In order to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, the French government (further to the announcements of President Macron on 12 March 2020) announced exceptional measures allowing businesses encountering cash issues to postpone certain tax and social security payments without penalty or late payment interest. Other economic measures are focused on maintaining the level of employment, with extended partial operation measures.
Based on current communications made by the French government, only direct taxes due in March are concerned by defferals : these include corporate income tax, payroll tax (‘taxe sur les salaires”) and local taxes (“CFE” and “Taxe foncière”).
In particular, the March 15 CIT instalment is delayed until June 15 for all companies without any justification. If this instalment has already been paid, a refund can be requested.
As regards local taxes ("CFE" and "Taxe foncière"), companies paying on a monthly basis can suspend their payments, without any justification. The deferred amounts will be paid when the balance of the tax is due, by the end of 2020.
In addition to these deferrals, the French tax authorities are committed to accelerating the repayment of outstanding receivables, in particular VAT credits and R&D tax credit.
If these payment deferrals are not sufficient in view of the company's difficulties, companies can also request direct tax rebates (notably Corporate tax, CFE, CVAE) wich would include penalties and late payment interest, on outstanding tax liabilities by providing concrete elements on their financial situation.
Tax deferrals or rebates must be requested on the basis of a specific form available on the French tax authorities’ website and sent to each company’s tax center.
Accordingly, VAT returns and VAT payments due for the month of February 2020 will have to follow the normal deadlines during the month of March. The situation is currently the same as regards other obligations in terms of indirect tax (Declaration of exchange of goods, ancillary taxes due on the VAT declaration, payment of import VAT, customs duties, etc.).
Employee personal income tax withheld by employers is not covered either by the announced measures and will have to be paid by companies upon normal due dates.
As far as undergoing tax audits are concerned, it has been indicated to companies that tax inspectors could still request documents or suggest a telephone call. Companies can reply that they are unable to answer such requests for the moment. Documents which would normally have to be sent by registered letter could be sent by email.
New tax audits would not be initiated.
Further, arrangements for the forced collection of tax debts are currently being considered.
Employers whose social security contributions (“Urssaf”) due date was on March 15th (this deadline applies mostly to companies with less than 50 employees) can postpone all or part of the payment of their employee and employer social security contributions by up to 3 months, without any justification. No penalty will be applied. For larger companies, with a payment deadline on April 5, additional measures may be announced at a later stage.
Supplementary pension contributions ("Agirc-Arrco") due on March 25 by all companies, whatever their size, can also be deferred.
Other economic measures have been announced by the French Minister of Finance. These include mainly an extended regime of partial operation measures (“activité partielle”), whereby the State will fully compensate indemnities paid by companies to their workers (corresponding to 70 % of gross wages), with a cap of 4,5 times the French Minimum wage (publication of the related decree is pending).
Other measures include support from the State and the Banque de France to negotiate a rescheduling of bank credits, a State guarantee for new bank credits, mobilization of Bpifrance to guarantee bank cash lines which companies may need because of the epidemic, support for the treatment of conflicts with customers or suppliers by the Business Mediator and recognition by the State of Coronavirus as a case of "force majeure" for its public contracts. Consequently, for all State public contracts, the delay penalties will not be applied.
For any additional information, the government has introduced the possibility for companies to contact a single DIRECCTE referent for each region (https://www.economie.gouv.fr/coronavirus-soutien-entreprises).
For more information : https://www.pwc.fr/fr/expertises/gestion-des-risques/gestion-de-crise/covid-19.html