Three Orders based on 23 March 2020 Emergency Act No. 2020-290 declaring Covid-19 state of health emergency have been published in the Official Journal dated May 14 2020. They modify and detail certain tax measures provided by the first Orders dated March 25.
I. Deadline applicable to different procedures during the health emergency period
Order No. 2020-306 of 25 March 2020 has postponed certain deadlines that expire during the "legally protected period" defined as starting on 12 March 2020 until one month from the date of termination of the state of health emergency, which was to take place at the end of a period of two months after 23 March 2020. The Order n°2020-560 confirms the end of the legally protected period at 23 June 2020 (included).
Article 3 of Order n° 2020-306 specified that deadlines that parties are to meet where they are under an inquiry measure ordered by a court other than an administrative court - submission of a document or a statement - were postponed until two months after the end of the legally protected period. Order n° 2020-560 extends the deadline to three months, hence to 23 September 2020. Provisions applicable to procedures before administrative courts are described below.
Order n° 2020-306 provided for a suspended statute of limitations for tax reassessments during the legally protected period (Article 10, I-1°). In addition, any deadline to be met in the course of a tax audit is suspended during such period (Article 10, I-2°). Order 2020-560 extends such suspension of statute of limitations and tax audit deadlines until 23 August 2020 included. It specifically provides, with respect to deadlines applicable for tax audits, that such deadlines are those provided by Title II of the first, second and third parts of the Tax procedural code (i.e. those provided not only by legal provisions but also those provided by administrative regulations). However, the end of the suspension for deadlines applicable to rulings remains on 23 June 2020 included.
Order n° 2020-560 authorizes the Government to anticipate, by a Decree issued by the Administrative Supreme Court, the end of the period where the Orders issued based on the 23 March 2020 Law when defined by reference to the end of the state of health emergency and when a change in the sanitary situation justifies such anticipation.
II. Adaptation of the rules applicable to administrative and criminal courts
Order No. 2020-305 dated 25 March 2020 provided for an extension of the term for inquiry measures to come to a close. If it expired between 12 March 2020 and the end of the state of emergency, it was extended for a month after the end of the state of emergency, unless a magistrate grants an additional extension of the term. Order n° 2020-558 dated 13 May 2020 sets on 23 June 2020 the extension for inquiry measures with a term expiring up to 23 May 2020.
An extension for inquiry measures with a term between 12 March 2020 and 23 June 2020 has been decided and set on 24 August 2020. Such provisions, which were not part of the original wording of the Order which did not address the inquiry measures, replace, with respect to administrative courts, provisions of Article 3 of the Order n° 2010-306 dated 25 March 2020. Yet, it is provided that whenever the emergency or the state of the case requires so, the judge may set a shorter period.
Order n° 2020-305 provided that for the period covered from 12 March 2020 to the end of the state of emergency, the starting point of the term granted to a magistrate to rule is postponed to the first day of the second month following the end of the state of health emergency. In tax matters, the following procedures are covered by this provision:
- Emergency tax proceedings as regards payment deferral - Article L.279 of the Tax procedural code which sets that the court must rule within one month; or
- In blazing tax offence proceedings - Article L.16-0 BA of the Tax procedural code which sets that the court must rule within 15 days.
Order n°2020-558 sets to 1 July 2020 the new starting point for applicable deadlines between 12 March and 23 May 2020.
Order n° 2020-303 dated 25 March 2020 adapting the rules of criminal law procedure provided measures which were applicable until the end of a month period starting from the end of the state of health emergency. Order n° 2020-557 dated 13 May 2020 authorizes the Government to end, in advance and by decree, the application of all or part of the provisions of the first Order, on all or part of the French territory. Afterwards, as long as the original period has not expired, a second decree could provide again the application of such provisions.
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