October 18, 2018 / 9:24 AM / a month ago

'Enough excuses!' France's Le Maire grows impatient over GAFA tax

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - Europe has talked long enough about whether to make internet giants like Google (GOOGL.O), Apple (AAPL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) pay more taxes and it is time for a decision, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.

Le Maire said the blockage was purely political and that all technical questions surrounding how to impose a levy on revenues earned on online services in the European Union had been dealt with.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has led a push for firms with significant digital revenues in the European Union to pay more tax at source. Germany has long been cool to the idea, while smaller member-states with low corporate tax rates such as Luxembourg and Ireland firmly oppose the proposal.

“Enough of talking. Enough words. Enough excuses!” Le Maire said in an interview with Public Senat TV. “What’s getting in the way, as always in Europe, is a lack of political will. All the technical issues have been resolved.”

Le Maire has said a small or medium-sized company in an EU country such as France, Germany or Italy on average pays 14 percentage points more in tax than Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

The European Commission has proposed that firms with large digital revenues in Europe pay a 3 percent tax on their turnover on their online services in the EU. That would bring in an estimated 5 billion euros ($5.78 billion).

Voters would punish mainstream parties in next year’s European elections if the bloc appeared incapable of standing up to corporate giants and protecting citizens, the finance minister said.

“It is time for Europe to decide whether it wants to become a submissive continent...or a sovereign continent,” he said.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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