* Govt expecting big gains from taxpayers' foreign assets
* France struggling to rein in deficit to EU-agreed limit
PARIS May 22 The French government plans to
ease penalties on firms that come clean on taxable undeclared
funds, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday as a similar
measure targeting individuals reaps windfall gains.
President Francois Hollande's government is clamping down on
tax evasion as it seeks to bring its public deficit in line with
an EU-agreed limit of 3 percent of national income by next year,
a target economists consider extremely difficult to meet.
The new measure for companies would ease interest payments
on taxes declared late, according to a Finance Ministry document
laying out its strategy against tax fraud.
"The penalties would not be the subject of discussions or
negotiations," Budget Minister Christian Eckert told
journalists. "They will be subject to very clear rules as is the
case with individuals' assets."
The government has recovered 764 million euros ($1.04
billion) since it offered last year to cut fines and penalties
on individual taxpayers with undeclared assets abroad who come
clean. More is expected as other taxpayers come forward.
"We can reasonably count on an additional 1 billion euros
which can be used in 2014 ... to finance new measures," Finance
Minister Michel Sapin said.
The Finance Ministry now expects 1.8 billion euros in gains
from taxpayers previously undeclared assets this year, up from
800 million euros flagged in the 2014 budget.
The extra cash will be used to finance one billion euros in
tax exemptions to low-income households announced in the run-up
to Sunday's European parliament elections.
Taxpayers with cash stashed in Switzerland have made up 80
percent of the cases that have been regularised. Luxembourg
followed with seven percent.
Switzerland's bank secrecy is gradually eroding away as
foreign governments increasingly put pressure on the country to
share information about their taxpayers who hold funds there.
Last year, the government recovered 10 billion euros from
cracking down on all forms of tax fraud, 1 billion euros more
than the previous year.
($1 = 0.7318 Euros)
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Jean-Baptiste Vey; editing by