Presented to the Council of Ministers this Wednesday, the finance bill includes various measures, such as the creation of a tax on motorway and airport concessionaires.
Here it is, finally. After several months of work, the finance bill (PLF) for 2024 was presented this Wednesday in Bercy by the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, and his counterpart in charge of Public Accounts, Thomas Cazenave. This text is eagerly awaited in Parliament, where everyone keeps in mind the incandescent debates around the budget last year. At the time, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne used article 49.3 ten times during the review, a strategy she could repeat this fall.
Forecasts, main measures, officials, opinions from the Court of Auditors: Le Figaro takes stock of what is contained in this draft budget, designed in particular to “fight against inflation“, “control expenses” And “create room for maneuver to invest» and lower taxes again.
Forecasts: a “complex economic environment”
In its forecasts, the executive is rather optimistic, counting on growth of 1% in 2023 and 1.4% in 2024. “A pace close to the long-term trend of the French economy», underlines Bercy. Next year, exports and household consumption would rebound, and inflation would fall to 4.9% this year, then 2.6% next year. In 2023, the energy tariff shield would have made it possible, on its own, to “reduce the general price level by about two points», calculates the ministry. The growth figures for 2023 and 2024 are more optimistic than those of the Banque de France or INSEE.
At the same time, the executive hopes to see the deficit fall below 5% of GDP this year. It would then return to 4.4% of GDP next year. The debt would stagnate at around 109.7% of GDP. State expenditure would bemastered”, of the order of 491 billion euros in 2024, a “marked decline […] which reflects the exit from exceptional measures deployed during the health, energy and inflation crises“. Revenues, for their part, would increase by 14 billion euros, mainly thanks to corporate tax and VAT. The number of civil servants is expected to continue to increase, moreover.
Forecasts “optimistic“, “few structural savings measures»: the harsh opinion of the Court of Auditors
If the executive assures that its forecasts are in line with international authorities, the High Council of Public Finances is more critical. Hearing in the Senate on Wednesday morning, the first president of the Court of Auditors considered the government’s estimates “optimistic”. The growth hypothesis in 2024 is thus “high”, above the consensus of experts, even though “the level of uncertainty remains high» and that the clouds have not cleared over the global economy. “Some hypotheses appear quite fragile», noted Pierre Moscovici, citing the effect, for example, of the increase in the cost of credit on households and businesses. “The fact that it is possibly unattainable does not make it a good basis for a finance law“, summarized the representative, qualifying the objective “high but not unattainable“.
Same observation for the public balance, judged “optimistic“. The revenue forecasts are “high”, since they are based on growth that is itself dynamic. On the expense side, “the bulk of the savings presented – 16 billion euros – comes from the end» exceptional measures in the face of the health crisis or inflation. The draft budget contains, in reality, “few structural savings measures”, judged Pierre Moscovici. And this, while the debt burden will jump by an additional ten billion euros next year. The High Council therefore once again calls for “greater vigilance regarding the medium-term sustainability of public finances“.
Measures for businesses and households
In addition to the indexation of retirement pensions to inflation – a legal obligation – many forms of assistance will be increased, such as the disabled adults’ allowance, return to work assistance or the RSA. Faced with inflation, the State will put billions of euros on the table: indexations alone will mobilize “almost 25 billion euros“. Added to this, for example, is 3.7 billion euros for the increase in the civil servants’ index point. The government has also already announced that the electricity price shield will remain in place until 2025.
The zero-rate loan is extended by the PLF, but “refocused“: this extension now excludes “the financing of work for the installation of heating devices running on fossil fuels, maintains the financing of work to improve the energy performance of buildings and plans to provide the oldest rehabilitated housing units with a long-term exemption from property tax on built properties“.
On the business side, the budget provides, as Bruno Le Maire indicated, the elimination of “the minimum contribution to the CVAE“. The rest should disappear by the end of the five-year term.
Ecology: an extra effort
As Elisabeth Borne announced, the PLF provides 7 billion euros more for “ecological planning», bringing the total to 40 billion euros. The credits planned to renovate housing will increase by 1.6 billion euros – a sum which should make it possible to achieve the objective of “200,000 renovations from 2024» -, and the same sum will be disbursed to finance the “transport future plan» from the Prime Minister. The State will also increase the “investments in green business innovation”, to support them in their transition, and deploy “MyAccompanistRenov’».
The government also wants to continue its “support for renewable energies“, in particular by launching a call for tenders to produce carbon-free hydrogen. A tax credit will encourage the installation of “productive sectors» promoting the green technologies of tomorrow, such as photovoltaics, wind power or heat pumps. This one “could generate around 23 billion euros of investments» by 2030, calculates Bercy. The funds dedicated to the ecological bonus will also increase slightly, while being “better targeted»: as previously announced, a “environmental score» will help promote electric vehicles produced in Europe.
At the same time, tax expendituresbrunettes» – unfavorable to the environment – will be called into question, for example in the case of non-road diesel consumed by certain sectors. Likewise, the government will create a “tax on large operations of long-distance transport infrastructure» – airport platforms and “major highway concessions» -, which should bring in 600 million euros per year. These funds, which will be used to finance tomorrow’s transport, however risk triggering a legal battle, with concessionaires firmly opposing this route.
Security, defense, justice… Increases planned in many ministries
As desired by the military programming law, Defense budgets will continue to increase, as will those dedicated to internal security and Justice. Enough to acquire new anti-drone devices, allocate resources to “video protection», recruit in Justice or the Interior and modernize the equipment of the armies. Credits will also be dedicated to regional planning, for example by strengthening credits aimed at better managing the “flow of requests for the issuance of identity documents», or by mobilizing a few million euros to fight against violence against elected officials.
The government also intends to strengthen the resources dedicated to the fight against social and tax fraud. The executive will, for example, extend the experiment aimed at scanning social networks and the internet to detect “tax fraud”, and its scope will be broadened. Some agents will be able to “conduct active investigations under pseudonyms“. Bercy will also tighten the screw on the “transfert price», a mechanism that the consulting firm McKinsey would have used to avoid paying tax in France, according to a Senate report dating from last year. Likewise, new sanctions will be created to punish certain frauds, such as a “specific offense of incitement to tax evasion“.
The executive will mobilize 2.8 billion euros to fulfill its promise to better pay teachers from the start of the 2023 school year: 1.9 billion euros for the promised increases, and 900 million euros for “additional missions» which they can endorse, in exchange for a pay rise. At the same time, the universal national service continues its deployment, and a little less than 500 million euros will be mobilized to pay professional high school students during their internships. The executive will also increase aid for hiring work-study students to 3.9 billion euros and provide “300 million euros» in addition to France Travail, which must take over from Pôle emploi.
A passage that promises to be stormy in Parliament
It remains to be seen how this draft budget will be received by the oppositions. Many amendments should also be made during the examination, such as on the buyback of shares by companies, or the taxation of furnished tourist accommodation. Thomas Cazenave said to himself “open to proposals» of parliamentarians, certain modifications could therefore be integrated.
Elisabeth Borne, however, warned that she would not hesitate to speak out against systematic opposition from parliamentary groups, brandishing the threat of 49.3. “My responsibility is that France draws a perspective for its public finances […]to ensure that these texts are adopted“, she warned in Le Parisien, mid-September.