept 3, 2001). "James Tobin: "The antiglobalisation movement has highjacked my name"". Jubilee Research, a successor to Jubilee 2000 UK. Archived from the original on 6 March 2005. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  9. ^ Christian Von Reiermann, and Michaela Schießl (03.09.2001). "Die missbrauchen meinen Namen (translated as "They Are Misusing My Name") (Interview with James Tobin)". Full text, in German. Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  10. ^ Speigel Online International (09/03/2001). "They are misusing my name". English Summaries [of quotes in Speigel Online]. Speigel Online International.,1518,154539,00.html. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  11. ^ James Tobin-El movimiento antiglobalización abusa de mi nombre
  12. ^ Thomas Palley (June, 2000). "Destabilizing Speculation and the Case for an International Currency Transactions Tax". Global Policy Forum. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  13. ^ Peter Wahl and Peter Waldow (April 1, 2001). "Currency Transaction Tax - a Concept with a Future". World Economy, Ecology & Development Association (WEED). Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  14. ^ The Robin Hood Tax
  15. ^ Stephen Spratt of Intelligence Capital (September 2006). "A Sterling Solution". Stamp Out Poverty report. Stamp Out Poverty Campaign. p. 15. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  16. ^ Rodney Schmidt (October 2007). "The Currency Transaction Tax: Rate and Revenue Estimates". The North-South Institute. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 

External links

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