Friday, 18 October, 2019

France to Trump: We will tax your companies, you can't stop us

Trump on course for new trade war with France French digital service tax target US companies unfairly says administration
Patty Aguilar | 14 July, 2019, 10:29

Also on Thursday, Britain moved ahead with similar plans as the government published draft legislation for a "digital services tax".

Although US Internet commerce giants face an increasingly stiff challenge from both regulators and local retailers, they continue to dominate European online markets.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Wednesday applauded the US Trade Representative's move, saying the tax would retroactively require US internet giants operating in France to turn over a percentage of their revenues from the beginning of this year and violates worldwide trade commitments.

The snag is that Internet retailers pay next to no tax on their European profits because they channel nearly all their financial transactions through European countries with low corporate tax rates, principally Luxembourg and Ireland.

An activist wearing a mask depicting Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in Belgium previous year. This is a tax charge for the largest digital businesses - search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces - with global revenues over £500m and United Kingdom revenues over £25m to reflect the revenue derived from their United Kingdom users.

Global governments have been proposing tax reforms for businesses providing cross-border digital services for years, with European Union finance ministers proposing a dedicated tax back in September 2017.

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Still, the backlash against them is serious. These companies, protesters claimed, were destroying the country's traditional family-run shops. The new levy is projected to earn the French authorities up to €500 million a year.

The United States have threatened with reprisals before, as it believes the law would be mostly aimed at American companies (as suggested by the nickname "GAFA tax", meaning Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon).

But, she added, other countries are already looking at new taxes on big tech companies. "We have got to find a way of taxing the Internet giants", he said.

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.

The move was applauded by the Computer & Communications Industry Association which said the French law would retroactively require USA internet giants to turn over a percentage of their revenues from the start of 2019.

And the Internet giants will still be able to shop around for the most favourable tax regime. While a number of these companies are British, Chinese and Indian, the only French company affected by the tax is advertising firm Criteo.

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