French online press targeted by sudden imposition of top-rate VAT: the facts of a scandal of injustice

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Beginning on December 20th, online press organisations in France, including Mediapart, have become the target of raids by French tax authorities to recover backpayments of a controversial and contested Value Added Tax rate that is more than nine times greater than that applied to the printed press. Application of the 19.6% VAT rate was until now suspended pending its official annulment, after successive governments have, since 2009, agreed that the online press should be made subject to the same rate as the printed press – 2.1%. At stake is both the immediate financial viability and the future of the online press. Here, Mediapart editor François Bonnet explains the background of the issue, questions the motives behind such a sudden and incoherent move, and invites readers to sign a petition calling for an end to the discriminatory tax rate.

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The French tax authorities began their assault against the online press on December 20th, sending inspectors to the premises of Mediapart and the Indigo group, publisher of newsletters of specialist information, to begin checking through accounts to establish a “readjustment of VAT”, an operation that is due to continue this Monday.