At the end of March, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) shook the Parisian financial center by triggering an unprecedented wave of searches. In the viewfinder: five major banks suspected of being involved in the scandal of the ” cumcum » – a large-scale circumvention of the tax on dividends, revealed by The world in 2018. Nothing had filtered the financial stakes at the time.
But on May 2, before the Senate, the Minister Delegate for Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal, made public a figure which makes it possible to measure the extent of the phenomenon. The total amount of adjustments notified to date by the tax authorities amounts to 2.5 billion euros. This invoice, which includes penalties in addition to the adjusted sums, concerns in particular the five banks targeted by the PNF searches (Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and its subsidiary Exane, Natixis and HSBC), but also Crédit Agricole, who admitted to the tax authorities his participation in these schemes of tax evasionbut has so far escaped searches.
These adjustments mainly target arrangements that occurred between 2017 and 2019, which therefore brings the essment of the fraud to nearly one billion euros per year. This represents, by way of comparison, more than 6% of the total sums collected by the tax authorities each year for all taxpayers.
More complex operations without any costing
The “CumCum” is therefore probably at least as mive as the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) had estimated, the only public authority to have attempted to measure the phenomenon. In 2021, the stock market policeman had estimated the tax shortfall (excluding penalties) between 400 million and 1 billion euros per year. But the AMF, and the tax authorities today, have only focused on the simplest part of the “CumCum”, based on securities lending-borrowing transactions – a rapid round trip of stock market shares at the time the payment of the dividend, intended to escape the withholding tax.
However, there are several other “CumCum” techniques aimed at the same objectives. Some exploit the loopholes of favorable tax treaties concluded by France with the Gulf countries, which provide for a complete exemption from tax on dividends for their nationals. Others rely on complex financial instruments, such as total return swaps or futures contracts. So many operations which have not yet been the subject of any official costing, but which could bring the total shortfall to between two and four billion euros per year, according to the experts consulted in 2018 by The world and the consortium of journalists “CumEx Files”.
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