Simple errors ‘let go’ as harsh regulations eased

Changes allow for more lenience with accidental mistakes

Aiming for a more modern and open government in which people have confidence, MPs have voted through a law making simple paperwork mistakes no longer punishable (the droit à l’erreur) and for tax-form errors to be less harshly punished.

Other measures are also being tested to ease people’s contacts with administration, such as having longer opening hours for some offices, including into the evening, and not needing proof of address for some tasks.

Simply put, the droit à l’erreur means people and businesses can make a mistake such as forgetting to include a piece of information or having some information wrong without facing a fine or losing the right to proceed.

On taxes, if le fisc spots an error made in good faith on a tax form the interest on late payment will be cut by 30% or by 50% if the taxpayer corrects the mistake themselves.

Businesses can also ask officials to check compliance and get grace for error but can make a mistake only once, any repeat and the fine is increased 50%.

However, a move to allow businesses the right to depend on a previous official mistake for future dealings will be rethought in case it does not allow frauds to be stopped.

In some regulations, they will be given objectives to achieve – eg, air quality or fire safety – and a free hand in how to attain an identical result. This is called a permis de faire.

A single reference number référent unique will also help simplify administrative tasks and avoid repeating the same information to different offices.

By 2021 a non-surcharge number will be used for calls to the administration. At present, 3939 is 15 centimes a minute.