The Government is studying formulas under pressure from its partners to prevent the new taxes from being paid by customers

Una vez superado el primer impacto mediático que supuso el anuncio de que el Gobierno pondrá en marche enero dos nuevos impuestos a grandes bancos y las empresas energéticas, al Ejecutivo le toca ahora abordar la parte más farragosa del asunto: el diseño de estos tributos y , especially, mechanisms to prevent companies from passing them on to consumers. Several of President Pedro Sánchez’s main parliamentary partners have demanded upon learning of the announcement that price limits be established, but for the moment what the government is studying goes in another direction: that of strengthening the role of the National Commission of markets and competition (CNMC ) to monitor any increases.

Government allies and also United We Can, who were unaware of the measure, welcomed Sánchez’s announcement that he will implement these two new taxes from January 1, 2023, although almost as soon as first moment of the State of the Nation debate raised the same question: “How will the executive control that, as it has done with every approved measure, these surcharges ultimately do not affect the consumer“And customers end up paying them on their electricity bill or in bank commissions, in the words of EH Bildu spokesperson Mertxe Aizpurua.

The bone patriotic they directly asked “Public intervention on prices to cap electricity and fuel, and similar questions have been asked, publicly or privately, by government partners such as the ERC or PNV, as well as United We Can itself. But, for now, the executive has not offered a detailed answer because, to begin with, it has not yet designed the two extraordinary taxes, of which only a few clues are known, such as the one that will tax extraordinary profits energy companies will take inspiration from the recent approval in Italy, which removes 25% of the additional benefits obtained by electricity companies between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.

The government has indicated, however, that its idea is for the CNMC to be the one to control that companies do not raise prices to recoup the cost of the new tax. “We expect the legislative text to include two points: the prohibition that the cost of the new tax can be passed on or transferred to the price” and the establishment of “special monitoring” by the CNMCaffirmed a few days ago the Minister of Finance, María Jesús Montero, who assured that the regulatory body will be endowed “with all the functions to monitor and apply sanctions in case a company deviates from the law”.

United We Can, for its part, has also pledged that the CNMC will be the one to control that prices do not skyrocket, even if its idea is not only to strengthen the monitoring and sanctioning capacity of organization, but also to include legal reform that force the regulator to prevent price increases. The bone purplehowever, do not give details of this mechanism as the design of the tax is still very green.

Problems this way

However, leaving the control of the price increase in the hands of the CNMC has some problems. One is that it is a reactive body that could sanction banks or energy companies if they shift the tax on bills, but not stop it before it happens. Another, that the competition does not work in a particularly agile way, as evidenced by the fact that a few weeks ago it imposed a fine of 200 million euros on the six main construction companies in Spain for tampering with the competition… between 1992 and 2017. “Information from the CNMC arrives when it arrives, it is not immediate”, agrees in this regard the spokesman of the Syndicate of Treasury Technicians (Gestha), José María Mollinedo .

The spokesperson stresses, however, that despite its slow the controller has means to check for sudden spikes energy prices. “There is a standardized information system with the energy companies and there we saw, with their reports, that the refining margin had more than tripled since the second quarter of 2021”, explains Mollinedo, who also underlines that the control of the entities finance is carried out by the Bank of Spain. The information provided by the banks, the Treasury technician points out, “is not available to the public, but it would allow the government to have control” on how the banks earn more money in an extraordinary way thanks to the rise Euribor, which allows them to charge higher interest on mortgages.

This rise in bank profits it has already started to appear in the income statements. In 2021, the five banks listed on the Ibex (Caixabank, BBVA, Sabadell, Bankinter and Santander) obtained 19,866 million euros in profit and distributed more than 7,300 million in dividends, the maximum since 2007. with the fateful year 2020, when these same companies lost 5,226 million. And, for 2023, the forecast is that the results of these five banks will be even better precisely because of the rise in interest rates.

Bank-specific levies are common in several major European countries. According to data from Gestha, the European Council in June 2010 levied a similar tax on financial institutions to pay the costs of bank restructuring, which has been applied by states such as Finland, the United Kingdom and France. Similarly, Austria has applied it since 2011 and raised €357 million, while Poland has applied it since 2016 and raised €1,065 million.

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