Under the relevant French tax rules in force until 2012, individual shareholders domiciled for tax purposes in France could benefit from a 40 percent tax basis relief on the amount of dividends subject to the progressive tax scale of French personal income tax (up to 45 percent), unless they had elected to pay a 21 percent final withholding tax provided for under Article 117 quater of the French Tax Code (prélèvement forfaitaire libératoire).

On April 10, 2015, the Conseil d'Etat requested from the Conseil constitutionnel a QPC on the conformity of these provisions to the French Constitution. The taxpayers that raised the issue of constitutionality argued that these provisions, which deprived French taxpayers of the 40 percent tax basis relief in the presence of a partial election to the final withholding tax regime, created a breach of equality between taxpayers.

Interestingly, the Administrative Tribunal and Court of Appeal of Paris both had not granted the taxpayers' request to refer the QPC to the Conseil constitutionnel.

Please note that as from 2012, the 21 percent withholding tax is no longer a payment in full discharge of all the tax that may potentially be due on the dividend income; rather, it corresponds to a down payment of personal income tax. The 40 percent tax relief on the amount of dividends received has been maintained. 

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