French plans to tax online giants face real-world obstacles

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France is spearheading a plan to tax the turnover of internet giants that manage to avoid paying corporate taxes on profits in European countries where they operate. But despite its bold appearance, and the backing of seven other countries, the plan is beset by political and highly technical problems. And even at this embryonic stage it has little chance of succeeding, writes Romaric Godin.

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France has put forward a proposal for an 'equalisation tax' that aims to make internet giants contribute to the public purse in proportion to their size. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire took the proposal, outlined in a letter co-signed by his German, Spanish and Italian counterparts to the Ecofin meeting of finance ministers in Tallinn, Estonia on September 14th-15th and won agreement to consider it.