Report: Tax evasion schemes cost treasuries $175 billion

BERLIN (AP) — Elaborate tax evasion schemes have cost some of the world’s major treasuries a total of at least 150 billion euros ($175 billion) in lost revenue over the past two decades, according to a report Thursday.

The report coordinated by German outlet Correctiv followed up on a 2018 story that had estimated the damage at around 55 billion euros ($64 billion).

It centers on schemes such as so-called “cum-ex” transactions, in which participants swapped shares to collect reimbursement for taxes they hadn’t paid, and “cum-cum” deals — transactions in which at least two traders in at least two different countries sold each other shares to avoid losing money on dividend tax.

Correctiv said it had worked with media partners in several countries and a team at the University of Mannheim, Germany, to produce what it called a “conservative estimate” that such schemes cost treasuries in 12 countries at least 150 billion euros between 2000 and 2020.

It said that cum-cum deals accounted for the lion’s share of those losses, at least 141 billion euros, and cum-ex transactions for most of the rest. The report said Germany missed out on 36 billion euros and France on 33.4 billion euros, and put the damage to the U.S. at 4.9 billion euros.

The transactions have spawned a scandal involving hundreds of suspects.

In a landmark ruling in July, a German federal court dismissed an appeal by two British bankers over their conviction, confirming that the cum-ex transactions they used were illegal.

The two were convicted last year of multiple counts of tax evasion between 2007 and 2011. They were given suspended sentences after agreeing to provide detailed information about the fraud scheme, in which participants swapped shares to collect reimbursement for taxes they hadn’t paid.

The defendants had claimed during their trial that they had simply used a loophole in the law. But federal judges concluded that the scheme was illegal and there was “no doubt the actions had been premeditated.”

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