Treasurer tax claims give Hollande new headache

President Francois Hollande's one-time campaign treasurer holds shares in two companies registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven, a report said Thursday, in another potential political headache for France's embattled Socialist government.

The report in Le Monde newspaper emerged with Hollande on the defensive after his former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, was charged in a tax fraud probe after he admitted to having a secret foreign bank account and repeatedly lying about it.

Based on an investigation using leaked records, Le Monde reported that Jean-Jacques Augier, a 59-year-old businessman and the treasurer for Hollande's presidential campaign last year, had shares in two companies registered in the Caymans, a well-known tax haven.

Asked by the newspaper, Augier confirmed the existence of the firms and said they had been set up to form partnerships with foreign entrepreneurs.

"There is nothing illegal," Augier told Le Monde, which carried out the probe with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other international media.

The first firm, International Bookstores, was set up in 2005 so Augier could form a partnership with a Chinese businessman, Xi Shu, to break into the country's retail bookselling market, Le Monde said.

Augier said his partner had insisted on registering the company in the Caymans.

A second firm was created in the Caymans three years later, this time with a group of international tour operators, Le Monde reported. The firm has since been moved to Hong Kong, it said.

Augier denied any wrongdoing, saying: "My adventurous nature is responsible. Maybe I lacked a bit of caution."

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Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.