Sunday, 21 July, 2019

France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of US anger

France to slap new 'ecotax' on plane tickets from 2020 US could impose tariffs on French imports in retaliation against ‘tech tax’
Russell Knight | 11 July, 2019, 18:53

The lawmakers included a suggestion to use a section of the tax code that would double the rate of USA taxes on French citizens and companies in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced an investigation into the tax under the provision used a year ago to probe China's technology policies, which led to tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. The probe was launched under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974.

The inquiry, to be conducted by the U.S. trade representative, comes after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire proposed a 3% tax on certain revenue that large tech companies earn providing digital services to users in France.

France imposed a 3% additional tax on companies including Google and Facebook on Thursday, despite U.S. opposition.

But the French move drew an angry response from Trump even before the legislation was passed, with the president ordering an investigation that the French economy minister said was unprecedented in the history of French-US relations. The French Finance Ministry has estimated that the tax would raise about 500 million euros annually ($563 million) at first - but predicted that collections would rise "quickly".

Robert Lighthizer, a US Trade Representative, raised concerns the about the new tax in France, which was passed by the French Senate on Thursday, saying it "unfairly targets American companies".

That prompted countries including France, Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy to announce plans for their own tax at the national level.

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The French government is to impose a tax of up to 18 euros ($20) on plane tickets for all flights from airports in France to fund less-polluting transportation projects, a minister said Tuesday.

The ASIC French lobby representing firms like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and Airbnb warned of a wider impact.

The 3% levy will apply to revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than 25 million euros in French revenue and 750 million euros ($845 million) worldwide.

A U.S. tech-industry trade association this week criticised the French measure, saying tax disputes should be settled through a multilateral negotiation now being led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The U.S. investigation got bipartisan support from the top members of the Senate Finance Committee.

"Between allies, I believe we can and must resolve our differences in another way than through threats", he told the French Senate ahead of the vote.

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