McDonald's France confirms tax checks, denies wrongdoing

PARIS Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:48am EST

A Metro underground entrance is seen in front of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in Paris, January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

A Metro underground entrance is seen in front of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in Paris, January 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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PARIS (Reuters) - McDonald's France (MCD.N) has confirmed tax inspectors visited its local headquarters but denied wrongdoing after French media reported it had transferred over 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion) abroad since 2009 to dodge taxes.

The French arm of the U.S. hamburger chain said in a statement it cooperated with inspectors who visited its headquarters near Paris last October as part of what it said was a regular check.

"McDonald's firmly denies the accusation made by l'Express according to which McDonald's supposedly hid part of its revenue from taxes in France," it said in a statement issued late Tuesday, referring to the media group that owns the l'Expansion business website on which the report appeared.

L'Expansion reported that tax inspectors visited the site on October 15 as part of a probe into the suspected transfer since 2009 of around 330 to 650 million euros of revenue per year to Switzerland and Luxembourg.

McDonald's France said the group and its 314 local franchises paid corporate taxes in full to the French state, amounting to 1 billion euros since 2009.

France, which has a corporate tax rate of 33 percent compared with an EU average of nearly 23 percent, is clamping down on international companies that shift profits to other countries with lower taxes.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist government has also pressed more than 11,000 individuals with bank accounts abroad to declare their assets in France.

Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declined to comment on any action by tax authorities targeting McDonald's.

"What I can tell is that we have at our disposal a full arsenal to fight against fraud and tax optimisation," he told France Info radio.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Lionel Laurent and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Mark John and Mark Potter)

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