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France National Register of Trusts – Injunction

This article is for general information only. French law is a highly specialised area and you should only act or refrain from acting after receiving full professional advice on the facts of your particular case. This article is for general information and does not constitute investment advice. Always consult an IFA.

France’s National Register of Trusts includes names and details of minors. An American has applied for an injunction against French government.

France’s National Register of Trusts has gone on line and can be inspected freely on line by any individual with a French tax number. It is searchable and contains the names, dates of birth and place of birth of settlors, trustees and beneficiaries. Details of beneficiaries who are minors are also given. This appears to be in breach of Articles 3, Article 8 (1) and Article 16 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which France is a party to. It seems clear that any references to children should be deleted immediately and it is astonishing that a French government website should have put this information on line.

It is understood that an American resident in France and a beneficiary of a trust has commenced proceedings in France’s highest administrative court Conseil d’Etat for the equivalent of an injunction for the removal of the online register from the internet. She has also asked for the administrative court to refer the matter to France’s constitutional court Conseil constitutionnel based on protection of her private life under the French constitution. The injunction hearing (to be heard in public) is on 19th July 2016.

If the French court upholds the legality of the online register then it seems we are headed for a new era in tax transparency in which it is difficult to argue why all tax information about everyone should not be made completely public. Why should people who happen to be beneficiaries of a trust who have never filed any tax return or consented or indeed lived in or had anything to do with France have their details put on line whilst someone resident in France with a proven history of systematic tax evasion have his identity protected? Why should a child have their tax details published on line when they cannot consent and may not even know they are a beneficiary of a trust?

The choice for the French tax authorities is binary. You either keep people’s tax information confidential or you publish everyone’s tax details. It is deeply disturbing that a country like France, with its Republican values and record on human rights, has taken this ill-considered and almost certainly illegal action.

David Anderson

July 2016