No government help for firms based in tax havens, warns France’s finance minister

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday that firms headquartered in tax havens, or which have subsidiaries taking advantage of low-tax regimes, would be barred from receiving any government aid to help weather the coronavirus crisis.

No government help for firms based in tax havens, warns France's finance minister
Photo: AFP

“It goes without saying that if a company has its fiscal headquarters or any subsidiaries in a tax haven, and I insist strongly on this point, it will not be able to benefit from the state aid,” Le Maire told France Info radio.

France has promised a torrent of cash and financial relief to thousands of companies facing collapse during the nationwide shutdown of all but essential activities in a bid to stem the COVID-19 outbreak.

READ ALSO Self employed or small business owners: This is the government help on offer

But labour unions have warned that some executives could try to pocket the funds instead of using them to ensure employees keep their jobs.

Le Maire has already said that companies who buy back their own shares or pay dividends during the crisis will not have access to any government help.

“There are rules that must be respected. If you want state aid, you cannot pay dividends and you cannot buy your own stock,” he said Thursday.

“And if your headquarters is in a tax haven, obviously you cannot benefit from any public support,” he said.

Governments across Europe have complained for years that they lose out on billions of euros in corporate taxes from companies exploiting rules that let them set up headquarters in low-tax regimes worldwide.

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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.