France and Germany aim to keep digital tax alive with new proposal

Content image- Phnom Penh Post

The narrowed-down approach is also viewed as an attempt to ease opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, who have pushed for a global solution instead of a European "quick fix", as the draft needs the support of all EU states. France and Germany said that the watered-down proposal doesn't prevent countries wishing to impose the levy on a broader revenue base to do so.

The proposal made by France and Germany at a meeting of EU finance ministers on Tuesday envisages a 3 percent tax on European advertising sales by digital companies, rather than the broad tax on the total revenues of large digital firms originally suggested.

While this met with misgivings and outright opposition from at least four other ministers at a meeting in Brussels, they agreed to keep talking, said Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency. But this is opposed to an initial plan to set a levy on all digital revenues of large multinationals.

After half a year of intense debate and bickering between member states, the European Commission proposed on Wednesday (21 March) a new system for taxing digital companies that will charge large firms 3% of their revenue and will hit U.S. tech giants like Google and Facebook.

"Like any European compromise, some will be disappointed. They'll say it's not enough and I can understand them", France's finance minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Le Maire said the proposal is a first step toward digital tax reform.

The Irish position is that any major changes to worldwide taxation should be agreed through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) level - where the United States and other big non-EU countries are also represented.

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"I continue to have strong principled concerns about this policy direction", Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told his European Union counterparts in a debate on the tax.

"The Minister continues to have strong principled concerns about this policy direction as previously outlined".

"As other countries mentioned, the right and safest way to deal with this is through the OECD to find consensus on global matters".

But Ireland is just one of a number of countries to have raised concerns about the Franco-German plan.

"We expect the OECD will reach an agreement by 2020 on proposals aimed at tackling the challenges raised by the digitalisation of the economy and tax avoidance".

In the original European Commission proposal, the tax was meant to be a temporary "quick fix" until a broader solution could be found among OECD members.

The new proposal, which requires unanimous backing by the European Union member states, is set to be formally put for approval by ministers in March.

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