French Constitutional Council removes tax benefits for international federations. GETTY IMAGES

The French Constitutional Council has ruled that the provisions of the budget that benefit international sports federations such as FIFA or FIBA from 2024 onwards are unconstitutional because they violate the principle of equality before the law.

Created in 1958, the Constitutional Council has the power to review the constitutionality of laws in France. It considered that the tax benefits granted to international organisations or federations established in France, which have traditionally been based in Switzerland for tax and legal purposes, violated the principle of equality before the law.

The modification seeking tax benefits for international federations was proposed by Mathieu Lefèvre, a member of the Renaissance party, but was rejected by the Council's legal experts. The new law aimed to exempt international sports federations from corporation tax and various contributions (CFE, CVAE) for their management of sport or promotion of sporting activities.

The amendment, which was drafted by a member of President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron's party, also provided for an income tax exemption for employees of international sports federations who reside in France for five years.

While the amendment was not specifically aimed at FIFA and could apply to other federations such as FIBA or FIVB, which have also moved their headquarters from France to Switzerland in the past in order to benefit from tax and legal advantages, it was tailor-made for the federation with the most fans and registered athletes in the world. It is not easy to change the internal legislation of the sixth world power and second in Europe without strong interests such as those represented by FIFA.

Members of the French Constitutional Council. CONSEIL CONSTITUTIONNEL
Members of the French Constitutional Council. CONSEIL CONSTITUTIONNEL

In Zurich, the association founded in France on 21 May 1904 and now chaired by Gianni Infantino, benefits from a special regime that limits tax payments to 12%, although it reportedly pays around 20.5 million euros in taxes.

The Council found a flaw in the law because the legislator did not base its assessment on objective or rational criteria in line with its intended purpose. The inconsistency was that the only requirement was recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which creates inequality before the law without any legal or rational basis. The decision was therefore based on the Council's condemnation of Article 31 of the contested law as a violation of the principle of equality before the law.

Thus, the open secret of FIFA's intention to return to its Parisian origins after more than 90 years seems to have been thwarted by a violation of the principle of equality according to the criteria of the Constitutional Council. If world football's governing body would behave like any other legal entity and not always seek laws that favour it over others, the doors would be open for it to return to rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, where it was founded almost 120 years ago.