France eyes higher recovery rate from tax dodgers in 2013

PARIS, June 19 Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:37am EDT

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PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) - France's cash-strapped government hopes to net up to 2.5 billion euros ($3.35 billion) this year as it hunts down tax dodgers who stash cash in secret bank accounts, Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday.

His comments came a day after world leaders pledged at a G8 summit to fight tax fraud more aggressively.

Tackling tax evasion is an issue President Francois Hollande is pushing hard to help trim public debt without further stifling France's recession-stricken economy and also because of a tax scandal involving a former government minister.

"(It is) inadmissible that the French state be denied such a sum of money in a time of crisis, money that could fund public services at a time when French people are being asked to make sacrifices," Cazeneuve told RMC radio.

The government has sought to recoup in the region of 2 billion euros from tax evaders in 2011 and 2012 and this year hopes to net a bigger sum of up to 2.5 billion euros, he said, without indicating how successful the past efforts have been.

As many as 5,000 tax dodgers have contacted the French tax authorities in the last few months to legalise their situation, according to local media, as a law to beef up financial fraud investigation services nears parliamentary approval.

It is not yet clear whether the government will be willing to grant any amnesties but Cazeneuve's comments on the higher recovery target suggested it is keen to see many pay up money they avoided in years past.

Cazeneuve took over earlier this year from Jerome Cahuzac, who was forced to step down as budget minister after revelations that he himself had held a secret Swiss bank account.

The European Commission has allowed France two more years to cut its public deficit below a ceiling of 3 percent of economic output after Paris said it would miss the goal this year. ($1 = 0.7467 euros) (Reporting by Brian Love and Marine Pennetier, editing by Gareth Jones)

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