PARIS Jan 24 France, which is studying ways of
curbing legal tax avoidance by big Internet firms, has decided
to go after all of them to seek payment of back taxes, Industry
Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Thursday.
The government had decided, Montebourg said on France 2
television, "to launch tax retrieval procedures covering all of
the Internet giants".
He did not elaborate and it was not clear whether the
comment, made in a wide-ranging interview about French industry,
referred specifically to existing tax investigations of the
Internet search engine and retail giants Google and
Amazon, or was suggesting a broader campaign.
President Francois Hollande's government is considering how
it could change the way it taxes global Internet groups,
including a new levy on the personal data of web surfers that
the likes of Google and Facebook use to make money.
French politicians, like peers elsewhere in Europe, are
raising pressure on web companies who, they say, collectively
avoid paying millions in value-added and corporate taxes by
exploiting loopholes in European Union laws and different tax
regimes across the region.
Google has been under investigation by the French tax
authorities since June 30, 2011, when its Paris offices were
searched and computers and documents were seized.
Tax authorities are examining whether its practice of
charging French advertisers via its European headquarters in
Ireland led it to underpay taxes in France.
Google has said its practices in France conform with local
law and that it is co-operating with the authorities.
Amazon said in November it had received a $252 million
demand from the French tax authorities for back taxes, interest
and penalties in relation to "the allocation of income between
(Reporting By Brian Love; Editing by Kevin Liffey)