By Peter Thal Larsen
LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Tim Geithner has changed his tune. Just two months ago, the U.S. Treasury Secretary dismissed Gordon Brown’s call for a global financial tax as “not something we would be prepared to support”. But now the United States has unveiled its plan to tax bank liabilities, Geithner is keen for others to do the same. He may be disappointed.
Other governments are bound to be tempted. The U.S. levy, designed to raise at least $90 billion over ten years, provides valuable tax revenue. It allows President Obama to demonstrate that he is being tough on banks just as they prepare to pay out large bonuses. And by penalising big banks that rely on wholesale funding, it imposes an explicit charge on those institutions that are deemed too big to fail.
But the United States is one of a very small group of countries that could impose such a tax on its own. It has a large domestic banking industry, and is home to many of the world’s major financial institutions. Only China and, perhaps Japan, are in the same category.