French tax evasion crackdown yields 12.2 billion eur in 2015, up 17 percent

France's crackdown on tax evasion yielded 12.2 billion euros ($13.26 billion) in 2015, up almost a fifth from the previous year, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Thursday.

Looking to shore up fragile state accounts, France has launched a campaign to encourage taxpayers to come clean on previously undeclared assets held abroad, and clamped down on aggressive tax optimization techniques by multinational companies.

"It's no longer correct to say that big digital multinationals can evade taxes," Sapin told reporters.

"In France, we don't do arrangements. We follow the law, and only the law," he said. In 2014, France had raked in 10.4 billion euros.

The comment appeared to refer to U.S. Internet giant Google (GOOGL.O), from which the French taxman is seeking 1.6 billion euros in back taxes, a source at the finance ministry said last week.

Last month, Sapin ruled out striking a deal with the U.S. search engine company as the British government recently did, saying the sums at stake in France were "far greater" than those in Britain.

Google reached a 130 million pound ($181.18 million)settlement with British tax authorities for the period since 2005, which British lawmakers criticized as "disproportionately small".

France has also cracked down on individuals who hold undeclared foreign bank accounts, mainly in neighboring Switzerland where bank secrecy rules are unraveling.

Sapin said that campaign had yielded 2.6 billion euros in 2015, up 700 million euros from a year ago, and higher than the 2 billion euros Sapin had hoped for last year.




(Reporting by Myriam Rivet, writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

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