In a "major milestone in tax history," 11 European countries are taking on the financial industry by agreeing on Tuesday to implement a Robin Hood tax earning potentially billions of euros for a region besotted with economic distress, finally taxing those institutions that created the current fiscal mess.
The micro 0.1-0.01% financial transaction tax (FTT) would apply to trading in stocks, bonds and derivatives and could be implemented as early as next year.
The goal of the tax, according to a statement issued by the European Council, is "for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets."
Writing for the Guardian, Peter Hain notes:
The social justice arguments for an FTT are incontrovertible: the City's financial elite may have sparked the financial crisis, but it is the rest of society, especially the poor, who are paying the price with the harshest program of austerity since world war two. Yet amid the 2.5 million unemployed and the threat of a triple dip recession, the financial sector has over the past year enjoyed one of the strongest performances of any sector on the FTSE 100. But it is the economic common sense, the potential to raise billions in additional revenue, that has led the center-right in Angela Merkel's Germany, Mariano Rajoy's Spain and Mario Monti's Italy to back this tax. It will collectively raise the 11 countries involved £30bn [$47.5bn] a year – no small beer.
Meeting in Brussels at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council, the participating EU member states are Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain; together making up 90% of Eurozone GDP.
The one notable exception to the group is the United Kingdom. As the largest trading hub in Europe, British participation would bring an additional £8bn [$12.7bn] of annual revenue. "[The British] government opted out," said Hain, "choosing instead to dance to the City of London's tune," referring to the financial elite in the UK.
Calling the vote "an example the rest of Europe and the world should follow," EU policy adviser for Oxfam International Nicolas Mombrial called on those involved to ensure the tax lives up to its moniker and help fund climate and other development projects.
“It will only be a Robin Hood Tax if a big chunk of the estimated €37 billion annual revenue is used to help poor people at home and abroad who have been hit hardest by the economic crisis and climate change,” he said.
Oxfam is asking for a quarter of the sum be allocated to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), to help fund low-emission and climate-resilient development, particularly in poor, more vulnerable nations. However, there is no agreement yet on how revenues will be allocated.
Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies said that international campaigners, like Oxfam, who have been pushing for this tax for several years, "will be redoubling their efforts to demand that revenues to go towards social and environmental purposes"
The European Commission still needs to draft the final legislation, and the 11 states in favor of the law will have to give their unanimous approval before it becomes law.