European banks are still very present in tax havens

HSBC is the largest bank in Hong Kong with 30,000 employees. (MAXPPP)

The European Tax Observatory, funded by the European Commission and headed by the French economist Gabriel Zucman, has combed through the data published by some forty banks between 2014 and 2020. These banks record no less than 20 billion euros in profits in areas with particularly advantageous taxation. This share represents around 15% of their annual net results.

The observatory has identified 17 states and territories as preferred destinations: the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Malta and Luxembourg in particular. It turns out that the profits of the banks recorded in these tax havens are abnormally high: the ratio is 238,000 euros per employee, against 65,000 euros in so-called “classic” countries.

The champion in all categories is the British bank HSBC. Over 60% of its pre-tax profits have been recorded over the past two years in countries identified as tax havens. HSBC is the largest bank in Hong Kong with 30,000 employees. Then comes the Italian Monte Dei Paschi, the oldest bank in the world still in operation, then the German Deutsche Bank.

HSBC invokes its historic heritage in Hong Kong, a former British colony. Deutsche Bank stresses that out of the sixty countries in which it is established, none is present on the European list of states singled out. As for the French companies Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas, the European Tax Observatory points out that they have reduced their activities in the countries in question since 2014.

The authors of the study make a proposal: it would be possible to recover part of the money with a tax. A minimum rate of 15% on banks would generate three to five billion euros in additional revenue for European countries.

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