France, Germany move to save EU tax proposal

France Germany aim to keep digital tax alive with new proposal

While France has pushed hard for the digital levy, countries such as Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have opposed it while Germany has also had misgivings.

While this met with misgivings and outright opposition from at least four other ministers at a meeting in Brussels, they agreed to keep talking, said Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Loeger, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency. He urged the European Union to reach a compromise on the revenue levy for digital giants by March.

The duty would generate about half the revenue previously planned and mainly hit Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc., which dominate the online ad market, according to an official with knowledge of the matter.

He said: "Like any European compromise, some will be disappointed".

During an extended meeting of the European Union finance ministers of finance in Brussels, the two key players of the Eurozone - Germany and France - chose to set aside plans for an ambitious Europe-wide digital tax on tech companies that mostly targets advertising sales that could leave tech-giants free from being heavily taxed.

"I prefer to check our ambitions (...) We have adopted a more conciliatory attitude", French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told journalists after the meeting.

But Ireland is fuming, and wants any major changes to worldwide taxation to be agreed through the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), where major non-EU countries such as the U.S. are also represented.

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Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is understood to have reiterated that position at yesterday's meeting in Brussels.

"Rather than pursuing measures like this that would result in double taxation", he said, "countries should continue working together through the OECD framework on the important global dialogue regarding the digital economy".

The blueprint calls on the bloc's members to agree on the plan "without delay and in any case before March 2019".

Finnish finance minister Petteri Orpo said: "I promise to be constructive and I'm ready to look at the proposal, but I still have serious concerns with it".

"If we can reach an agreement between France and Germany in the coming hours..., that will be a first step", he added.

The tax would only come into force in 2021 if a plan for a global solution being negotiated at the OECD is not agreed before then.

France's initial tax plan had a far wider scope but failed to gain traction, effectively killing the proposal as European tax rules require unanimous backing by all EU members.

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