Davos WEF
Davos WEF

France welcomes U.S. pivot on Big Tech taxes, sees potential for a deal this spring

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Key Points
  • Last week, Biden's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, voiced her support over calls for tech companies to pay a larger share of their revenues in the countries where they operate.
  • Former President Donald Trump had strongly opposed the proposed tax arrangements, saying they discriminated against American firms.
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Global digital tax deal possible by spring, France's Le Maire says

LONDON — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Monday welcomed the support of President Joe Biden's administration over a proposed global tax on tech giants, saying a multilateral agreement could come into force as soon as this spring.

It comes shortly after Biden's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, voiced her support over calls for tech companies to pay a larger share of their revenues in the countries where they operate.

Former President Donald Trump had strongly opposed the proposed tax arrangements, saying they discriminated against American firms.

Speaking via videoconference at the Davos Agenda summit, Le Maire said: "I think it is very good news that the new Secretary for the Treasury Janet Yellen just explained that she was open about the idea of thinking about a new international taxation with the two pillars: First of all, digital taxation and, of course, also a minimum taxation on corporate tax."

"I think we are on the right track. There is a possibility of finding an agreement on this new international taxation system by the end of this spring 2021. And I can tell you that we will do our utmost efforts to pave the way for an agreement," Le Maire told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore.

Yellen had backed calls for a new global levy on tech giants during a Senate confirmation hearing last week.

"It would enable us to collect a fair share from corporations while maintaining the competitiveness of our businesses and diminish the incentives that American companies now have to offshore activities," Yellen said, wire service Agence France-Presse reported on Jan. 20.

French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during a press conference in Paris on January 14, 2021.
THOMAS COEX | AFP | Getty Images

International taxation

Le Maire added: "The winners of the economic crisis are the digital giants. How can you explain to some sectors that have been severely hit by the crisis and that are paying (their) due level of taxes that the digital giants will not have to pay the same amount of taxes?"

"This is unfair" and inefficient, he said.

When asked whether it was prudent for France to seek to impose corporate taxes amid the coronavirus pandemic, Le Maire replied: We must "do our best efforts to keep the same level of investments otherwise we clearly run the risk with the open countries to go out of the technological race of the 21st century. And we have to think about the kind of economy we want to build."

"We want to build a sustainable economy. We want to reduce the inequalities among nations. And we want to reduce also the inequalities in the international taxation system."

The World Economic Forum is being held online this year due to the coronavirus crisis. A physical congregation of business chiefs, political thinkers and global heads of state is scheduled to take place in Singapore in May.