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France nears implementation of digital tax

France will push ahead with its own tax on large internet and technology companies by introducing a bill that would be retroactive to January 1st, its finance minister said Sunday.

France nears implementation of digital tax
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. Photo: AFP

The move comes as the European Union tries to finalise an EU-wide levy.

“We are working on a tax that would affect internet service companies with global sales of more than 750 million euros ($850 million) and 25 million euros in France,” Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

“If these two criteria are not met, they (the taxes) will not be imposed,” he noted.

A draft bill would be presented to the government by the end of February “and rapidly put before parliament for a vote,” Le Maire said.

“The tax would apply as of January 1, 2019 and its rate would vary according to the level of sales, with a maximum of five percent,” a level that would represent “around 500 million euros” annually for France, he added.

Paris has been driving hard for a so-called “GAFA tax” — named after Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — to ensure the global internet giants pay a fair share of taxes on their huge business operations in Europe.

Le Maire called the question “a major issue in the 21st century.”

He said that a Europe-wide agreement was also possible by late March, in light of a compromise reached in December with Germany, which has been less enthusiastic about such a levy.

A spokesman for Facebook France told AFP: “We will continue to respect our fiscal obligations as defined by French and European legislation.”

Google France declined to comment on Le Maire's remarks.

READ ALSO: France to introduce tax on big US tech firms in January

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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.

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