New study by Revue Projet in conjunction with the “Tax and Legal Havens platform” (PPFJ) into the tax haven presence of French companies in the CAC-40 index
Why would the companies in the CAC-40 index have 1548 offshore subsidiaries, listed by Revue Projet (1)? Tax evasion or promotion of “Made in France” abroad? In order to tackle this question, it has become urgent to extend to all industries the country by country accounting transparency requirement adopted for banks in 2013, without waiting for other members of the European Union to do so.
The study shows that the CAC-40 companies do not set an example when it comes to transparency. Twenty-three of the companies listed on the CAC-40 index do not disclose an exhaustive list of the entities that are consolidated in their accounts (including companies in which the French state holds a stake). And three of them do not even give the information required for their localisation.
The available data on the French stock exchange index as a whole attests that the presence in tax havens (2) has not decreased since the first study was released by Alternatives Économiques in 2009. With 214 offshore subsidiaries, BNP Paribas ranks first, followed by LVMH (202), PPR (99), Crédit Agricole (86) and Schneider Electric (75). Even according to the more restrictive Global Forum list, French companies’ presence remains very strong.
Of course, listing the companies’ number of tax haven subsidiaries is not enough to measure the extent of multinational companies’ tax compliance. But in order to remove doubts, the onus is on them to show that they are not artificially shifting their profits to low-tax havens, by disclosing the global and country by country distribution of their payroll, turnover, profits, and taxes paid.
In 2013, a mandatory country by country reporting requirement for banks was adopted in France. However, France will only apply this requirement to large companies in other industries if similar legislation is passed at EU level. And despite efforts made by Commissioner Barnier and MEPs, Germany and the United Kingdom have stood in the way of this proposal.
To break this deadlock, France must impose this country by country transparency requirement at least on all companies of which it is a shareholder (APE, the state agency managing France’s state holdings must receive a clear mandate for that) and which are granted public contracts, funding or guarantees. Public administrations and local communities can introduce country by country transparency as an enforcement provision for all public contracts in order to make sure that no public funds are financing fiscally irresponsible companies. Similarly, the French Development Agency (AFD) must immediately stop granting public financing or guarantees to companies refusing to comply with this transparency requirement. This principle was adopted in the draft bill which was examined by the National Assembly on Monday 10 February. It is now up to the Senate to make it a binding provision.
Besides, France must defend the principle of country by country data disclosure, especially in view of the current OECD consultation on this issue. This disclosure is a fundamental measure not only to ensure that civilians and fiscal authorities in Southern countries have access to the information, but also to act as a disincentive reducing the risk of abusive tax avoidance.
If French multinational companies are more virtuous than their competitors in the United States for instance, as some MPs of the fact-finding mission on large companies’ tax optimisation have claimed, they should not be opposed to France promoting this new tax transparency standard.
Jean Merckaert | Sherpa | +33 (0)6 81 84 30 64
Mathilde Dupré | CCFD-Terre Solidaire | +33 (0)7 61 70 91 21
Grégoire Niaudet | Secours Catholique | +33 (0)6 66 97 60 39
Anne-Sophie Simpere | Oxfam France | +33 (0)6 84 24 88 95
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Note to editors :
(1) Study released by Revue Projet: http://www.revue-projet.com/articles/2014-02-cac40-paradis-fiscaux/
(2) Civil society’s list of tax havens: the benchmark list is the 2009 Financial Secrecy Index list, which takes an inventory of 60 territories identified at least twice in either official or academic works over the past few years.Last modified: 17 December 2019