The Robin Hood Tax

The financial crisis that swept across the world economy since 2008 has destroyed jobs and livelihoods in developed and developing countries alike. The colossal bailouts given to the banking sector by UK taxpayers have been followed by devastating public service cuts and enormous reductions in social welfare.

War on Want and many other campaigning organisations, trade unions, women's organisations and faith groups are now calling for the introduction of a financial transactions tax on banks, known as the Robin Hood Tax, to repay some of their debt to society and to provide ongoing funding for public services and social welfare programmes into the future.

A tax on banks' transactions in foreign currencies, shares and derivatives would raise significant sums for spending on public services, climate change mitigation and anti-poverty programmes, both in the UK and overseas. If applied globally at an average rate of 0.05%, such a tax could raise as much as £250 billion every year.

The UK already has a stamp duty of 0.5% on share transactions, and it is perfectly possible for the government to introduce its own currency transactions tax on sterling alone. Calculations published by War on Want and the United Nations University show that even at the tiny rate of 0.005%, a sterling currency transactions tax would raise an estimated £3bn each year in additional revenue for tackling poverty.

The campaign achieved a major victory in 2013 when 11 European countries including France and Germany agreed to introduce a financial transactions tax, FIX LINK expected to raise 37 billion euros a year when it comes into force. The British government has so far refused to introduce a financial transactions tax, meaning that banks in the UK are still not being forced to repay their debts to society.

War on Want launched the first UK campaign for a Robin Hood tax (technically named the Tobin Tax after economist James Tobin) on foreign currency transactions in the wake of the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. Millions of people in Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines lost their jobs and their livelihoods as foreign currency speculators withdrew their money from Asian economies almost overnight. A Tobin Tax would stem the rapid flow of 'hot money' in and out of currencies, bringing stability so as to prevent a recurrence of the chaos caused in the East Asian crisis.

This film was produced as part of War on Want's original Tobin Tax campaign, showing what happens when currency speculators prey on developing economies.

Thanks to Radiohead and Ewan McGregor for their contributions.

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