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6th Jun 2020

French MEP suggests EU tax on SMS and emails

Alain Lamassoure, a senior centre-right French MEP, has suggested that the EU levy a tax on SMS and email messages in a debate on the union's future financing.

Mr Lamassoure made his suggestion on Monday (8 May) in a financial working group as part of a joint European Parliament and national parliament conference on the future of Europe in Brussels.

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He told EUobserver "The economic value of today's globalisation lies in information through transactions in the form of international communication. Why don't we levy taxes on this value, for instance SMS messages?"

"A small tax on an SMS from Paris to another French city could be allocated to the French government, but taxes on emails or SMS messages from Paris to Rome could be dedicated to the EU budget," he said.

"In France an SMS costs 15 cents. We could tax it by 1.5 cents, or less," the MEP added.

For email, the rate could be as little as €0.00001. "This is peanuts, but given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income."

The EU has started a re-think of its financing after the bitter talks on the 2007-2013 budget which ended in a hard-fought agreement in December.

Several voices have said the EU should be fed by its own tax instead of member states' donations.

Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said a few weeks after the December budget compromise "Europe needs stronger own resources," adding "if we don't tackle this issue, then reaching agreement on the next financial perspectives [multi-annual budget] will be under threat."

Mr Lamassoure also defended his proposal by arguing that in times of globalisation, it is less and less easy for states to tax income on people, corporations and consumption.

"I suggest this as an idea not only for the EU but also for member states themselves and on the worldwide scale," the MEP added, explaining that revenues from taxes on global information flows could be spent on international development.

He compared his idea to the "Tobin tax" named after the economist James Tobin who in the 1970s proposed a small tax on all cross-border currency trading.

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