Posts Tagged ‘tax’

Tory leader David Cameron details plan for bank tax

March 20, 2010

» Tory leader David Cameron details plan for bank tax

Opportunist. Still, some kind of levy seems only fair, although the assumption that only banks are too big to fail continues to baffle me (AIG? General Motors?)

I’m assuming the word “details” here is some kind of joke. As is the reminder that David Cameron is leader of the conservative party.

What really confuses me though is this:

Treasury sources say Mr Darling favours a tax over an untouchable insurance premium because he fears that banks could feel they were insured against the consequences of their actions and take even greater risks.

It’s analagous to saying “we oppose people getting car insurance because it just increases the risk that they’ll drive carelessly”. Although I suppose we all had so much fun in the last big bank bankruptcy that another one would be so much fun. Somehow, a chancellor favouring a tax always gives me a certain amount of cynicism.

Goldman and Greece

February 23, 2010

… and I ain’t talkin’ about the musical.

There was an interesting article by the BBC’s Robert Peston on what financial services Goldman offered the Greek government. The services themselves are pretty dubious, giving the Greek government little real benefit aside from reducing its on-book debt. Even Goldman do not seem to pretend that it was anything other than, ahem, financial engineering.

Peston’s question was: is it ethical.

The answer is: probably not. But ethics are troublesome, and I don’t mean troublesome in that “oh dear that stops us making lots of money” way, but in that “oh dear ethics is inherently based upon a point of view and therefore is difficult to capture in an abstract sense which can be applied equally to all parties and all cases” way. Typically, clients’ transactions are judged in terms of “but would their or our government think this a bit dodgy” kind of way (a test the Greek trades would have failed). But when there is no government it becomes a bit of a tougher test to apply.

“Efficiency” is a key selling point of any financial product; typically that means the product is easier to manage, has lower risk, has lower transaction costs and, sometimes, less tax. In a Daily Mail sort of way this must  seem unethical – but this is no different to a retail bank saying “you can have an ISA (which is tax free) or a savings account (which isn’t)”. Is it wrong for that bank to help its customers minimise their tax bill?

Goldman, presumably, felt the emphasis was on the Greek government. Interestingly, their ethics don’t seem to be under debate.

Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs, clicking in the votes?

February 11, 2010

» Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs, clicking in the votes?

Between 3.41pm and 3.57pm yesterday, little more than 24 hours after the Robin Hood tax campaign’s high-profile launch, supporters noticed a sudden spike in the number of people rejecting the plan in their online poll. More than 1,700 came from a Goldman-registered server, with the rest from what appeared to be a personal address. It was unclear whether the stunt involved an individual or a number of people. Goldman said: “We have just received this information, and we are investigating the matter fully.”

Someone at Goldman Sachs has far too much time on their hands. They may find that may not be a problem for much longer.

I doubt Goldman would particularly care what we voted for in a poll, and certainly wouldn’t waste more than ten minutes trying to influence it: even Goldman is firmly aware that, as an industry, most individuals rate us lower than the leech.

Goldman Sachs teams could quit the city over taxes and regulations

January 4, 2010

» Goldman Sachs teams could quit the city over taxes and regulations

Would anyone miss them?

Alongside its results last year Goldman highlighted that it paid £1.1bn in UK corporation tax, the biggest contribution from the UK financial sector. Its 5,000 London employees had also contributed hundreds of millions of pounds in income tax.

Well, yes, apart from that. The news is less serious than it seems: the organisation appears to be thinking aloud, and rather than making idle threats is wondering if it is viable to move (Switzerland is the most likely candidate) and if so, whether or not to do so. Hmmm, that’s actually a lot less comforting than an idle threat. Still, even Goldman appear unconvinced about the idea of moving, which means London may be safe – or, if that is your view, burdened – for a while yet.

With bigger bonuses, another upside for banks

January 2, 2010

» With bigger bonuses, another upside for banks

It’s a strange news story

For all banks and Wall Street firms, “I’m sure we’re talking $200 billion total compensation, which would create a tax savings for the firms of $80 billion,” said Robert Willens, an accounting and tax analyst in New York who runs a consulting firm, Robert Willens LLC. The figure does not include bonus plans by hedge funds, which are likely to reduce their payouts after a down year.

The tax deductions, which will increase the bottom line of the banks, are perfectly legal and not new. They come as compensation for 2009 has roared back after the largest banks paid back billions of dollars in federal aid, an outlay still fresh in the minds of taxpayers. As pay goes up, so do the deductions.

Its category as news is questionable – there is nothing new here – but it is an interesting example of outrage. The more companies pay people, the more tax-deductable costs that they have. This, though, is presented as an extremely sly tax fiddle. (One would think that paying out more costs is generally seen as a negative when it comes to the profit-hungry vampiric organisation that is an investment bank, but perhaps not.)

The most likely culprits are a slow news day or a self-publicist, or possibly both in a thrilling combination. Still, we all have to make our money somehow.