Banks warn share tax hike threatens Paris' post-Brexit appeal

October 21, 2016 10:22 AM EDT

A woman stands outside a branch of French bank Credit Agricole in Ars-en-Re on the Ile de Re, France, July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Simon Newman/File Photo


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PARIS (Reuters) - A proposed increase in France's share tax flies in the face of efforts by the government and the financial industry to lure banking jobs from London, financial sector lobbies have warned.

In a first reading of next year's budget bill, lawmakers in the lower house of parliament backed an increase in the tax to 0.3 percent from 0.2 percent as well as its extension to cover intra-day trading.

"This is also a bad signal that we are sending in the context of Brexit as for the attractiveness of the Paris financial center," Philippe Brassac, head of the French banking federation and chief executive of France's third-biggest listed lender Credit Agricole, told Reuters.

Although the Socialist-led government had not included the increase in the original bill, it backed lawmakers' amendments to introduce the increase.

There is no guarantee that the amendment will enter into law as it must also be backed in the conservative dominated Senate and in a final reading before the lower house.

Budget Minister Christian Eckert estimated during the debate that the tax would raise additional tax revenue of 500 million euros ($545 million), but acknowledged that it was unknown how investors might react.

The proposals would increase French companies' financing costs, Brassac added.

In response the Finance Ministry told Reuters in a statement: "Tax issues are not a determining factor in companies' decisions about where they set up business, at least not situations when they relocate due to events like Brexit."

The French government aims to attract businesses leaving London following Britain's decision to exit the European Union with plans to fast-track the registering of firms and extending tax benefits expatriates can qualify for.

However, France's comparatively high taxes remains an obstacle as does the Socialist government's support for a long-stalled financial transaction tax in 10 EU countries - which would replace France's existing share tax.

French financial lobby Paris Europlace hopes there is still a chance to reconsider the decision to hike the share tax.

"This is a bad message and it is the opportunity for Paris Europlace to point out the strategic issues," Arnaud de Bresson, chief executive, told Reuters.

First proposed by the conservative government of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, the share tax was modeled on Britain's stamp duty, which puts a 0.5 percent levy on stock purchases.

It applies to share purchases on companies with a capitalization of more than 1 billion euros.

(Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva, Julien Ponthus and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Alison Williams/Richard Balmforth)



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