The G-20 group of finance ministers decided last weekend against levying a global bank tax amid fierce opposition from some countries, but that doesnt mean the idea of taxing banks to pay for future bailouts is gone completely.
The effort to agree on such a tax fell apart during a two-day meeting in South Korea. Various proposals were floated, including taxing the banks profits or their liabilities. Officials from the U.S. and the European Union argued that such a tax needs to be levied globally to keep banks from relocating their headquarters to other countries. However, Canada, Japan and Brazil steadfastly opposed the tax. Instead, the G-20 issued a statement calling for joint principles, along with capital and liquidity rules. Canada wants banks to keep enough contingent capital on hand to prevent the need for a government bailout.
Despite fears of regulatory arbitrage as a result of banks relocating to the friendliest turf, various countries and continents are still mulling bank taxes in various forms. Finance ministers from the European Union indicated at a summit on Tuesday that they were committed to imposing a bank tax, but they could not agree on what form it would take. In the U.S., the Senate has been holding hearings on various ways to levy a bank tax, but so far without reaching a consensus.
The idea of taxing the banks to pay for a bailout fund encountered stiff opposition during the debate over the financial regulatory reform bill and ultimately had to be dropped from the Senate version. However, the Obama administration is still looking at various ways to tax the banks. Given the ongoing lobbying by the banks, getting a tax approved on their holdings or their transactions is not going to be easy, meaning that the burden of paying for future bailouts will likely fall on the shoulders of taxpayers.
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