Patrick Coudert, who together with his wife runs the Maxim restaurant in the coastal town of Gruissan in the Aude department, has been ordered to pay €13,000 to Urssaf, the national network collecting employee and employer social security contributions.
The restauranteur has been told that eating in his own restaurant is considered a type of benefit – and is therefore subject to tax.
French law obliges all restaurateurs to provide food to their employees at their place of work. In this context, Urssaf has presumed that the Couderts have lunch and dinner at their own restaurant.
“The inspectors look at the price of the least expensive meal on the menu and multiply it by the number of days worked during the time in question, without forgetting surcharges” Patrick Cabrol, Coudert's accountant, told regional daily l’Indépendant.
“I don’t even have lunch, there’s no time,” Patrick Coudert clarified.
Authorities initially demanded €24,000 for meals eaten in 2016 and 2017.
“At first, the inspector wrote me down as having the €23 menu; I got him to drop it to €17 and finally €14,” Coudert explained.
“I managed to make him understand that I did not have dessert and that there were days I wasn’t even at the restaurant.
“This situation is affecting my business and if it had happened to me last year, I would have had to close down the restaurant.”
It’s in fact the second time in recent days that Urssaf’s controversial demands make the news, with famous French chef Arnaud Bloquel also being ordered to pay €14,000 for eating at his two restaurants on the island of Guadeloupe.
Fortunately for worried French restaurant owners, France’s Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gérald Darmanin has spoken out against this policy.
Oui, situation absurde issue d’une règle obsolète !
Je vais proposer au plus vite avec @agnesbuzyn de changer cela et demander aux URSSAF de reconsidérer le cas de ce chef cuisinier… https://t.co/tse116QhgY
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) October 21, 2019
“Yes, an absurd situation stemming from an obsolete rule! As soon as possible I will propose together with the Health Minister Agnès Buzyn that we change it and ask Urssaf to reconsider the case of this chef,” he wrote on Twitter on October 21st.
In 2018 France’s Parliament passed a bill establishing a “right to make mistakes”, intended to allow citizens and businesses to avoid administrative sanctions at the first breach.
Darmanin has since signed a decree for the review of these two cases involving chefs accused of not declaring the food they’ve bought, prepared and eaten at their own restaurants.