Paris (AFP)

The authorities do not fight effectively against tax evasion and are not even able to assess the amounts withdrawn from the tax, denounces a report of the Court of Auditors, which calls for a political "impetus" to take things in hand.

"Despite substantial progress over the past decade in tools, the results of the fight against tax fraud are on a downward trend," the court said in a report released Monday.

The institution of the Rue Cambon had been commissioned after the great national debate by the Prime Minister, including to make an encryption of fraud, subject to controversy, while the movement of "yellow vests" called for more tax justice .

But in its report, which deals with taxes and social contributions, the Court first made a finding of failure. It could not produce a solid evaluation of the fraud, that the union Solidaires public finances, often quoted on the subject, estimates it to about 80 billion euros. First because it has had a short time, but mainly because France, unlike many other countries, has never really worked on the subject.

"The tax administration has never been in a position to produce this type of evaluation, for which its information systems are not adapted," notes the Court in its report.

The balance sheet is a bit better for social security fraud, which the Central Agency of Social Security Institutions (Acoss) has estimated between 7 and 8.5 billion euros in 2018. A figure however undervalued according to the Court .

There is "a certain urgency" to better evaluate fraud, she warns, recognizing, however, that the phenomenon is "complex", in constant evolution, with the development of e-commerce that facilitates VAT fraud. internationalization of trade or new forms of work.

But other major world economies are ahead of the game, with a regular assessment of fraud, she notes.

In its report, the Court therefore proposes a methodology to achieve robust encryption. It has started to apply it to VAT fraud, which would represent around 15 billion euros per year, or about 8% of this tax revenue, even if it is still necessary to refine this result.

This lack of evaluation is coupled with a decline in efficiency from the fight against fraud to mandatory deductions, against what is happening abroad, the Court points out.

The amounts notified and recovered have been declining for several years. Reported irregularities were 16.2 billion in 2018 compared with 18 billion in 2013, for a recovery from 10.1 billion euros in 2013 to 8.7 billion in 2018.

At the same time, the number of judicial convictions has been almost halved in ten years.

- "Weaknesses" -

The tax audit suffers from "weaknesses in its management and organization", with too deconcentrated action that prevents tackling complex fraud, judge the Court.

The staff of the General Directorate of Public Finance dedicated to control fell, as did the number of controls. And contrary to what the government says, this "has not been compensated by an improvement in the targeting of controls" thanks to digital tools.

In addition, coordination structures have "fallen into disuse", such as the national anti-fraud committee, which has not met for several years.

However, France has considerably strengthened its legal arsenal since 2008, with the laws of 2013 and 2018, including the relaxation of the "lock Bercy" which has improved the possibilities of prosecution.

But the Court notes "the modestness of the interdepartmental impulse" and "the real adaptation, but too slow, administrations".

The Court finally delivers eleven recommendations, which go through a simplification of the tax norm, the continuation of the fight against tax havens, better exploitation of tax intelligence or an improvement in the organization of the judicial police.

© 2019 AFP