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How Well Do Foreign Exchange Markets Function: Might a Tobin Tax Help?


  • Jeffrey Frankel.


The case in favor of the Tobin tax features two major arguments. (1) Such a levy might reduce exchange rate volatility. A simple model giving this conclusion is presented in the Appendix. The starting point is a calculation showing that even a small tax would be a large disincentive to short-term transactions. The disincentive to long-term capital flows would be much smaller. This property does not extend to other forms of capital controls, and constitutes the beauty of the Tobin tax proposal. The crucial proposition then becomes that short-term speculation is on average destabilizing. Some support for this claim is cited, in the form of tests on survey data of exchange rate forecasts by market participants. (2) The Tobin tax would raise a lot of revenue more efficiently than alternative taxes such as tariffs. Some possible flaws in earlier estimates of revenue are pointed out here. The relevant base of transactions on which the tax would fall is larger than some have assumed, but the possible drop in trading volume in response to the tax is larger as well. A tax large enough to alter the structure of trading could conceivably collapse trading volume to as little as $151 billion/day. The author does not support a tax of this magnitude. Nevertheless, it is clear that even a more reasonable tax rate of 0.1 per cent would raise a lot of revenue, $166 billion per year in one estimate that is presented for the sake of concreteness. Whether this would be desirable depends heavily on the use to which the funds were put, or the alternative sources of tax revenue for which they are substituted.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey Frankel., 1995. "How Well Do Foreign Exchange Markets Function: Might a Tobin Tax Help?," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C95-058, University of California at Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucb:calbcd:c95-058

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lucio Sarno & Giorgio Valente, 2009. "Exchange Rates and Fundamentals: Footloose or Evolving Relationship?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 786-830, June.
    2. Westerhoff Frank H., 2008. "The Use of Agent-Based Financial Market Models to Test the Effectiveness of Regulatory Policies," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(2-3), pages 195-227, April.
    3. Christopher J. Neely & Lucio Sarno, 2002. "How well do monetary fundamentals forecast exchange rates?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 51-74.
    4. Pellizzari, Paolo & Westerhoff, Frank, 2009. "Some effects of transaction taxes under different microstructures," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 850-863, December.
    5. Christopher J. Neely, 2005. "The case for foreign exchange intervention: the government as an active reserve manager," Working Papers 2004-031, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    6. Pedro Albuquerque, 2006. "BAD taxation: Disintermediation and illiquidity in a bank account debits tax model," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 13(5), pages 601-624, September.
    7. Olivier Damette, 2009. "Exchange rate volatility and noise traders: Currency Transaction Tax as an eviction device," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 29(3), pages 2449-2464.
    8. Giancarlo Gandolfo, 2015. "The Tobin tax in a continuous-time non-linear dynamic model of the exchange rate," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(6), pages 1629-1643.
    9. Andrea Terzi, 2003. "Is a transactions tax an effective means to stabilize the foreign exchange market?," BNL Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 56(227), pages 367-385.
    10. Francis Vitek, 2005. "The Exchange Rate Forecasting Puzzle," International Finance 0509005, EconWPA.
    11. Olivier Damette & Beum-Jo Park, 2015. "Tobin Tax and Volatility: A Threshold Quantile Autoregressive Regression Framework," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(5), pages 996-1022, November.
    12. Hanke, Michael & Huber, Jürgen & Kirchler, Michael & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "The economic consequences of a Tobin tax--An experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 58-71, May.
    13. Raffer, Kunibert, 1998. "The tobin tax: Reviving a discussion," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 529-538, March.
    14. Olivier Damette & Stéphane Goutte, 2015. "Tobin tax and trading volume tightening: a reassessment," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(29), pages 3124-3141, June.
    15. Damette, Olivier, 2016. "Mixture Distribution Hypothesis And The Impact Of A Tobin Tax On Exchange Rate Volatility: A Reassessment," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(06), pages 1600-1622, September.
    16. Demary Markus, 2008. "Who Does a Currency Transaction Tax Harm More: Short-Term Speculators or Long-Term Investors?," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 228(2-3), pages 228-250, April.
    17. Soete, Luc & Weel, Bas, 1998. "Globalization, Tax Erosion and the Internet," Research Memorandum 022, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    18. OZEKİCİOGLU Seda, 2015. "Tobin Tax: Arguments And Current Derivative Studies," Studies in Business and Economics, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 10(1), pages 103-112, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • F31 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Exchange


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