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Russian anger as France arrests oligarch for ‘tax evasion’

Moscow on Wednesday protested at the arrest of billionaire senator Suleyman Kerimov in France, where he faced a second day of questioning over alleged tax evasion involving the purchase of luxury properties.

Russian anger as France arrests oligarch for 'tax evasion'
Villa Hier in the cap d'Antibe owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. Photo: AFP
The Russian government summoned France's deputy ambassador after Kerimov was detained upon arrival at the airport in the French Riviera resort of Nice on Monday night.
   
A source close to the probe told AFP that Kerimov was accused of hiding tens of millions of euros from tax authorities while buying a string of properties on the glitzy Riviera through intermediaries.
   
His detention prompted angry Russian MPs to pass a resolution branding the arrest a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, urging Moscow to press for his release.
   
“The senator status and the fact that he is a Russian citizen is a guarantee that we will, of course, put in all possible efforts to defend his lawful interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
   
He stressed that 51-year-old Kerimov holds a diplomatic passport, though he is not believed to have used it when he flew in to Nice on personal business Monday.
 
France's foreign ministry said Kerimov enjoys immunity from prosecution “only for actions carried out in the exercise of his functions”.
 
Suleyman Kerimov. Photo: AFP   
 
It will be “up to the judge hearing the case to decide” whether or not the allegations relate to his official role and are covered by immunity, a ministry spokesman said.
   
Listed by Forbes magazine as Russia's 21st richest person with an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion (5.4 billion euros), Kerimov made his fortune during the privatisations that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union.
   
A regular visitor to France's Cote d'Azur, he has owned stakes at various times in Russian energy, banking and mining giants such as Gazprom, Sberbank and potash producer Uralkali.
   
Crashed Ferrari
 
One of his lawyers confirmed to AFP that Kerimov was still in custody, but refused to comment on the investigation.
   
He can be held for up to 48 hours in France before either being brought before an investigating magistrate to face charges or released.
   
A tax lawyer and two Swiss businessmen have already been charged over the case.
 
Journalists in front of the police station where Kerimov is being questioned by investigators. Photo: AFP  
 
In September, local newspaper Nice-Matin reported that a villa on the Cap d'Antibes peninsula near Nice, valued at 150 million euros and thought to be owned by Kerimov, had been seized as part of an investigation.
   
Swiss financier Alexandre Studhalter — one of the three men charged — appealed the decision, denying he was a frontman for Kerimov, who is originally from Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan.
   
The billionaire previously controlled the region's Anzhi Makhachkala football club, which at one point topped the Russian league when he poured millions into buying players like Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto'o.
   
But after losing a significant part of his fortune, he sold most of his shares in the club.
   
His family now controls Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus.
   
Kerimov was once a member of the ultra-nationalist party Liberal Democratic Party, which he left in 2007 to join the ruling United Russia party.
   
Since 2008, he has represented Dagestan as a senator in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament.
   
In 2006, he crashed his Ferrari while speeding along Nice's seafront, sustaining severe burns.
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TAX

The vocab you need to understand French taxes

Declaring and paying taxes in France can be a complicated affair, especially for first-timers, and the intricate French vocabulary does not exactly simplify the process. This language guide might help.

The vocab you need to understand French taxes
Illustration photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

If you are encountering the French tax system for the first time, just looking at the various forms can make you dizzy, as the vocab isn’t exactly everyday-French.

Even French natives sometimes struggle to understand what they are being asked about, which is why the government has created a tax lexicon (available HERE).

It is 23 pages long, but we have picked out the key terms and added a few that might be unfamiliar to foreigners.

If, however, you are looking for a specific term that doesn’t appear in the list below, we recommend you check the official guide. 

We have also explained in detail how to fill out the annual tax declaration HERE.

Nom – as with all French forms, nom refers specifically to your surname or family name. Your prénom (first name) comes later. Tax forms generally ask for your nom de naissance which is the family name you were born with (even if you have changed your name through marriage) and will then ask for nom auquel vos courriers seront adressés or name for correspondence to be addressed to.

EXPLAINED: What’s in a name? Understanding how to fill out forms in France

Avis d’imposition – tax notice. This is for your annual tax return. If your main residence is in France you must fill in a tax return – even if all your income comes from another country. France has double taxation agreements with most countries, so if you have already paid tax on, say, income from a rental property in the UK you will not be liable for more tax in France on the same income. But you must still tell the French tax man about it.

EXPLAINED: Who has to make a tax declaration in France in 2021?

Déclarant – refers to the person declaring the taxes. The verb is déclarer and un déclarant is la personne qui déclare – the person who declares. The form has spaces for two déclarants because married couples and those in a civil partnership file a joint return. If you are declaring as a single person just ignore the column for déclarant 2.

Foyer fiscal – tax household. France bases taxes on the household and you will be asked about it in detail when filling out your declaration. Couples who are married or in a civil union (Pacs) should make one joint declaration rather than two. If you got married halfway through the year you can now declare one common declaration for the whole year.

Etat civil – civil status. Choose between célibataire (single), marié (married) or Pacsé (in a civil partnership). 

Parent isolé – single parent. This only goes for those who were not living with a partner on December 31st the year before declaring the taxes. If you got divorced, separated or lost your partner after that date, you have to wait until next year to declare it. In addition to parents, this category also includes singles who are taking care of a disabled person.

Enfant mineur – child under 18 years old.

Enfant majeur – a child over 18 years old. Parents in France may attach their adult child to their tax declaration until the age of 25, under certain conditions.

READ ALSO: What the French government doesn’t tell you about filing taxes

Personne à charge – means ‘person to take care of’, and means that you have a person in your household that you are financially responsible for, usually referred to in English as a dependant. 

Concubinage – a couple who live together but aren’t married or in a civil partnership. If that’s you, you’re not allowed to tick the box of parent isolé if you have children.

Numéro de sécurité sociale – social security number. If you’re registered with French social security this number (15 figures) appears on your Carte Vitale health card and if you’re an employee it should appear on your payslips. If you don’t have a social security number in France, tick the box “pas de numéro de sécurité sociale“.

Prélèvement à la source – This sounds confusing, because it’s sometimes translated as “withholding tax”. However it just means the tax that is automatically deducted from your salary each month if you are an employee. Usually referred to in English as ‘taxation at source’ or PAYE (pay as you earn), it’s a relatively recent innovation in France.

READ ALSO: The French tax calendar for 2021 – which taxes are due when?

Revenus des indépendants – income for the self-employed. Whereas employees get their taxes deducted automatically from their payslip, self-employed people, contractors or freelancers have to declare all their income and social benefits, if any, on their tax declarations. 

Micro-entrepreneur – this is a specific professional status that self-employed people may opt for if their income is below a certain threshold. It used to be known an auto-entrepreneur.

Comptes à l’étranger – foreign bank accounts. If you have a bank account in a country other than France, you have to declare that to the tax man, or risk a €1,500 fine (€10,000 for those with an account in a country that doesn’t have a tax evasion deal with France) per account. New international banking rules aimed at money-launderers mean it is increasingly easy for countries to find out this information.

Contribution à l’audiovisuel public – this means ‘contribution to the public audiovisual’. It is the French equivalent of a TV licence and is paid by almost everyone. You pay it if you have a TV in your property, even if you don’t watch French TV.

Abattement – rebates. France has a long list of specific tax rebates, some of which are directed professional groups while others go to parents for costs like childcare and domestic help. Find out more about the deductions available here.

Paiement en ligne – online payment.

Coordonnées bancaires – bank information (such as the account holder’s name, account number, BIC and IBAN) you are given the option to add this to your tax declaration so that payments can be taken – or refunds credited – directly.

Taxe d’habitation – the housing tax paid by those living in a property, not the owner, is in the process of being phased out and most people won’t have to pay it this year. However second home owners are excluded from the phasing out and still have to pay it, bar a few exceptions. This is separate to the annual tax declaration and bills are sent out in the autumn.

Taxe foncière – this is the tax for property owners, second home owners pay both this and the taxe d’habitation. The tax on property owners has risen in many areas over the past couple of years.

READ ALSO What is taxe foncière and do I have to pay it?

Revenus fonciers – this means ‘property income’, but it only refers to income coming from properties that are rented out unfurnished. If you rent out a furnished property that also has to be declared, but under the box called bénéfices industriels et commerciaux (BIC).

READ ALSO: Five things to know about renting out your holiday home in France

Micro foncier – the box to tick if the revenus fonciers are up to €15,000 annually, which allows for a 30 percent tax rebate on the gross income.

Régime réel – the box to tick if the revenus fonciers exceed €15,000 annually, in which case there won’t be any tax rebate available.

Pensions – pensions. You have to declare any pensions you receive, whichever type it may be, even if they are paid by another country. There are several other similar terms that belong to the same category as pensions.

Allocations – economic help schemes.

Indemnités – allowances.

Retraites – pensions.

Rentes – annuities. 

Prime – bonus.

Revenu brut – gross revenue.

Revenut net – net revenue.

Demande gracieuse – means ‘gracious request’ and is what you may do if, upon receiving your tax notice, you realise you could have paid less tax if you had ticked a different box somewhere or given additional information. The term ‘gracious’ is there to signify that the tax man can choose to accommodate your request if he so pleases, but there’s no rule saying he has to. As a general policy we would recommend always being very polite to tax authorities.

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