A "historic" agreement according to Bercy: the US internet giant Google, which was targeted by a tax fraud investigation, agreed Thursday to pay nearly a billion euros to settle all of its litigation with the French tax authorities.
As part of the agreement, the multinational has agreed to pay a € 500 million fine to put an end to an investigation by the National Finance Prosecutor (NFP), and to pay € 465 million. catch-up tax to close the recovery proceedings initiated against it.
"This agreement is historic, both for our public finances and because it marks the end of an era," said the Minister of Action and Public Accounts Gérald Darmanin in a statement.
"We remain convinced that a coordinated reform of the international tax system is the best way to provide a clear framework for companies operating around the world," responded the US group.
Google, which has been in the sights of the French tax authorities for several years, has already made such agreements abroad, especially in the United Kingdom and Italy, where it has spent several hundred million euros to obtain a surrender of prosecution.
- operation "Tulip" -
The € 500 million fine, accepted by Google France and Google Ireland, has been validated as part of a Public Interest Court Agreement (CJIP), which allows a company to negotiate a fine without going to trial. or go through a "plead guilty" procedure.
Through this agreement, which puts an end to the lawsuits for "aggravated tax evasion" initiated in 2015 by the National Finance Prosecutor (PNF), Google recognizes that the alleged facts may correspond to the crime of corporate tax fraud.
In the eyes of the PNF, Google had refrained from paying more than 189 million euros in taxes to the French tax authorities between 2011 and 2016. The multinational has a period of withdrawal of ten days.
The investigation of the PNF had led to searches in the Paris premises of the US group in May 2016.
A hundred police officers and computer experts had been mobilized during this operation, dubbed "Tulip". "An unusual investigation", including the wealth of data collected and the complexity of the organization of the company, summed up one of the PNF prosecutors at the hearing.
- Gafa tax -
Gérald Darmanin had for the first time opened the way to a "transactional agreement" with Google in 2017, assuring that "many large European countries" had "done so".
"If Google is ready to enter into a sincere approach to the French government to regularize its situation (...) our door is open.It is better a good agreement than a bad trial," said the minister.
Google, along with other US multinationals like Amazon or Facebook, is regularly accused of lowering the revenue it receives in France, via complex arrangements, in order to reduce its taxes.
The US group, whose European head office is located in Ireland - one of the countries where corporate income tax (12.5%) is the lowest in the EU and the world - has always ensured side "respect French legislation".
To put an end to the tax practices of digital multinationals, the French government voted in late 2018 a tax "Gafa" (acronym for Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), effective this year.
Paris, in conflict with Washington on this subject, however, committed to abandon its tax as soon as an international agreement would be found on the taxation of digital giants.
jmo-vab-els-mhc / epe / eb
© 2019 AFP