French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday said France planned to impose tax on digital giants at the national level from next year on if its European partners fail to agree a common position on how to tax digital firms' online revenues.
"I am giving myself until March to reach a deal on a European tax on digital giants," Le Maire said.
"If the European states do not take their responsibilities, we will do it at a national level, from 2019," the minister said in an interview with France 2 television.
EU officials have long criticized predominantly U.S. firms for paying negligible amounts of tax in Europe despite realizing a large share of their revenues on the continent. By registering patents and employing staff in low-tax jurisdictions they often succeed in legally evading the grasp of fiscal authorities in the countries where they market their products.
At a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, EU finance ministers failed to agree on a Europe-wide tax on the biggest internet groups, such as Google and Facebook, by the end of the year. Sweden, Denmark and Ireland oppose the Paris-backed plan.
"I will not let go," Le Maire stressed, explaining that certain digital giants make huge profits from French consumers while they pay 14 points less in taxes than other companies.
The failure to reach an EU-wide agreement comes at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron is struggling to defuse social action that had led to occasional unprecedented violence.
Since Nov. 17, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets and staged blockades in several French cities in protest against their weak purchasing power and an economic policy which they say favors the rich and big businesses.