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French tax evasion fight to yield 2b euros in 2015

[PARIS] A continued crackdown on tax evasion could rake in two billion euros (US$2.2 billion) this year, similar to the amount raised in 2014, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Sunday.

Looking to shore up fragile state accounts, France has launched a campaign to encourage taxpayers to come clean on previously undeclared assets held abroad, mainly in neighbouring Switzerland.

"Rather than raise taxes, I prefer to combat tax fraud," Mr Sapin said in a joint interview with RTL radio, LCI television and Le Figaro newspaper. "Last year the system which allows people to regularise their foreign bank accounts (...) yielded two billion euros," he said, adding that this represented about 0.1 per cent of France's gross domestic product. "This year it will be around the same size."

Mr Sapin said, however, that the additional revenue from the campaign against tax evasion could not last forever, saying he expected that sooner or later everyone will have declared their foreign bank accounts as new transparency norms are introduced.

The European Commission last week granted France two extra years to bring its deficit under an EU ceiling of three per cent of GDP, but also urged it to specify new consolidation measures and structural reforms within three months or face sanctions.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll has said France would achieve the budget consolidation without tax rises, but through savings in all sectors except defence.