Financial Regulatory Forum

BREAKINGVIEWS – UK bank tax could raise up to 3.6 billion sterling a year

– The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own –

By George Hay and Hugo Dixon

LONDON, March 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) – A UK bank tax of the sort being advocated by both main political parties could raise up to 3.6 billion pounds a year. The exact sum would depend on which parts of the balance sheet are taxed. But one thing is clear: as a proportion of earnings, RBS and Lloyds would be harder hit than Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

The most basic way of levying the tax would be to follow what President Barack Obama has proposed for the United States. He wants to levy a 0.15 percent annual charge on a bank’s total assets — minus its deposits and Tier 1 capital. Applying that to the five big UK banks would raise 3.6 billion pounds annually, according to Reuters Breakingviews analysis.

But the tax, likely to be formally endorsed in today’s Budget by Alistair Darling, the chancellor, could be modified. The opposition Conservative party says it would move ahead with a levy, even if other countries didn’t follow suit — but, in such an event, the tax wouldn’t be especially high through fear of driving Britain’s banks offshore. The Conservatives haven’t spelt out exactly what they’d do but they have spoken warmly of the “Swedish model”. Applying a levy at the same rate as the Swedes — 0.036 percent of total assets — would raise 2.1 billion pounds from the UK’s big five.

On the other hand, if a global approach can be agreed, some policymakers like the idea of concentrating the tax on short-term wholesale liabilities. The thinking is that it’s only such “hot money” that makes banks vulnerable — so long-term liabilities, say those over one year, should be excluded from the levy. Applying Obama’s 0.15 percent levy to a shrunken balance sheet, excluding long-term funding, would cut the UK’s tax take to around 2.7 billion pounds.

UK seeks to reassure businesses on corporate tax

By Adrian Croft

LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Britain launched a consultation on Monday aimed at giving companies more clarity on any likely changes to tax laws as it seeks to reassure multinationals that the UK remains a competitive place to locate their business.

“Businesses want certainty on tax. That is why today I have set out, in collaboration with UK business, the government’s key principles for tax policy and how we will engage with business when developing tax policy,” finance minister Alistair Darling said.

The framework aims to ensure that UK tax is competitive, fair, minimises distortions to commercial decisions, and is predictable and simple with low compliance costs, the finance ministry said.

INTERVIEW-UK’s Darling-breaking up banks not the answer

By Sumeet Desai

LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Breaking up banks and going it alone in reforming regulation is not the magic solution to avoiding future crises, British finance minister Alistair Darling told Reuters on Thursday.

In an interview ahead of going to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Darling also brushed aside concern that UK government bonds were a ticking time bomb, pointing out Britain’s funding requirements were lower than many other countries.

U.S. President Barack Obama sent shockwaves through markets last week with proposals to force commercial banks to cut ties with hedge funds and private equity funds and to stop proprietary trading.

BREAKINGVIEWS-Obama reforms could undermine global bank rules

G20/ By Peter Thal Larsen and Hugo Dixon

LONDON, Jan 25 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The overhaul of the global financial system has entered a new, more complicated phase. For two years, a fragile multilateralism has prevailed as the world’s largest economies agreed that changes should be designed and adopted on a global basis. The task of redesigning financial regulation was largely delegated to central bankers, regulators and other technocrats.

That consensus is creaking following President Barack Obama’s double-barrelled attack on Wall Street investment banks. The new tax on banks’ wholesale liabilities and the planned prohibition of proprietary trading by deposit-taking institutions both complicate the aim of getting a new effective global regime for regulating the industry — but in different ways.

Look first at the new tax. In principle, it is sensible to charge large financial institutions for the implicit guarantee they receive from taxpayers when they rely on hot short-term money to fund themselves. But there is already a global push, under the aegis of the G20, to boost the size of banks’ capital and liquidity cushions. This exercise, being masterminded by the Basel Committee, has now entered the “calibration” phase — where the precise numbers are being modelled.

INTERVIEW-UK’s Darling says PBR measures show credible debt plan

UK's Darling: credible plan

UK's Darling: credible plan

    By Matt Falloon and Sumeet Desai
   LONDON, Dec 10 (Reuters) – The government’s pre-budget report will soothe concerns about Britain’s fiscal deficit and it would not be sensible to impose cuts any sooner, finance minister Alistair Darling told Reuters in an interview. (more…)

UK slaps tax on bank bonuses, to spread pain later

A trader looks at her screens before Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling's pre-budget speech, on a trading floor in London December 9, 2009.  Darling set the stage for the coming election, announcing on Wednesday a one-off super tax on bank bonuses and other higher taxes on the rich.    REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS EMPLOYMENT)  By Sumeet Desai

LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Britain’s Labour government slapped a one-off levy on bank bonuses on Wednesday and said it would hike income tax for all but the poorest in 2011, delaying action to tackle a record deficit until after an election it is expected to lose.

Despite warnings by ratings agencies that debt has to be reined in, finance minister Alistair Darling revised up his borrowing forecast for this year to a record 177.6 billion pounds ($290 billion) or 12.6 percent of GDP, from 175 billion.

Next year’s borrowing forecast was also revised up by 3 billion pounds in a pre-budget report that would normally be full of populist giveaways given an election is due in less than six months and Labour is well behind in opinion polls.

UK Darling’s 2009 pre-budget report to parliament

Alistair Darling    LONDON, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Below are highlights from British finance minister Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report to parliament on Wednesday. (more…)

Darling says will not harm UK’s financial sector

 A man looks out over Hampstead Heath, with the City of London in the background October 29, 2009.   By Matt Falloon and Steve Slater

HORSHAM, England, Dec 7 (Reuters) – The British government will not do anything to hurt London’s financial prowess and would rather go too far with economic support measures than not go far enough, Finance Minister Alistair Darling said on Monday.

(more…)

Draft UK bank law confirms tougher watchdog powers

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and his wife Margaret leave 10 Downing Street to attend the State Opening of Parliament, in central London November 18, 2009.       REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett (BRITAIN POLITICS)By Huw Jones
LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – Britain’s financial watchdog will have powers to claw back bank bonuses that breach globally agreed rules on remuneration and force hedge funds to provide data, a draft law published on Thursday showed.

(more…)

G20 ministers to keep stimulus, seek ways to coordinate economies

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling speaks at a Thomson Reuters newsmaker event in London October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN BUSINESS POLITICS)   By Sumeet Desai
ST ANDREWS, Scotland, Nov 6 (Reuters) – The Group of 20 leading nations will agree this weekend it is too early to pull the plug on emergency support for the global economy and launch a new system of checks to help rebalance world growth and prevent future crises.

(more…)

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