French, US Finance Chiefs Agree to Push Cross-Border Tax Reform

January 28, 2021 Updated: January 28, 2021

PARIS—French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and his new U.S. counterpart Janet Yellen agreed on Thursday to seek an international agreement on new rules for taxing multinational businesses, the French finance ministry said after the pair’s first calls since Yellen took office.

Paris and Washington clashed during the Trump administration over France’s tax on digital service companies and over reluctance from Yellen’s predecessor Steven Mnuchin to move forward on talks to overhaul the rules for taxing cross-border commerce.

“Bruno Le Maire and Janet Yellen … agreed on the need to find multilateral solutions to many of the issues facing the global economy, including addressing the tax challenges of efficiently and equitably taxing the income of multinational firms,” the French finance ministry said in a statement.

Yellen holds a news conference in Washington
U.S. outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen holds a news conference after a two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, U.S. on December 13, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“Bruno Le Maire welcomed Secretary Yellen’s commitment to active U.S. participation in the ongoing OECD discussions on international taxation to forge a timely international accord,” it added.

Nearly 140 countries have agreed to rewrite, by mid 2021, the rules about how companies are taxed outside their home countries to take into account the rise of big digital companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

Le Maire and Yellen also spoke about the need to reduce trade tensions between Europe and the United States, which flared during the Trump administration.

The French minister in particular raised the topic of U.S. trade sanctions on French winegrowers that the Trump administration had place put in place over a long-running aircraft subsidies dispute.

By Leigh Thomas