TAX authorities have been given new powers to ask banks for details of customers sending money abroad.
This is to help track down those putting money into undeclared foreign accounts.
It follows a pledge last year by the then Budget Minister, Eric Woerth, after the government acquired a list of 3,000 people with Swiss accounts that were suspected of being undeclared.
Previously tax inspectors had to provide banks with specific names and bank account details. Now they can make open-ended requests to know who has been sending money abroad.
Banks will have to hand over names and addresses and bank account numbers.
The requests will be for sums transferred above certain substantial minimums, but these will vary from request to request.
For sums sent using credit or debit cards, a minimum of €15,000 has been set. While requests can now be much broader, the inspectors will have to narrow them down to money sent to one named country (or a few countries) at a time.
“We’re going to be able to go fishing now,” a Finance Ministry source told economics newspaper La Tribune.
However a secure method of transferring information from the banks to the tax authorities is not expected to be ready until the end of the year.
The 11 biggest French banks have been fined e385 million by the Competition Authority for charging customers too much for processing cheques.
Between 2002 and 2007, when the practice ceased because of investigations, the banks came to a mutual agreement on commission charges called CEIC. They were brought in after regulations made them process cheques faster, which they said resulted in losses because they had clients’ money invested for less time.
Finance Minister Christine Lagarde recently said bank charges must be standardised and reduced to a more manageable number. A monthly statement of fees charged is one idea being put forward to simplify life for customers. A list of 10 standard services would also be created to make comparisons easier.
So far, the minister says banks will not be legally obliged to adopt changes, though this will be considered if they do not cooperate.