French Public Register of Trusts is Declared Unconstitutional
From 30 June 2016, the French Public Register of Trusts was made accessible to the public further to a decree signed on 10 May 2016. It was designed to contain information on trusts having links with France and for which the trustees are subject to the specific annual and event-driven trust returns filed with the French tax authorities.
An 89-year American individual, who was settlor of trusts subject to the French reporting, challenged the implementation of the public access to this Register on the basis that the information made available to the public through this Register leaded to the disclosure of her testamentary intentions (while these information was initially contained in the trustee returns filed with the French tax authorities). This public access (even limited to individuals who have a French tax identification number) was considered as in breach of her privacy rights guaranteed by the French Constitution. The Court then suspended the public access to this Register as from 22 July 2016.
On this ground, the French Supreme Administrative Court referred the matter to the French Constitutional Court which declared the French Public Register of Trusts unconstitutional in a decision of 21 October 2016. The French Constitutional Court held that the Register imposes a disproportionate infringement of the right to privacy compared to the constitutional aim of fight against tax fraud and evasion. The access to this register should have been restricted as to whom can consult it. In line with the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the latter should have at least a legitimate interest to access the information derived from the trustee returns.