Luxembourg is about to shed its reputation as one of the EU’s largest tax havens

Cracks to international pressure.

Luxembourg Finance Minister, Luc Frieden, announced today that Luxembourg was willing to share account information on global multi-national companies going forward. This extends current information sharing agreements which are limited to US and EU individual tax payers.

"Luxembourg is comfortable to share information about multinationals as well as individuals," Mr Friedan said. This will help shed Luxembourg’s reputation as one of the EU’s largest tax havens.

According to WealthInsight, Luxembourg is the 5th largest private banking centre in the world with assets under management (AuM) of US$350 billion at the end of 2012.

Luxembourg also had mutual fund assets of US$2 trn and additional bank assets of US$550 bn as of year-end of 2012. These figures together amount to US$2.8 trn, which equates to almost 50 times Luxembourg’s GDP of US$57 bn in 2012.

It also equates to over 30 times the total wealth held by locals in the country (US$91 bn). This is an extremely high ratio when considering that Luxembourg is one of wealthiest countries in the world (in per capita terms).

According to the Credit Suisse Wealth Report, Luxembourg has the 8th highest wealth per capita,in the world at US$178,000 per person. This is well above the worldwide (US$28,000) average. Notably, Switzerland is the highest ranked country based on this measure with wealth per capita of US$293,000, followed by Norway in 2nd place (US$243,000) and Australia in 3rd place (US$239,000). The United States had a wealth per capita of US$172,000.

Going forward, WealthInsight expects Luxembourg private banking AuM to stay remain relatively static at US$350 bn, while countries such as Singapore surge ahead.

Singapore is expected to have private banking AuM of over US$2 trillion by 2020, compared to US$550 bin in 2012 and US$50 bn in 2000.

Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.