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French Grand Prix problems

THERE are renewed doubts about the future of the French Grand Prix following the revelation that the international automobile federation is involved in a serious dispute with the French tax authorities and the governing body of motor sport may decide that it does not want to be involved in any activities in France until the problems are solved.

The dispute over tax dates back to the early 1990s when the French government argued that the FIA should pay taxes as it was making too much money to be considered a non-profit making organization. The FIA argued that the French had no right to any money but a deal was struck during the last period of Republican government with the FIA pledging to stay in France if it was left alone by the authorities. The arrival of the current socialist government seems to have changed that situation and last year the FIA transferred its offices to Geneva in Switzerland. As a result the French have increased their pressure on the FIA, arguing that the organization should pay tax on money it made between 1990 and 1992.

Jacques Regis, the President of the French national sporting authority - the FFSA - said last week that the dispute constitutes "a serious threat" to the French GP because the FIA will not negotiate commercial contracts with the French authorities until the problem has been solved. In the past the threat that France will lose its Grand Prix is usually sufficient to get the government to negotiate but at the moment it seems Lionel Jospin's ministers are not being helpful.

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