Bank taxes in vogue around the globe

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- As world leaders gather in Canada to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy, lawmakers in the United States finalized a bill Friday that would impose a $19 billion tax on financial institutions.

The tax, which is part of a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. financial system, comes after policymakers in the United Kingdom, France and Germany moved ahead with plans to impose new bank taxes this week.

Given those steps, analysts expect leaders to discuss bank taxes at the G-20 summit this weekend. In a Tuesday letter to fellow G-20 members, the leaders of France and Germany called for "an international agreement to introduce a levy or tax on financial institutions."

But plans to impose a global bank tax were scratched at the last G-20 meeting earlier this month in South Korea. Canada, Brazil and Japan opposed the idea, noting that banks in their countries did not require government aid during the financial crisis.

While the taxes vary from country to country, the reasoning behind them is basically the same: to ensure that banks are responsible for the risks they take and not taxpayers.

"The failures of the banks imposed a huge cost on the rest of society," said George Osborne, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer. "I believe it is fair and it is right that in the future banks should make a more appropriate contribution, which reflects the many risks they generate."

Osborne made the remarks Tuesday in unveiling one of the most stringent budgets in decades. The budget calls for a levy on bank liabilities that is expected to raise 2 billion British pounds annually.

In the United States, the proposed $19 billion tax would cover the cost of implementing financial reform. President Obama is expected to sign the bill in July.

The tax would apply to banks with more than $50 billion of assets and hedge funds with over $10 billion in assets. It would be assessed based on how much risk an institution takes and is expected to raise $4 billion a year over the next five years.

In addition, Congress is considering a $90 billion "financial crisis responsibility fee" as part of President Obama's 2011 budget proposal. The so-called bailout tax would be paid largely by major financial institutions that contributed to the financial crisis, and were the biggest beneficiaries of extraordinary government actions.

While the banking industry supports some key principles of reform, bankers are concerned that certain regulations will hurt consumers, according to Edward Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association.

"The consequences involved are very real and will have a very negative impact on traditional banks, on consumers and on the broader economy," Yingling said in a statement. To top of page

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