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French Lawmakers Back Anti-Tax Evasion Bill

Friday, June 28, 2013

During a first reading, the French National Assembly adopted the Government's anti-tax evasion and major economic and financial crime bill, together with the law creating a special financial prosecutor. The bills were adopted by 366 votes to 174 with nine abstentions, and by 332 votes to 177 with 34 abstentions respectively.

The anti-tax evasion bill aims to strengthen the efficiency of the Government's fight against corruption and tax evasion, as part of efforts to redress the public finances and to preserve national sovereignty. It establishes a "tax police" to combat tax evasion and to clamp down on tax offences, to be set up within the new central office for combating corruption and tax evasion.

The text creates an "aggravating circumstance" for the most serious types of fraud, notably tax evasion committed by an organized group, as well as undeclared bank accounts or entities held abroad, such as fiduciaries and trusts. Sanctions include a seven-year prison sentence and EUR2m (USD2.6m) fine. To deal with such cases, investigators will have recourse to "special" investigative techniques, including surveillance, infiltration, and a four-day detention period.

Furthermore, penalties applicable to legal persons for tax fraud will be aligned with those applicable to individuals. As a result, there will be the option in future of confiscating a legal person's entire assets. The Tax Administration's control powers will be strengthened, and the administration will be able to make use of illicit information obtained via judicial or administrative assistance channels.

Finally, the regime for confiscating criminal assets will be reinforced to guarantee the efficient recovery of illegally held sums, which could include life insurance contracts, for example.

Adopted amendments to the bill include plans to fix the maximum fine for a legal entity at a percentage of average annual turnover for the last three years. The fine will be capped at 10 percent for "correctional" matters and at 20 percent for "criminal" matters.

Other agreed amendments include plans to strengthen cooperation between the Tax Administration and the judicial authorities, to delay the start of the limitation period, for infractions involving concealment, to the date when the infraction was actually observed, to increase from three to six years the period in which the Tax Administration may file a complaint for tax evasion, and to extend the jurisdiction of France's special financial prosecutor to include complex cases of value-added tax fraud.

Under the second bill, France's special national financial prosecutor will be responsible for pursuing all complex cases of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, and tax evasion.