iTax on tablets and smartphones?
You’ve got to hand it to the French. Since the nineties, they have taken steps to protect their cultural media, by requiring radio stations to play a certain percentage of songs in French (as otherwise, who would?) and slapping levies on film and television companies that go towards producing French films and TV programmes. Some of them are even good (Spiral. Contains Gregory Fitoussi)
Now, however, the French are concerned that today’s new media, with streaming services and tablet technology, means that lots of people are watching media with no payback for l’exception culturelle. So the French Government have had a new plan.
Humourously and originally nicknamed the iTax, the proposals outlined in a new report want to charge a 1% tax on sales of smartphones and tablets as a way of drawing companies like Apple and Google, and other dubiously-located tech companies within the French tax net, playing the cultural card as validation.
"Today we have extremely sophisticated technological equipment that is extremely expensive to buy, but which contributes nothing to the financing of the works that circulate on that same equipment," said Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti said following the release of the report.
"Companies that make these tablets must, in a minor way, be made to contribute part of the revenue from their sales to help creators."
At the moment it is unclear whether this could be a sales tax levied on consumers, or a charge for the company making French sales, which could be far harder to enforce. Either way, it will be consumers who end up paying more, even if just to keep preserve multi-million Euro profits, but would it even work?
The French have form with this type of thing, challenging Google over taxing rights of ads placed on Google Adwords by French companies. Instead Google gave them €60million for their cultural coffers to shut them up. And surely French consumers watch their French films and listen to their French music on the same devices as culturally-void US stuff. And no-one seems to have considered the fact that France borders quite a number of non-iTax-charging countries- it’d be very easy just to nip over the border and save yourself a few Euro, thereby damaging French businesses too.
Any detailed proposals adopted will be put forward in a November Budget document. Let’s hope this is one French craze (besides fries, knickers and polishing) that doesn’t catch on over here.