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.
Schäuble was also in the Global Tax 50
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,
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
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
financial transaction tax (FTT) and Luxembourg's tax
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
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