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Rogue Gallic tax payers flock back to France

The Local/AFP · 20 Feb 2014, 10:57

Published: 20 Feb 2014 10:57 GMT+01:00

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France said on Wednesday that nearly 16,000 people had declared funds hidden abroad after Switzerland ended its vaunted banking secrecy.

Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the government was on track to collect €230 million ($316 million) from only 2,621 of the cases.

He told the finance committee of the lower house National Assembly that 80 percent of the newly declared accounts were from Switzerland, which has curtailed its banking secrecy traditions under international pressure.

Another seven percent of the accounts were from Luxembourg, Cazeneuve said.

“Every week on average 150 extra tax payers are making the choice to legalize their status and repatriate their assets,” said the budget minister.

And why are so many fraudulent French tax payers suddenly owning up at once?

In June France announced lower penalties for those who came forward and reported hidden accounts.

But the fraudsters must make the first move. If they do then the French state will take what is theirs in terms of taxes owed but the legal punishments they would have faced for fraud will be reduced by half.

Currently only 241 of the cases have been dealt with and closed which has brought €230 million.

“Businessmen, politicians, shopkeepers, magistrates, artisans are all among those who have come forward,” a lawyer who deals with regularizing people’s fiscal situations told Le Parisien this week.

One of those people who has come forward is Isabelle, who runs a business in Paris. She inherited a secret Swiss bank set up by her father that contained around €200,000.

“When François Mitterand was elected president in 1981 he decided to put some money in Switzerland in case France became a communist country,” she told Le Parisien newspaper.

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“When the lawyer told me I was financially and legally responsible for the account I was totally gobsmacked,” she said.

The businesswoman looks set to pay around €50,000 in taxes and fines from the account.

Recently Le Monde newspaper revealed that there are also numerous famous French people who have kept secret accounts in Switzerland, whose names were passed on to authorities by HSBC banker Hervé Falciani.

French officials have said the state could collect as much as one billion euros in the operations.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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