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Schaeuble Urges Transaction-Tax Action as Nations Seek Details

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble urged the European Union to allow a financial-transaction tax for willing nations, a plan that other countries threatened to block unless they can review details first.

“We should move ahead,” Schaeuble said during public debate at a finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels today.

All 27 nations and the European Parliament must agree for the Brussels-based commission to design a tax for willing nations under so-called “enhanced cooperation” procedures. Skeptical nations that won’t take part, such as the U.K. and Poland, say they won’t allow the smaller group of countries to proceed unless they know what to expect.

“There must be a pragmatic way of letting us see the directive to make sure there are no spillover effects,” Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said.

EU lawyers said it would be difficult to reassure non-participating nations because the plan can’t be formally presented until it’s allowed to go ahead. At the same time, EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta renewed his reassurances that opt-out nations won’t be harmed.

“All in all, we are working very hard on the substance and also on supplementary analysis,” Semeta said today. “We could find ways to inform non-participating member states about substantive elements of the forthcoming proposal.”

Eleven nations so far have said that they would like to be part of the transaction-tax planning: France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Slovakia and Estonia. The Netherlands also has expressed interest, with Dutch officials saying they will insist on getting an exemption for their pension funds.

Enhanced Cooperation

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said his country’s new government is “seriously considering joining the enhanced cooperation” if its conditions are met. The Netherlands wants the impact of the tax to be in proportion to the effect of other levies, and it will insist that proceeds from the tax be used nationally instead of passed on to the EU, he said.

The EU’s new transaction-tax proposal will be based on a previous plan that, when considered for all 27 EU nations, was estimated to be able to raise 57 billion euros ($72 billion) each year.

Semeta said yesterday that the EU would revise its revenue estimates and also take into account concerns raised with the previous initiative. He said EU lawmakers could consider the transaction tax as early as a December plenary debate.

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