French lawmakers vote for ‘right to make mistakes’

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PARIS: French lawmakers have voted for a flagship article in a new law which will give citizens the “right to make mistakes” in dealings with the government without being automatically punished.

The article, which was adopted by a show of hands Tuesday night in the National Assembly, is the “cornerstone” of a law for “a state in the service of a trustworthy society”, according to the government.

The law is part of reforms President Emmanuel Macron touted during his electoral campaign to allow citizens to make a mistake in good faith in their dealings with the authorities without risking punishment from the first infringement.

It will be up to the administration to prove that the person was acting in bad faith.

“The expansion of the right to make a mistake adopted by the Assembly just now!” minister of public action and accounts Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter.

“It is a revolution in the relations between the administration and the administered.”

To err is human but the divine forgiveness of the government will be “limited to the first mistake”, according to a change made to the article at the insistence of dissenters.

At the opening of the debate, the minister said the government had listened to “the French who like their public services but not their administration”, citing a letter of grievances sent him by one “Alexandre”.

Lawmakers will have to consider dozens of further articles in the bill on the extent of the right to make mistakes.

The right to err will not apply in a number of cases, such as public health.

Note that the right to error is the possibility for each French to be wrong in his statements for the administration without risking a penalty from the first breach.

Everyone must be able to rectify, spontaneously or during an assessment when the mistake is made in good faith.

It is based on a good faith a priori: the burden of proof is reversed, it will be up to the administration to demonstrate the bad faith of the user.

Considered a “catch-all” by some officials, the bill deals with subjects as diverse as modifying procedures for obtaining a permit for the installation of wind farms at sea or the possibility of making donations to churches by SMS.

Taxpayers’ law to err

On Nov 27, 2107, a tax bill “Droit à l’erreur” renamed draft law for a State in the service of a trustworthy society was presented to the Council of Ministers. It aimed at simplifying and establishing a right to error for everyone, pledge of a change of register in the relationship between the French citizens and their administrations.

The French Minister of Public Accounts and Action introduced the bill, which implements the right to make mistakes, one of President Macron’s campaign commitments.

These tax provisions focus primarily on errors made in good faith in returns, delays or omissions that fall outside its scope.

Thus, in case of erroneous or incomplete declaration:

  • either the taxpayer spontaneously rectifies the error and thus incurs only the interest of delay possibly due reduced by half (remember that its rate should fall to 0,20% per month within the framework of the bill of finance rectified for 2017) ;
  • the administration detects the error during an assessment on documents and the interest of delay possibly due would be reduced by 30% since the taxpayer makes a request for regularization within 30 days following this control;
  • or the administration demonstrates bad faith and late interest will be applied without any reduction.

The following are examples of errors: the omission of a proof, the failure to subscribe to the declaration of result by dematerialized way.