Failure to push through with a proposed European Union tax on tech giants would signal a “lack of political will” to be a “sovereign continent”, France’s finance minister has said.
The administration of Emmanuel Macron has pushed for large technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to pay higher taxes, estimating that they currently pay 14 percent less than the average small or medium-sized company in France, Germany or Italy.
France and Spain are pushing for the tax to be adopted by the end of this year, while a bloc consisting of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have also signalled their support.
But countries that host the headquarters of major tech companies — such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden — have opposed the plans.
Ireland hosts the European headquarters of Facebook and Apple, while Amazon’s European operations are based in Luxembourg and Spotify was developed in Sweden.
Germany has reportedly been diffident, something French finance minister Bruno Le Maire attributed to its fear that the US could respond with taxes on German firms such as BMW.
Speaking to the Public Senat television channel, he said such a supposition was “false” and that the US administration was, on the contrary, also looking for ways to target big tech companies under antitrust laws.
The reported protests of some European governments that there are questions about the technical viability of the taxation plan are baseless, Le Maire argued.
“All the technical questions have been addressed,” he said. “What is getting in the way, as always in Europe, is the lack of political will.”
The 3 percent tax on digital services would generate about 5 billion euros (£4.4bn) a year, according to European Commission estimates.
While some have called the move a symbolic gesture that would make little real difference to tech companies, Le Maire argued Europe’s sovereignty is at stake.
“Enough discussions! Enough debates! Enough excuses!” he said. “It is time for Europe to decide what it wants to become, a submissive continent… or a sovereign continent.”
The proposed tax has been described by the European Commission as a stopgap while a broader tax reform is developed over the coming years.
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