RFI, France – Switserland, 21 May 2014
French tax authorities have collected a billion more euros than they expected in an anti-tax-evasion drive, allowing Prime Minister Manuel Valls to finance all his tax cuts for lower incomes and still have money left over.
More than 20,000 French nationals who had secret Swiss bank accounts took advantage of a government offer to go easy on them if they owned up, according to Finance Minister Michel Sapin.
That should net the exchequer 1.8 billion euros, more than double the 800,000 euros originally expected.
According to Sapin, 764 million euros have already been collected.
If efforts to track down secret accounts bear fruit even more could be forthcoming, since 80,000 French citizens are believed to be clients of Swiss banks on the quiet.
Unofficial estimates by the finance ministry put 2015’s possible extra income at two billion euros.
On Tuesday Valls announced that the windfall would completely finance the tax cuts for low incomes that he promised last week, although those are supposed to last while some of the windfall is one-off.
They are expected to cost one billion euros.
In 2013 then-budget minister Bernard Cazeneuve offered reduced penalties to tax evaders who came forward.
Since then pressure from the US and the OECD has forced Switzerland to change its law on banking confidentiality, making it difficult to keep an account secret.
The French state is believed to lose 60-80 billion euros per year through tax fraud and avoidance, notably by multi-nationals, including France’s thriving luxury goods sector, that dodge taxes through price transfers to tax havens.
Efforts to persuade French and German customers to come clean to local tax authorities are "making good progress", Urs Rohner, the boss of Crédit Suisse told the Neue Zurcher Zeitung on Wednesday.
On Monday the Swiss bank was fined a record 2.6 billion dollars (1.9 billion euros) in the US after admitting helping rich Americans dodge taxes, following a smaller fine by the Security and Exchange Commission for soliciting customers without notifying local authorities.