France will tax Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon starting Jan. 1

The tech backlash is coming.
The tech backlash is coming.
Image: Reuters/Jeenah Moon
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

France won’t wait on the rest of the European Union to start taxing big tech.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire says the country will move ahead with a new tax on Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon starting Jan. 1, 2019. The tax is expected to raise €500 million ($570 million) in 2019.

France and Germany had originally pushed for an EU-wide 3% tax on big tech firms’ online revenues, in part to prevent companies like Apple from sheltering their profits in countries with the lowest tax rates.

The deal, which required the support of all 28 EU states, appeared to crumble earlier this month, with opposition from countries including Ireland, home to the European headquarters of Google and Apple.

France and Germany attempted to salvage the deal by scaling it back to a 3% tax on ad sales from tech giants. That would effectively limit the tax to Google and Facebook, excluding companies like Airbnb and Spotify that might have been harder hit under the initial proposal.

In the meantime, France is moving ahead with its own tax on Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, which are collectively known in the region as GAFA. “The tax will be introduced whatever happens on 1 January and it will be for the whole of 2019 for an amount that we estimate at €500m,” Le Maire said at a press conference in Paris, the Guardian reported today (Dec. 17).

UK treasury minister Mel Stride has also suggested the UK could act alone to tax tech giants, if a broader European push failed. “We have a strong preference for moving multilaterally in that space but we have said that in the event that that doesn’t move fast enough for us then that this is something we could consider doing unilaterally, or perhaps with a smaller group of other tax authorities,” Stride said in July.

While the US has bristled at talk of taxing companies based in Silicon Valley, American economist Jeffrey Sachs in October endorsed a tech tax, arguing it would help avert a dystopian future in which global wealth became even more concentrated among a small number of people.