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Global Tax 50 2014: Wolfgang Schäuble

16 December 2014

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German finance minister

Wolfgang Schäuble
Wolfgang Schäuble was also in the Global Tax 50  2011
As Minister of Finance for Europe's largest and most economically influential state, Wolfgang Schäuble has a big say in tax matters across the European Union (EU). Very little progress is made in the EU on any issue without Germany weighing in, and on tax matters Schäuble vocally represents his country in his own inimitable way.

Born in Freiburg im Breisnau and the son of a tax adviser, Schäuble is a qualified lawyer and has worked in the German tax administration, providing him with useful knowledge to ensure Germany's tax interests are protected in the EU.

A key battleground upon which Germany has voiced its opinion in the past 12 months is intellectual property (IP) regimes across Europe, challenging the UK's Patent Box regime in particular.

Schäuble does not regard patent box regimes as conforming to the "European spirit", and rather than implement a patent box regime of its own, similar to that of the UK or Netherlands, for example, Germany has opted to try and discourage the use of such legislation in the EU.

November's G20 finance ministers meeting provided the setting for Schäuble to take the UK to task on its IP regime. The UK agreed to reduce the scope of its Patent Box legislation so that it will only apply to research and development and innovation activity within the UK. Similar restrictions are likely to be extended to other European patent box regimes.

When he and fellow Global Tax 50 2014 entrant George Osborne, Schäuble's UK counterpart released a joint statement, the German said: "More and more countries are speaking out against allowing too much leeway for large multinationals to minimise their taxes. Just because something is legal, does not mean it is fair in tax terms.".

Other areas where Germany has been vocal include the proposed financial transaction tax (FTT) and Luxembourg's tax regime.

Schäuble was a key critic of the Luxembourgish system, saying that the country had "a lot to do", and reiterating his point that just because something is "legally possible", it is not necessarily fair.

In conjunction with his Italian and French counterparts, Pier Carlo Padoan and Michel Sapin, Schäuble recently penned a letter to the EU urging it to take action to limit aggressive tax avoidance on the part of member states and aggressive tax avoidance on the part of businesses, as well as increasing tax harmonisation.

Germany is one of the 11 countries involved in the conception of the FTT, and Schäuble has emphasised that although progress may be slow, "a small first step is better than none".

The Global Tax 50 2014
View the full list and introduction
Gold tier (ranked in order of influence)
1.  Jean-Claude Juncker  2.  Pascal Saint-Amans  3.  Donato Raponi  4.  ICIJ  5.  Jacob Lew  6.  George Osborne  7.  Jun Wang  8.  Inverting pharmaceuticals  9.  Rished Bade  10.  Will Morris

Silver tier (in alphabetic order)
Joaquín Almunia Apple Justice Patrick Boyle CTPA Joe Hockey IMF Arun Jaitley Marius Kohl Tizhong Liao Kosie Louw Pierre Moscovici Michael NoonanWolfgang Schäuble Algirdas Šemeta Robert Stack

Bronze tier (in alphabetic order)
Shinzo Abe Alberto Arenas Piet Battiau Monica Bhatia Bitcoin Bono Warren Buffett ECJ Translators Eurodad Hungarian protestors Indian Special Investigation Team (SIT) Chris Jordan Armando Lara Yaffar McKesson Patrick Odier OECD printing facilities Pier Carlo Padoan Mariano Rajoy Najib Razak Alex Salmond Skandia Tax Justice Network Edward Troup Margrethe Vestager Heinz Zourek

International Correspondents