Cum-Ex-Geschäfte

“Cum/ex transactions.” A lucrative tax loophole that major German banks have been using. Spiegel reported the story on 28 Apr 2013, saying it had been broken by the Berlin Sunday version of Die Welt (Die Welt am Sonntag, WamS) but so far search results for it online are only turning up in Der Spiegel. The loophole, estimated to have cost the German government 12 billion euros so far, was created by corporate tax reform legislation of the SPD + Green Party coalition in 2002. Though discovered by officials shortly thereafter in 2002, and reported all the way up the chain of command, the loophole was not fixed by Hans Eichel (SPD) or his successor Peer Steinbrück (SPD, currently running against Angela Merkel for chancellor of Germany). Amendments to the law in 2007 made the situation worse, Spiegel reports that WamS reports. Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) appears to have waited several years to fix the problem as well, though now the order appears to have gone out.

The problem was this: under certain circumstances capital gains tax could be reimbursed multiple times. After e.g. stocks or bonds were sold short but before they were bought back to conclude the transaction, German bureaucracy sometimes obscured to whom the stocks or bonds belonged: the person loaning the stock, the short seller or the end customer. The question would be trivial, say financial reporters, were it not for the fact that sometimes if the sale occurred right before a dividend the German IRS would erroneously issue more than one get-your-tax-back certificate for capital gains on the stock. Honest people would ignore the unearned get-your-tax-back certificate, but others would deliberately game the system to get the treasury to reimburse them these taxes even conceivably more than five times, said professor Heribert Anzinger of the University of Ulm.

This looks like the dividend stripping loophole HypoVereinsBank and others were reported in 2012 to have used to extract money from the German fiscus. Etymologically, Wikipedia contributors explain, when a company’s general assembly of shareholders decides to issue a dividend, the dividend is usually issued the day after the assembly meeting, called the “ex day” (“Ex-Dividende”). The day before the ex day is called the cum day, for arcane reasons.

(COOM   ECKS   geh SHEFF teh.)

Dividendenstripping

Dividend stripping.” A tax avoidance scheme the HypoVereinsBank is accused of, wherein they allegedly transferred customers’ stocks back and forth between German and foreign banks until it was unclear whether the Kapitalertragssteuer had been paid and then claimed more capital gains tax credits than were owed. Reuters and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that a single Frankfurt investor working with HVB and other banks was told he owed 124 million euros in tax for 2006–08 after the IRS-equivalent refused to accept his capital gains tax break from the scheme; he has been fighting in court since 2011 to get HVB to pay the tax bill. HVB and this investor split the profits 65% HVB, 35% investor. Wikipedia says dividend stripping lost its tax-law basis in 2000, Spiegel says it hasn’t been accepted by German tax authorities since 2007, and Süddeutsche Zeitung says since 2012.

Weird story about the HypoVereinsBank in Spiegel-Online on 30 Nov 2012: A guy accused his ex-wife and other HVB employees of large-scale tax avoidance schemes that moved money to Switzerland, was declared non compos mentis by the Bavarian justice system and has been locked up in a mental institution ever since (2006). The man probably was violent, but he may have been correct about the tax avoidance. He cited names and numbers when he blew the whistle to the Bavarian tax authority, but a judge who was not involved in that case called the tax office and told them not to investigate the bank because the whistleblower was crazy. The institutionalized whistleblower’s case was re-opened in 2013. He was set free  in the summer of 2013, after seven years of confinement. Laws committing people to mental institutions and keeping them there are going to be reformed as a result of his case. This started with an 05 Sep 2013 decision by the supreme court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which prioritized a review of the whistleblower’s case and announced failures of the various state courts and criteria that need to be met in future.

The Frankfurt district attorney’s HVB razzia last week found a trail leading to “a Swiss private bank.” Süddeutsche Zeitung says it is thought that Swiss banks will be a very fruitful place to investigate this German tax scandal. Deutsche Bank and UBS are now implicated as well.

Update on 16 Dec 2013: HSH Nordbank has been accused of dividend stripping.

(Dee veed END en shtrrrip pink.)

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