Emmanuel Macron Image Credit: AP

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is cracking down on executives who avoid paying taxes in France as part of efforts to quell ‘yellow vests’ protesters.

The French government is scrutinising the tax situation of business leaders and will take measures to force them to pay their taxes in France if necessary, Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

“Heads of listed businesses or businesses in which the state has a stake must absolutely be French tax residents,” Darmanin said in the interview.

The increased tax scrutiny is Macron’s latest effort to rope in businesses to respond to yellow vests’ anger over inequality and the high cost of living. Alongside tax cuts for low-income households, Macron has also urged companies to pay special year-end bonuses to rank-and-file employees.

The government has resisted demands from many yellow vests protesters to reinstate the wealth tax, which Macron abolished when he became president. Darmanin said efforts to make executives pay tax in France should encourage more “civic” behaviour.

But making all executives pay tax in France will not be simple as it could require renegotiating tax conventions.

“It would take years and we aren’t necessarily in a position of force to impose our views,” Olivier Grenon-Andrieu, head of wealth advisory firm Equance, told Le Journal du Dimanche.

There are signs that the yellow vests movement may be losing steam. The seventh Saturday of protests in the capital drew only 800 people to “sporadic” gatherings, Paris police said. Some protesters have said they will take to the streets again Monday amid New Year’s Eve celebrations, when Macron is expected to deliver an address to the nation.

As tax cuts for households come into effect in January, Macron has also promised a national debate on democracy and public spending. The government hopes this will calm the protests and rebuild trust in the country’s institutions.

“The President has called for a big debate, and that’s a very good thing,” Darmanin said.