Strong public support for financial transaction taxes

by Toby Sanger, CUPE Economist and Canadians for Tax Fairness Board Member 

June 20, 2012 - An international poll commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation found very strong support in many countries, including Canada, for the introduction of Financial Transactions Taxes (FTTs), such as the Robin Hood Tax.   Trade unions provided results of this poll in their meetings with world leaders at the G20 meetings in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Despite initially low recognition of FTTs in Canada, 74% of those polled were in support.   In France, where 88% of the public were aware, 88% of the public also supports financial transactions taxes.  There’s also strong support in Germany (82% in favour), the UK (76%), the US (63%), Japan (70%) and other countries.

While public support is stronger in countries where political leaders have also been supportive (such as France and Germany), it’s also remarkably strong in countries where Conservative political leaders have virulently opposed these and other taxes on the financial sector, such as the UK and Canada.

Financial transactions taxes aren’t just supported by a broad public majority, more than a thousand economists worldwide have pledged support together with Bill Gates, the Vatican and the head of the Anglican church.

There are active campaigns for financial transactions taxes, such as the Robin Hood Tax, backed by unions together with anti-poverty, international development and environmental groups in the UK, throughout Europe, in the United States and in Canada, including through the Canadians for Tax Fairness organization.

Now an impressive group of over 50 finance industry professionals–including former VPs of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and of the Chicago Stock Exchange and the managing director of the Rothschild Group–have signed a letter urging G20 and European leaders to introduce a financial transactions tax.

In the report published last year by the CCPA, Fair Shares: how banks, brokers and the financial industry can pay fairer taxes, I estimated that a small financial transactions tax could generate approximately $4 billion annually in Canada (assuming a 50% reduction in volumes, mostly all high frequency trading).

Just this last week, the International Labor Organization published its annual anthology Confronting Finance:  Mobilizing the 99% for Economic and Social Progress.  This includes a chapter I wrote on “Taxing Finance”, that makes the case for financial transactions taxes and other taxes on the banking and finance industry.   There’s much other excellent material in this volume, with a free PDF version available for download.