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France declared war on tax avoidance

Staff writer |
France Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French taxpayers with bank accounts abroad must make them known to authorities now or face tough penalties.

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France government is leading a crackdown on tax avoidance that cost the state of up to 50 billion euros in every years. Parliament will start to debate in June a draft law that should bring tougher penalties for evaders including stiffer prison sentences which can last up to seven years.

"I call on all those who have bank accounts abroad to abide by the law now by getting in touch with tax authorities. If they refuse to respect the law, they will face much harsher penalties," said Mr. Cazeneuve to Europe 1 radio.

President Francois Hollande has hardened his approach to tax evasion after former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted in March to holding a Swiss bank account. The episode rattled a government that meant to restore fiscal justice by imposing a 75 percent tax on revenues bigger than on million euros per year.

In France citizens pay their income tax at the end of the fiscal year and the country is struggling with evasion due to its high levies. The French division of UBS bank could be placed under formal investigation as part of a probe into whether it offered potential clients products designed to cheat the taxman, writes Reuters.

France is already investigating whether HSBC bank offered illicit products to help French clients avoid tax in Switzerland.

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