The government has announced it is going to sell more Lloyds Bank shares, and start selling RBS shares. That is a good idea. The Labour government was wrong to buy the shares in the first place, as we discussed at the time. They should have found other cheaper ways of supporting what had to be supported in the banking sector, by loans against security with controlled administration for banks that could not meet their obligations. The state should not be an owner of banks, as it has to be their regulator and financier of last resort.
I see in recent press coverage the issue of the Bank levy is being discussed. One of the factors the government should take into account when setting the levy is the impact it has on the value of the taxpayer shareholdings in banks. If you tax yourself too much, you lose out on the capital value of what you own when you come to sell.
Lloyds and RBS each pay around £250 million a year in bank levy, a total of £500 million. Barclays shares currently sell at 14 times adjusted net profits or earnings. Lloyds and RBS are still recovering their earnings, so their multiple of past profits is far higher. If we take say 12 times profits as an approximation of what the market would pay for additional profits of a bank, allowing a discount for the two banks with large government share overhangs, gives us a capital cost of £6 billion in the total value of the two banks from continuing with the Bank levy. The actual loss will be smaller, as the government does not own 100% of either bank,though it still owns most of RBS. That of course is a one off loss, whilst the levy is annual. The bank levy is also paid by banks where the government does not have a shareholding.
Nonetheless, it does pose a question for the government. If you were thinking of reducing the bank levy for other reasons anyway, there would be some compensation in a higher receipt for bank shares being sold.
(PS I do not have any financial interests in banks and last worked for a merchant bank 26 years ago)