PARIS — Forging ahead without its European partners, France plans to tax technology giants at the start of 2019, a move that could bring the country 500 million euros over the year, the government said Monday.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire has sharpened the tone of his threats to tax the so-called Gafa Internet giants — Google, Amazon and Facebook — amid the rising momentum of the yellow-vest protest movement in recent weeks.
“We have to find money somewhere,” Le Maire told French radio station RTL. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged a series of measures to bolster purchasing power for workers, including a salary increase of around 100 euros a month for minimum wage earners, in a bid to quell anger propelling violent demonstrations across the country.
“Fight with me to tax the giants of the digital sphere — I won’t let up on this issue because it’s time for the digital players to pay their part in taxes,” said Le Maire.
The French government Monday evening tweeted its intentions to implement the tax before reaching an agreement at the European Union level.
Retailers across the country are still measuring the impact of the protests, which have taken place on five successive Saturdays in the French capital and weighed heavily on business during the crucial holiday spending period.
The Conseil National des Centres Commerciaux, or CNCC, an association of shopping centers in the country, Monday said it saw a 10 percent decline in traffic last weekend. The CNCC called on the government to speed up the approval of Sunday openings, which are highly regulated and only allowed in some areas and under certain conditions in France. It urged officials to introduce a “more fair” taxation system for various types of retailers, suggesting that warehouses of Internet commerce companies could be taxed similarly to shopping centers, for example.