France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of USA anger

14 Juillet, 2019, 10:24 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • French digital service tax target US companies unfairly says administration

The tax is due to apply retroactively from the start of 2019.

France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sent a clear message to the US and the rest of the world on Thursday when the country passed a 3% tax on the digital revenues of big tech companies: "France decides its own tax rules".

She said that, in light of growing concerns about carbon emissions from trains, "France is committed to the taxation of air transport but there is an urgency here". In other words, the tax is designed for big tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

An inquiry targeting Britain would further strain relations between Washington and London, which have been tested in recent days following the leak of United Kingdom diplomatic cables that were critical of President Donald Trump. Ireland, Luxembourg and other small European Union members have been active in thwarting efforts to impose an EU-wide digital tax, hastening go-it-alone efforts by France, Britain and others. When in place, the proposed United Kingdom digital services tax will target "large digital businesses" that generate more than £500m in global revenue and more than £25m in United Kingdom revenue, upon which it will impose a 2% levy.

Recently proposed EU-wide tax changes have had their implementation delayed until late 2020; but a bill, just passed by the French Senate, requires tech companies with more than $750 million in global revenue and €25 million in French revenue, to pay a 3% tax on their total annual revenue on French services.

"France is a sovereign state, it decides its fiscal provisions in a sovereign manner, and it will continue to decide its tax decisions in a sovereign manner", French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in Parliament, according to the Washington Post.

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Paris-based tax lawyer Jessie Denton told BBC that this tax is more of a "symbol" than an effective tax measure, as it raises a relatively small sum of money. These limits have been set to apply to companies with worldwide revenue in excess of £500 million of which in excess of £25 million is derived from United Kingdom customers.

France has approved a digital services tax despite threats of retaliation by the USA, which targets American tech giants.

But the lawmakers noted that France is a sovereign state which can not be dictated to how to operate and how to handle businesses taking part within its territories.

But, she added, other countries are already looking at new taxes on big tech companies.

British finance Minister Philip Hammond had announced such a tax already a year ago, but is now determined to go on with it, as an worldwide agreement on the matter seems to be unlikely to get a short time resolution.

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