Article 10 of the French government’s Ordinance no. 2020-306 of 25 March 2020 on the extension of the time limits during the health emergency period and the adaptation of procedures during said period provides for specific provisions aiming at adjusting certain time limits applicable to tax audits and, more specifically, at suspending their application as of 12 March 2020 until the expiry of a period of one month after the end of the state of health emergency (i.e. at this stage, until midnight 23 June 2020).
In this respect, the statutes of limitations available to the French tax authorities for reassessing taxpayers which expire on 31 December 2020 are suspended for a period equal to that of the abovementioned period. The suspension, during the same period, both for the taxpayers and for the tax authorities of all the time limits provided for in the context of the conduct of tax audit and tax investigation procedures has also been decided (identical provisions are also provided for in customs matters).
Finally, the suspension of time limits also concerns those applicable to tax rulings as well as those which relate to Article 32 of the ESSOC Law no. 2018-727 of 10 August 2018, regarding the experimentation of the time limitation of administrative audits on certain companies in the regions of Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
It should be noted, however, that the mechanism which provides for the extension of the time limits for carrying out certain declaratory formalities referred to in Article 2 of the aforesaid Ordinance does not apply to declarations used for the taxation and assessment, liquidation and collection of taxes and duties, in order to safeguard the collection of public revenue necessary for the operation of public services and the support of the French economy.
Other French government’s Ordinances are indirectly related to the tax field, in particular with respect to tax litigation before the judicial courts (Ordinance no. 2020-304) or administrative courts (Ordinance no. 2020-305).
The practical scope of those provisions is relatively limited since they are essentially aiming at legally formalizing an already existing situation, namely the freezing of most tax procedures since the application of the compulsory containment measures. Nevertheless, they should be followed insofar as they establish a legal framework, thereby ensuring greater legal certainty for the next few weeks or, we hope not, for the upcoming months.