France will put on on-line a "public register of
trusts", an unprecedented initiative permitting public access
to personal information on settlors, beneficiaries and
France plans to put on-line, beginning 30 June 2016, a
"public register of trusts". This is an
unprecedented initiative, to make public personal information held
by tax authorities, with the announced goal of fighting tax
evasion, money-laundering and financing of illicit activities.
The trusts included in this register are those for which a
report (in the form of an information return) has been communicated
to French tax authorities, pursuant to article 1649 AB of the
French tax code. Such reports are required since 20111
for trusts of which at least one of the trustees, settlors or
beneficiaries is domiciled for tax purposes in France or which
contain assets situated in France (except for financial
investments, if none of the trustees, settlors or beneficiaries is
domiciled in France).
The reports are filed annually and upon the occurrence of events
affecting the trust: its creation; its modification including among
other things change of its terms or its mode of operation, change
in trustee, change or death of a "beneficiary deemed
settlor" or distribution, transmittal, attribution or
placement into the trust of assets; or its termination.
The creation of the register and placing it on-line are provided
for in decree n° 2016-567 of 10 May 20162 (text
attached hereto, with translation), according to which information
available to the public will include "the name of the
trust and it address" as well as its date of creation
(and termination, if applicable) and the identity of the trustees,
settlors and beneficiaries (full name, date and place of birth for
an individual or name and identifying number for a legal
Apparently the information in the register will be derived from
reports filed with French tax authorities, but will not include
information about the terms of the trust or its assets or the
addresses of settlors or beneficiaries.
It is expected that an administrative order of the Budget
Minister will establish a "secure authentification
procedure" permitting members of the public (after
identifying themselves) to access the register and consult data on
the trusts included thereon. Data can be accessed using search
criteria including among other things the name of the trust; the
identity of the trustee, settlor or beneficiaries, the place the
trust is established; or the date it was created. The use of this
register will be governed by general conditions set out by the
Budget Minister. Pursuant to the decree, persons listed in the
public register will not be able to exercise the right to object to
their personal information being included therein.3
When this measure was announced, French officials noted that the
tax administration currently has information on 16,000 trusts
identified as such and that transparency and exchange of
information regarding beneficiaries will result "ending
use of shell companies for tax evasion, money-laundering and
financing illicit activities".4
But French officials also stated that "the difficult
point will be to distinguish between the legal use of these
measures and concealing something"5. It is
true that many perfectly legitimate trusts, set up purely for
wealth-management and estate-planning purposes, not involving tax
evasion or illicit activities, will be listed in the new
1 Cf. loi de finances rectificative n° 2011-9 of 29
2 Journal Officiel n° 0109 of 11 May 2016, text n°
25. The decree was promulgated under authority set out in article
1649 AB of the French tax code, as modified by article 11 of loi
n° 2013-1117 of 6 December 2013 relating to the fight against
tax evasion and large-scale economic and financial
3 This right of objection is provided for by article 38 of
law n° 78-17 of 6 January 1978 relating to information
technology, data files and civil liberties.
4 Press release of the Finance and Public Accounts Ministry
of 11 May 2016.
5 AFP report of 10 May 2016.
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