US tech industry takes aim at French digital service
US tech industry takes aim at French digital service
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20 August, 2019, 18:59
The lawmakers included a suggestion to use a section of the tax code that would double the rate of US taxes on French citizens and companies in the U.S.
The French Senate passed the controversial law last month, imposing a three-percent tax on sales generated in France by multinational digital firms.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is holding a public hearing today regarding its ongoing Section 301 Investigation of France's Digital Services Tax (DST) (see Trump and Trade Update of July 11, 2019). "French government officials have emphasized repeatedly that the" tax is meant to target foreign technology companies. Any future pact would likely create a whole new set of rules governing which countries have the right to tax the companies, which corporate profits are taxable, and how to resolve the inevitable disputes that would arise.
"This tax is imposed on providers of a service even if they have no physical presence in France at all", said Gary Sprague, an attorney representing Airbnb, Microsoft, Salesforce, Twitter and others.
Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. all testified in Washington on Monday in support of the Trump administration's efforts to potentially punish France for enacting a 3% tax on global tech companies with at least 750 million euros ($832 million) in global revenue and digital sales of 25 million euros in France. It is predicted to raise an estimated €500 million per year.
The so-called GAFA companies appeared at a USTR hearing on possible countermeasures and were unanimous in their complaints, calling the tax a "troubling precedent". This would amount to "justice", he said.
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Peter Hiltz, Amazon'sdirector of global tax policy and planning, said that the new tax is "harmful" and "discriminatory" in that it will apply to a "small number of nearly entirely non-French companies" as it only captures firms with revenues of €750 million ($831 million) or more.
Global tech companies are often accused of finding ways to avoid tax and critics say that they do so by paying most of their taxes in low-tax countries where they have their headquarters.
In July, Trump ordered an investigation into the proposed tax, which could result in retaliatory tariffs against France, including taxing the country's wine.
If another country - such as Spain - were to enact a tax similar to France, that tax could compound, he said.
For instance, in order to level the losses from the new tax, Amazon recently announced that it would be raising seller fees by three percent for small and medium-sized French businesses that operate via the company's online stores starting in October.
While France has become the first country to impose a digital tax, the U.S. tech giants all voiced concerns in their testimonies that the move will make way for other countries to impose similar measures.
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