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Une feuille de route pour une fiscalité numérique neutre et équitable

27 juin 2012 : Une feuille de route pour une fiscalité numérique neutre et équitable ( rapport d'information )

C. THE QUESTION OF DIGITAL TAXATION HAS ENTERED THE PUBLIC ARENA

1. The creation of the National Digital Council (Conseil national du numérique - CNNum)

As soon as it was created by the Council of Ministers on April 27, 2011 the CNNum defined the challenge in similar terms to the Finance Committee: «How to make groups contribute to the State's finances which, in complete compliance with French and European taxation rules have fiscally established themselves in other countries of the European Union and therefore do not pay corporation tax in France although they use the infrastructures in France, French public services, and benefit from tax and social security relief in order to recruit engineers trained in French schools and universities?»

2. Media and telecom professionals are calling for taxation fairness between national players and the groups based abroad

What is at stake very largely exceeds the challenge of financing the cultural sector. The tremendous growth of e-commerce and the evasion of taxable income pose a real threat to the State's revenue due to the sums involved. It is therefore essential that all the players in the culture sector are associated with this fiscal review because the erosion of taxable income is threatening the revenue from taxes which are used to finance the public audiovisual and copyright sectors.

Today all the professions in the sector, whether telecom operators or the National Digital Council agree on the threat from this unfair competition from the large foreign based Internet players: the famous «over the top»: Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. The operators have published several columns65(*) by the operators and the media groups (VIVENDI, Canal +).

The concerns of the telecom operators appear justified as they pay the bill for setting up the fast and very fast broadband networks in France. They are worried about the proliferation of taxes in the cinema, public audiovisual, or copyright sectors and have reached the same conclusion as the Finance Committee: a new digital taxation framework must be developed which includes the world's Internet giants so that the weight of taxation is not borne exclusively by French players.

3. A tax debate on four levels: an equation with Networks, Culture, State and European Union

The debate on taxation involves three different approaches for the three different stakeholders: the telecom operators, the world of culture and the State's budget. The CNNum reaches a similar conclusion «there are three objectives behind the taxation of digital players»:

- Finance the deployment of networks (the networks and in particular the high-speed networks are mainly financed by the Telecom operators or the public authorities - the State via the Fund for the Digital Society (le Fonds pour la société numerique), local authorities. Some players want the «Internet giants» to contribute);

- Finance the development of the cultural industries (today, cultural industries are financed by several taxes -advertising tax, television services tax, COSIP tax - which are not directly paid by Internet players. The digital industry is therefore being repeatedly asked to make a bigger contribution to support the culture sector);

- Contribute to the State's overall budget like any player which generates revenue from a business activity (the Internet players which are not domiciled in France create added value which is not taxed by the French government, contrary to players with their tax domiciles in France).

A fourth issue is also merging from the MP's discussions concerning a tribute to the European budget, as new taxes on networks or digital flows.

The debate started by the Finance Committee has enabled the players involved to be identified and the aspects for review to be structured. The challenge of deciding the concrete aspects remains.


* 65 « L'Etat doit repenser la fiscalité du numérique », by Jean-Bernard Lévy, president of Vivendi, Xavier Niel, founder and vice-president of Iliad, Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO of France Télécom and Olivier Roussat, CEO of Bouygues Telecom. (Le Monde, November 16, 2001).