Tax fraud: the Senate wants to extend access to online taxpayer data

Posted Oct 26, 2022 3:51 PMUpdated Oct 26, 2022, 4:02 PM

“An extensive legislative arsenal, modernization of techniques”. The Senate fact-finding mission led by Claude Raynal (PS) and Jean-Paul Husson (LR) on the fight against tax evasion makes a fairly positive judgment on the actions carried out since the anti-fraud law 2018 . Its report, published on Wednesday, however, proposes several concrete improvements.

First recommendation: address the lack of evaluation. “A question remains unanswered: does the tax administration manage to recover 10%, 20% or 50% of the amounts defrauded? “Ask the senators. Like the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia, France must be able to provide, according to them, “methodologically more reliable orders of magnitude to feed the public debate”.

Access to online data

The senatorial mission is looking into the issue of access to online data to identify fraudsters. The tax authorities have launched an experiment until February 2024, which allows agents to collect and use published information by users of Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb or Le Bon coin, etc. Problem: only “freely accessible” content, which does not require a connection, is concerned, and not “publicly accessible” data, that which anyone can access once connected.

“This distinction, introduced by the Constitutional Council, has considerably restricted the scope of the device”, point out the senators. They therefore propose to extend the experiment to publicly accessible data, and to extend it by two years, while adding “guarantees for taxpayers (authorization of agents, conditions relating to the creation of the account, etc.)”.

The balance resulting from reform of the “Bercy lock” which put an end to the monopoly of criminal prosecutions available to the tax authorities, must be preserved, judge the senators, who recommend all the same to streamline relations between the administration and the prosecution as well as to reorganize the services at Bercy.

The Tax Offenses Commission, whose opinion was required for criminal cases, could thus go from 28 to 16 members. Conversely, the judicial investigation department of Finance deserves to see its number of judicial tax officers double to 80 within five years.

On abusive tax arrangements, the senatorial mission suggests creating a “name and shame” mechanism (public denunciation) towards countries that do not play the game of cooperation in the exchange of information in addition to the existing European lists.

Register of beneficial owners

It also calls for better enforcement of sanctions in the event of failure to inform the register of beneficial owners which make it possible to identify the natural persons who directly or indirectly control a company.

A budget amendment last year already called for it: the senators are urging the government to revise the agreements signed with the countries (in particular those of the Gulf even if they are not named) which provide for a zero rate of withholding tax on dividends. This breach is being exploited by fraudsters, as revealed by the “CumEx Files” scandal .

The Senate does not forget the VAT, where the shortfall for public finances is in the billions. It offers tools to improve data collection at national and European level, in the wake of the reform of July 1, 2021 (one-stop import declaration window, accountability of marketplaces open to sellers outside the EU).

On the other hand, the mission does not mention the downsizing tax – about 20,000 jobs lost in ten years – and its impact on control and collection. The trade unions have however multiplied the alerts, pointing to the meager results of artificial intelligence “used in 44% of tax audits to report 8.9% of tax receipts”, according to Solidaires Finances publiques.

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Tax fraud: the Senate wants to extend access to online taxpayer data

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