On 5 November 2013, the French Parliament voted in favour of a new Act introducing a trust registry to fight against tax evasion. This new Act needed a decree to be implemented. The decree was issued on 10 May 2016 and the registry is now available online as of 5 July 2016.
The registry is available to view on the French tax authorities' website at www.impots.gouv.fr.
This registry allows users to access information regarding trusts with French connections, being trusts which have been disclosed to the French tax authorities because the settlor and/or at least one of the beneficiaries of the trust is a French tax resident or an asset held in the trust is a French-sited asset within the meaning of Article 750 ter of the FTC, even if the settlor and/or the beneficiaries are not themselves French tax resident.
Anyone with a French tax number (to be a French tax payer) and credentials can access the registry through his online personal tax account (personal pages).
So far, the Ministry of Finances has indicated that 16,000 entities regarded as trusts have been identified and are known to the French tax authorities.
The following information is available on the registry: identification of the trust (name and address); date of constitution/termination of the trust; identification of all settlors and beneficiaries of the trust; identification of the trustees.
The registry also indicates the date and nature of all the declarations which have been sent to the French tax authorities in respect of a trust under the trustees' filing obligations.
One can search the registry by entering the name of the trust or the name of one member of the trust.
The French tax authorities know who has consulted the registry and which information has been accessed. The French tax authorities keep this information for a year (i.e. the tax number of the user, his IP address and the date and hour of the search).
The general conditions for using the registry (made of 15 articles) which must be accepted by a user before accessing the registry provide that he is not allowed to divulge any of the information obtained from the registry. Criminal offences apply to users who infringe this condition of confidentiality.
Having said this, it should be noted that the registry has already been challenged by way of emergency proceedings before the French Administrative Supreme Court ("Conseil d'Etat") by a French tax resident beneficiary.
The fact that this registry has been made public clearly triggers various legal issues and constitutes an obvious infringement of privacy.
Will the registry remain consultable under its current format? The Administrative Supreme Court is due to rule on this on 19 July 2016.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.