Global Tax 50 2014: Marius Kohl
Former Luxembourg tax official
Before October, Marius Kohl was known only to his family, friends and companies that paid tax in Luxembourg. Then he gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – also in the Global Tax 50 this year – published leaked documents about tax rulings given to companies in that country and all hell broke loose, as far as tax avoidance in the EU was concerned.
Between 1981 and 2013, Kohl was head of Sociétés 6, described as the Luxembourg agency responsible for determining how much tax is owed each year by about 50,000, mostly foreign-owned, Luxembourg-registered holding companies.
"I could say 'yes' or 'no,' " Kohl told the WSJ. "Sometimes it's easier if you only have to ask one person." Luxembourg tax advisers have spoken about how foreign companies would troop into his office to get approval for their tax arrangements, which invariably related to booking profit in low-tax Luxembourg from business in other jurisdictions.
What has added spice to Kohl's revelations is that Jean-Claude Juncker, the new president of the European Commission, was Luxembourg's finance minister from 1989, stepping down from the position in 2009, and prime minister between 1995 and 2013. It would be easier for the Commission to address that country's generous tax rulings regime if it were not for this.
Despite the ructions his interview caused, Kohl has kept a low profile since. Indeed the WSJ did not publish a photograph of him and only described him as "a bearded 61-year-old with a ponytail". He has been a lot more forthcoming about his role in facilitating foreign companies' tax arrangements in Luxembourg.
The Global Tax 50 2014
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 Noonan • Wolfgang 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