Research by oliver Wyman, commissioned by the Global Financial Markets Association’s (GFMA’s) global FX division, suggests that, given the tight margins that exist in foreign exchange markets, any increase in transaction costs will, in turn, hit the real economy as these costs would largely be passed on to all end users. The report, Proposed EU Commission Financial Transaction Tax; Impact Analysis of Foreign Exchange Markets’, evaluates the impact of the European Union’s proposed financial transaction Tax (FTT) on European FX markets, estimating its impact on FX cash and derivatives users in particular.
The report not only recognises that the primary impact of the tax will be an increase in transaction costs, relocation of trading and reduction in notional turnover, but also it suggests the tax will result in a potential reduction in liquidity leading to a widening of bid/ask spreads.
The research suggests that a proposed FTT could directly increase transaction costs for all transactions by three to seven times and by up to 18 times for the most traded part of the market. It could eventually result in the relocation between 70% and 75% of tax eligible transactions outside of the EU tax jurisdiction. This possible outcome, combined with reduced transaction volumes (of approx 5%), could reduce market liquidity and increase indirect transaction costs by up to a further 110%, the report suggests.
Inevitably however, the tax will predominantly hit the real economy and the institutional market, comprising pension funds, asset managers, insurers and corporations, as both direct and indirect costs are largely passed on to end‐users, which will be least able to move transactions to jurisdictions not subject to the tax.
While the tax is expected to only have a limited impact on speculative trading, as this activity will most likely relocate outside the EU tax jurisdiction, it will result in an inefficient tax on the economy as raising €1 of tax would likely cost the economy more than €1, due to the indirect costs associated with reduced and more fragmented liquidity.
James Kemp, managing director of GFMA’s global FX division, says: “It is essential to fully understand the impact of the proposed financial transaction tax and the Oliver Wyman study is an important contribution to the debate. “The foreign exchange industry is an essential part of a stable and sustainable economy, underpinning international trade and investing. This study shows that the proposed tax would in effect penalise Europe’s businesses for sensible risk management—by using FX products to manage currency fluctuations—and also threaten to impose further costs on the investment returns of pension funds and asset managers.”
UK premier David Cameron led a charge against the tax at the Davos World Economic Forum in late January, telling Eurozone members that it was no time for tinkering in the financial markets and that the tax was “madness”.