France urges global fight against tax dodging

France urges global fight against tax dodging
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, who has called for a global fight against tax avoidance. Photo: AFP
France's finance minister has urged countries to work together to fight tax avoidance, after leaked documents showed leading French banks were among 340 companies helped by Luxembourg to dodge hefty tax bills.

The world must work together to fight tax avoidance, France's finance minister said on Thursday after leaked documents showed that Luxembourg helped global companies – including Apple, Pepsi and Vodafone as well as France's biggest banks – dodge billions of dollars.

"The fight against tax avoidance must be global," Michel Sapin told reporters when asked about the revelations, which have piled pressure on Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's former premier who is now head of the European Commission.

French banks Axa, Aviva, BNP and Credit Agricole were among the names of companies revealed to have enjoyed the benefits of secret tax deals in Luxembourg, according to the documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ).

The smallest European state has allegedly helped the multinationals avoid paying taxes in countries where they collect significant revenues by moving their profits to Luxembourg, all in keeping with the country's laws.

Other French banks named in the dossier include CNP Assurances, Caisse d'Epargne, Banque Populaire and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Banks from other countries named include US firm JP Morgan, the Swiss UBS, the UK's HSBC and Barclays and the Italian Unicredit, while consumer giants including LVMH, Procter & Gamble, Heinz and Dyson have also been named.

The common thread between them is that all the companies named have been advised by auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), according to Le Monde newspaper.

The ICIJ said that Luxembourg was still a “magical fairyland” for corporations seeking to "drastically reduce tax bills". But officials in Luxembourg have denied that the companies received any favourable treatment.

Nicolas Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance, which is operated jointly by the government and Profil Luxembourg, an organization for the financial industry, told Reuters: "Luxembourg's tax system is competitive. There is nothing unfair or unethical in it.”

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