Working Paper
Revenue Potential of the Currency Transaction Tax for Development Finance

A Critical Appraisal

The paper assesses the potential of currency transaction taxes (CTT, widely known as the Tobin tax), to raise revenue for global development. Though Tobin proposed and others assessed CTTs in terms of reducing exchange rate volatility and improving macroeconomic policy environments, this paper considers the CTT first and foremost from the standpoint of revenue. With a view of establishing a ‘permissible’ range of tax rates to obtain realistic estimates of revenue potential, it first reviews the debate over the effects of CTT on market liquidity and the efficiency of foreign exchange markets, and assesses the Spahn proposal for a two-tier currency tax. It then moves to a discussion of the technical and political feasibility of CTT, followed by an evaluation of several new proposals, such as those advanced by Schmidt and Mendez. The paper presents revenue estimates from CTT in light of recent changes in the composition and structure of foreign exchange markets.