back to article Oh, those crazy Frenchies: Facebook faces family photo tax in France

Facebook should pay the French government for hosting the holiday photos and status updates of the French people, a new report commissioned by the French government has suggested. The new 200-page report* on taxing the digital economy - commissioned by four French Cabinet Ministers - proposes that France should tax data …

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Wasn't it Faraday who told a politician about electricity: I can't tell you what use it will be but I predict you will want to tax it.

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Joke

Monty Python tax sketch

Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where they try to come up with new taxes.

"I would tax all foreigners living abroad".

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Anonymous Coward

It may or may not work...

But hey - they are actively looking for a solution. Unlike some who are only quick to get their finger out of their asses to point and laugh, but who don't do much more than that.

Or is it really perfectly normal that the biggest companies with the most revenues are able to pay 100 times less taxes than smaller, local companies?

The fact is that the laws were made for brick-and-mortar businesses, or at least, ships-and-trucks, and that the digital economy was never envisioned.

Saying it's all fine and dandy is ridiculous. Laws must evolve. Solutions will be tried, mistakes will be made, then hopefully corrected, and society will go forward. Doing nothing and patting oneself on the back because Google, or Microsoft, or whoever has promised you to Do No Evil does nothing to make the society able to evolve with the times.

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FAIL

Re: It may or may not work...

> The fact is that the laws were made for brick-and-mortar businesses

No the laws were made for civil servants, pork barrels and wars.

There's one in Mali now, small fried compared to the war from 1914-1945 and the subsequent ones, but still...

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FAIL

Good luck with that...

Amazon, Starbucks, et al are companies that actually sell stuff that can be seen, felt and counted. In the latter case they even do it through retail outlets on the High Street. And governments still can't make them pay tax.

So I don't hold out much hope for a big tax haul from companies that don't shift tangible product and store their stuff anywhere in the world that suits them.

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Unhappy

Two stages...

My first thought was 'hah! that'd be funny'.

Then I realised....if you tax data collection - particularly the way data collection is currently done these days - then you legitimise it. You are effectively saying 'yes, it's perfectly OK to shit on people and use any sort of scummy trick and tactic to eke out their personal info, as long as you leave the brown-bag on my desk and leave without a word'.

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Anonymous Coward

What, ONLY 200-pages?!

Useless horse-meat gobbling French persons, I fart in your general direction! Give this job to our fine UK, gov-sponsored report-writers and when they start in June this year, they will have been into THOUSANDS of pages by Christmas, and not even out of the first chapter!

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Anyone know how much the French market matters

To Facebook, Twitter, Google and so on (not Amazon because they sell real stuff)? I'm guessing not an awful lot at all. I reckon it could be cheaper for them to pull out of the French market rather than pay this tax.

I'm very much pro European BTW (at this point would happily vote yet at a referendum) but the rest of Europe gives itself an image problem with idiot ideas like this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Anyone know how much the French market matters

To Facebook, Twitter, Google and so on (not Amazon because they sell real stuff)? I'm guessing not an awful lot at all. I reckon it could be cheaper for them to pull out of the French market rather than pay this tax.

Well if they are actually making over 2bn Euros, then no, it wont be cheaper.

But if it is cheaper, then they can just leave and if there is sufficient profitability for local businesses to provide the service, they can do that - everyone wins.

The more important question is it cheaper for the French government to subsidise the international brands (Farcebook, twatter, etc) or local businesses?

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Anonymous Coward

The article is good, but is an opinion, not a fact report

It uses the usual tricks that El Reg itself sometimes denounces of others. Like selective editing to make quotes look more silly than they really are:

«This "free labour" was prefigured by business models from before the digital revolution: quiz shows, Tupperware parties, media financed by advertising, or reality TV. [Section 2.2.1, translated]»

The full sentence is

«This "free labour" was prefigured by business models from before the digital revolution: quiz shows, Tupperware parties, media financed by advertising, or reality TV are examples getting more or less close».

Why remove 7 words, if not to improve the impression of silliness?

And the paragraph right above that bit explains how companies are using unpaid clients' work to replace what was done before by employees, and reduce their workforce. Anybody here in favor of outsourcing local jobs abroad to cheap labor? No? Thought so.

The funniest part is that a lot of their references are from Anglo-Saxons economists. It's not all taken out of thin air. I'm sure most commenters ridiculing those crazy Frenchies would actually agree with them a lot more if they would read the text instead of just an interestingly biased opinion of it.

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FAIL

Re: The article is good, but is an opinion, not a fact report

> Anybody here in favor of outsourcing local jobs abroad to cheap labor

Yes.

> Thought so.

What did you think exactly?

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Holmes

Re: The article is good, but is an opinion, not a fact report

Don't forget El Reg is, fundamentally a red top with the same instinct for bending reportage as it's Fleet Street cousins albeit without the same propensity for bunging brown envelopes to Inspector Knacker.

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Anonymous Coward

1 - 1

megacorp takes the piss: French govt reply in the same vein.

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"tax data like we tax pollution"

Well, I've seen some pretty smoggy data

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WTF?

All been done before.

Auberon Waugh proposed something similar years ago for tabloid newspapers.

He called it the Nipple Tax.

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Meh

If they really want to tax these companies then surely it would be simpler to charge them on a per-local-user basis, e.g. 10 euro per bod per year. Then if they wished the companies could recover this by charging a fee.

Maybe add an exemption for smaller organisations with fewer than x thousand users.

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A clever idea

If you can't get them to pay corporation tax, tax their data usage instead. It's perhaps too clever because tech giants are not known for being stupid and they'll probably find a way to work around this or palm the cost off on someone else like advertisers or end users.

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Stop

Re: A clever idea

So an honest business who nicely and fairly pay taxes should pay excessively because they need to transfer huge data files to perform their business ? Obviously stupid.

Tax monetary profits and/or revenue, not the "number of revolutions in the gearbox". Exceptions apply (Alcohol and fuel maybe), but the general principle is to tax based on money flows, not based on activity of machines or muscles.

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Stop

Re: A clever idea

I should be more precise: Taxing "gearbox revoutions" or ("bits transferred") creates insane incentives and hurts or maybe even eliminates technological progress. That#s why I call it "stupid"

We Europeans and Euro-colonists are exactly so rich because we somehow managed to nurture technological and business progress. If we want to become as dirt-poort as (oil-free) Arabs, we need to tax gearbox revolutions instead of the money made by (various numbers) of gearbox revolutions.

If we can't properly tax Google, FB and Amazon at this point, the law must be changed and maybe the leeches such as Luxembourg, Ireland and Swittzerland must have the screws tightened. (No panzers required to achieve that end).

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Gav
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Megaphone

Global vampires

The responses to this idea in this forum are ample evidence why multi-national companies love, just looove, the current set up. They play one country off against the other, and have them all running scared of taking any unilateral action in taxing them.

France comes up with an interesting idea of how these global money-sucking vampires might be taxed like the rest of us, and all the mugs are more concerned about how bad an idea it is, and how it may benefit their country to the detriment of France. All rather than look at the bigger picture. They actually think they're getting one over on the foolish French, when it's the multi-national companies that are laughing all the way to the bank at the lot of us.

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Flame

In the Land Of The Shopkeepers

..they instinctively sympathize with Tax-Dodgers and then they will pay up mightily for police, fire, hospital and defence services. Finally, they will bitch that their bypass is not applied quicly enough after a history of alcohol abuse.

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Go

Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

Taxing is about money. The state wants a cut from profits, revenue or property to finance The Commons.

The "value" of silly personal info might be gyrating over time and it certainly is different in France than it is in Ethopia.

So ? Require the internet corpos to either

A) Pay a tax proportional to the user base in a certain country and their total, worldwide profits

B) Pay a tax proportional to the profit they generate from a certain geography. For example, an ad displayed in France needs its profits reported to the french taxman. The totality of french-attributed sales would establish the profit-percentage for calculating how much from worldwide profit can be attributed to France. And then be taxed according to French profit tax law.

Is that perfect ?

No, but the discussion must be started. The 99% lose out if we allow for these corpos to suck off profits to Luxembug, Switzerland the Bahamas and other hubs of Tax Criminality.

You have issues with taxation in general ?

Then relocate to Angloa and don't steal the services of the police and firebrigade I pay for.

Are the other reasonable schemes ?

Definitely, bring them on.

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Facepalm

Re: Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

If a country wants to raise tax revenue it should develop an industry. If organizations are to be taxed for simply holding data, then the government should give individuals tax discounts for the data governments hold about the citizens they govern. Then what next? Do we tax wealthier people more because they have more assets and therefore more data needs to be stored about them? Do we at some point tax by the megabyte or even byte?

France is will end up being cut off from the digital revolution taking place around the globe. Corporations should take a stand against France. France has more to lose than the corporations.

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Flame

Re: Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

Apparently you have not read my post thoroughly. France is trying to get a handle on tax dodgers who rake in lots of cash and profits in France and pay pathetic taxes there. The French approach seems to be quite idiotic, but the general need to properly tax these hugely profitable corporations does indeed exist.

Think of Google as an advertising agency who refuses to (seriously) pay tax.

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Anonymous Coward

For example, an ad displayed in France needs its profits reported to the french taxman

Do what!

So if my UK web-site, providing ad-funded services to the UK, with UK suppliers advertising on my site was to be visited by an IP address from France (so the advert appears in France), I need to work out how much money I received from that ad and then pay French tax to the French government for it? Yeah, that'll work!

And I guess I would have to do the same for any other country that takes the same approach too.

So what happens when ALL of my visits are from abroad? I will be paying tax to every other country EXCEPT the UK I suppose - unless you want me to pay tax twice. SO I'll be a UK company making a profit and not paying any tax on my profits to the UK....hmmm, sounds familiar.

I think you need to seriously rethink what you put there, as you may not have intended what was written. If you did then you must be insane.

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FAIL

Re: Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

> Think of Google as an advertising agency who refuses to (seriously) pay tax.

Google has not refused to pay any tax that it is required to do.

If governments create such stupidly complex tax systems that a corporation is able to use them to minimize the tax it pays, that is the fault of the governments, not the corporation. The power to change it is entirely in the hands of the governments. There is NO reason that anyone should pay more tax than they are legally required to. I wouldn't, why should I expect Google to?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

If governments create such stupidly complex tax systems that a corporation is able to use them to minimize the tax it pays, that is the fault of the governments, not the corporation. The power to change it is entirely in the hands of the governments.

Erm, isnt that the crux of the French plan here?

The government are planning to change the system so they can get more tax money out of the corporation, which has led to much uproar, wailing, gnashing of teeth and threats to abandon France.

I dont for one second suggest there is ever a "moral" amount of tax, it is exactly what you said - the correct legal amount. Anything else is rhetoric.

However, when a country feels that a company is abusing the system, paying less in tax than the Government are happy with and (effectively) becoming a drain on national resources, then it is fairly sensible for the Government to change the law.

If this results in some businesses abandoning the country then it is down to the Government to decide if this is a net loss to the nation or not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid, Complex, Over-Theoretic

@ Bugs R Us

France is will end up being cut off from the digital revolution taking place around the globe. Corporations should take a stand against France. France has more to lose than the corporations.

Interestingly, it seems unlikely that a corporation would throw away a $2bn revenue stream to "make a stand" against a country and, if it did, I suspect there would be a major shareholder revolt. If the French government feels the companies arent providing an acceptable amount of Tax, then France doesnt have anything to lose - the money is going offshore anyway.

More importantly, should we encourage corporations to be taking a stand against democratically elected governments? We might not always agree with the political party that gets voted in, but at least we have significantly more say in that process than what a Corporation will do.

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Anonymous Coward

Will El Reg be forced to cough up for any comments made in French?

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FAIL

Solution: facebook.org

Facebook.org is a non profit organization that does not store any data (except logon and password) and is funded by charitable donations from wealthy private individuals. Instead it uses open APIs provided by Facebook.com (a US company) to "only show data from Facebook.com".

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The French Are Stupid

Is obvious the government of France owns its citizens and as such is their duty to manage their citizens for maximum profit same as any other farmer managing livestock.

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Flame

Not As Stupid As Anglosaxons

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankruptcy_of_Lehman_Brothers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_S._Fuld,_Jr.#Bankruptcy_and_aftermath

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_International_Group#Financial_crisis

France had a strong, capable state at least until recently while all the strong Anglosaxons appear to have ended up in the financial industry while their supposed supervisors are inept, shallow and corrupt idiots.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_nationale_d%27administration

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Coat

Re: Not As Stupid As Anglosaxons

I'd say French are stupid in their unique French way that you stupid (and uncultured, culinarily barbaric) Anglosaxons just don't appreciate... take it from a stupid Dutchman :)

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Coat

Re: Not As Stupid As Anglosaxons

Culinarily barbaric? We don't have to take that from a Dutchman!

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French wonks

I already have a mental picture of Peter Sellers saying 'wernks' and failing to make himself understood...

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Facepalm

they're just pissed...

because the world ignored Minitel.

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Workable proposal, for sure.

A common French objection to a proposal:

"Can't use this. It works fine in practice, but not in theory".

Just how impractical and daft do French government proposals have to be be before their constituents laugh at them?

Tell you what, Mr. Hollande. Find a way to tax Amazon sales to French residents. Or Starbucks. Cutting down on obvious corporate tax tourism makes sense. This? Does. Not.

Mostly, get a effin clue and balance your budget. First time in what, 30+ years? For left and right govts.

How come France taxes at Swedish levels, delivers public services at Italian levels and accumulates debt like Greece, eh? Work on that, or more folks will emigrate, like I did. Best thing I ever did.

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Sooo......

Google, Amazon and Facebook disallow access from within France. Problem solved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sooo......

Google, Amazon and Facebook disallow access from within France. Problem solved.

Excellent plan.

French government loses 5m euros in tax income and Google (etc) lose 2bn euros in revenue.

For once, it is actually a win-win situation. What isnt to like?

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Silver badge

So...

I want to tax this "internet" thing. Where is its headquarters? How come I can't see it? Is it like a telephone or some such. They pay based on time connected, so why not the internet, and take a fraction of that?

Yeah, that's the ticket. Make people pay for connection time and tax that. Just like a telephone!

Logical?

French moaning: "Why does my internet cost do much"

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Anonymous Coward

Facebook is pollution.

(Snicker)

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Anonymous Coward

Don't vote for politicians

It only encourages them!

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Thumb Up

Re: Don't vote for politicians @AC 04:48

I seem to remember a PJ O'Rourke book "Don't Vote! It just encourages the b*stards!")

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Language

Question, how would the frnch govt know where the people came from, doesnt a VPN mean you are not where you think you are, me being English living in France use .uk for example and often use a VPN to watch TV so no way could they know whos what.

Perhaps just stopping all French language sites would be a good idea, then also they can stop the french people using English sites to buy stuff, I mean who would pay €250 for parts when you could get them quicker for about 1/3 of the price from the UK.

As most French have little idea of the internet then they could go back to minitel and just tell the French people its new and updated.

Can I back the bit about French people, oh yes, average virii on French computers about 6-7 max seen so far 300!! What about tea cosys money, I told the Gendarmerie about exactly that problem some 3 months before it happened, they did nought

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