a 140 billion tax break, French banks in the sights

By Maxime Vaudano, Jérémie Baruch and Anne Michel

Posted today at 6:00 a.m.

This is the story of an exceptional robbery. So much so that we keep reassessing the value of the stolen loot, and we suspect the robbers of continuing to use in the safe. This story is that of dividend arbitrage, a gigantic enterprise of plundering the fiscal resources of States around the world, which is based on complex financial transactions, carried out on the financial markets and which have long remained off the radar of governments. authorities. This heist has cost at least 140 billion euros to a dozen countries, including France, Germany and Belgium, over the past twenty years.

This unprecedented figure is the result of a new survey by the “CumEx Files” team, a consortium of sixteen international media led by the German site. Correctiv, which exposed this global scandal in 2018.

In collaboration with the team of Christoph Spengel, from the University of Mannheim (Germany), The world and its partners have resulted in a new estimate tax losses inflicted on States by traders who resort to these sophisticated arrangements to evade taxes. This figure of 140 billion euros, which compensates for the absence of an official measure of the phenomenon by the authorities, is almost three times higher than the estimate of 55 billion established in 2018, because the team was able to document the existence of these practices over a wider period (2000-2020) and a wider geographic spectrum.

France, first victim

The importance of its financial markets made France the first victim of this fiscal plunder. Thus, in twenty years, it has lost at least 33 billion euros in tax revenue because of this practice of dividend arbitrage, called “CumCum” in financial jargon. It is the equivalent of the major investment plan France 2030 announced, Tuesday, October 12, by Emmanuel Macron.

If the financial instruments used are complex, the principle of fraud is simple. It consists of escaping the tax on dividends that all foreign owners of shares in French groups listed on the stock exchange are required to pay to France – small German savers as well as large American investment funds. To do this, they just need to get rid of their stocks at the right time. A French bank agrees to play the straw man by “carrying” their shares for a few days, at the precise moment when the tax must be collected – by taking a commission in the process. As a result, no one ever pays dividend tax: neither the French bank, which presents itself as a mere intermediary, nor the real foreign owner, who is simply not identified.

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