“The Covid debt of companies to the URSSAF still amounts to 18 billion euros”, Yann-Gaël Amghar (DG)

LA TRIBUNE – The French economy has stalled in recent months. And winter promises to be cold from an economic point of view. Have you noticed an increase in difficulties between companies since the start of the war in Ukraine?

YANN-GAEL AMGAHR We have been seeing resistance in the economic climate for several months. Hiring in the second quarter was certainly lower than in the first quarter, but remains on a higher level than before Covid. Employment remains at a much higher level than before the crisis.

The wage bill and the level of wages paid by companies are very dynamic in the first half of 2022. The average wage per capita has increased significantly over this period. As for corporate defaults, they continue to improve month after month. We have not returned to the pre-Covid level but to a near level. Missed payments last August were 2%, compared to 1.6% in August 2019. The indicators are pretty well oriented.

Have you noticed an increase in business failures since the beginning of the year?

There was an increase in the first half of 2022, but delinquencies fell so low in 2020 and 2021 that they remained below the pre-crisis level. Many actors had suspended a large number of proceedings. The “wall of failures” announced two years ago did not happen.

Businesses: bankruptcies rise in the second quarter (+ 49%) and approach the pre-Covid level

What balance do you draw from the two long years of pandemic for the activity of the USSR?

USSR had to adapt reactively by changing jobs. The USSR has played a role of enormous economic shock absorber with considerable deferrals of contributions. From 15 March 2020, at the time of the first confinement, several billion euros of contributions were immediately postponed.

The USSR has also provided aid to 200,000 self-employed workers in difficulty. We had to adapt to the evolution of the crisis. Sometimes it was necessary to tailor-made packaging based on territorial and sectoral constraints. We did not wait for the crisis to listen to business leaders who come to visit us.

Currently, we are thinking about how to perpetuate some approaches such as the logic of the liquidation plan. We come out of the crisis with large amounts of contribution deferral made during the crisis. These deferred amounts regularly decrease as companies enter into these liquidation plan logics.

The pandemic brought the USSR to suspend the deduction of contributions. For what is the current debt of companies towards the USSR?

If we look at the maturities between April 2020 and August 2022, the debt of companies towards the USSR amounts to 18 billion euros. A year ago, this debt amounted to 23 billion. The companies repaid part of their debt as part of the liquidation plans. Some of them did not wait for the settlement plans to pay off their debt.

How many customs clearance plans have there been in the past two years?

1.6 million customs clearance plans have been implemented for self-employed workers and 650,000 for employers. Today 80% of customs clearance plans are respected. Businesses regularly pay what they owe under these plans. This is a reassuring indicator of the ability of companies to pay off this Covid debt.

For At the end of last May you announced that the authoritarian recovery procedures would be resumed. For when will these procedures be implemented?

We must first remember that there is a question of financing the social model. The second issue concerns the fairness between companies that respect the rules of the game and those that try to avoid paying contributions. Finally, there is an issue of undistorted competition. We had suspended these procedures during the crisis, except in the context of covert work.

USSR will resume these recovery procedures with the aim of encouraging companies to return to a situation where they respect USSR. The goal is not to trap anyone. First of all, there is a phase in which we send companies an account statement towards the USSR. We invite companies to regularize their situation before the recovery procedure.

For companies that have not done so, Urssaf sends a friendly opinion. Companies always have the option of requesting a deferred payment. If the company does not regularize its situation following this sending, there is a warning. This resumption of recovery will begin gradually.

Recently, the Deliveroo company was ordered to pay 9.7 million euros for hidden work. Has the rise of the platform economy led to an increase in litigation in recent years?

The fight against illegal work is not just a question of financing the social model. It is also a question of social rights for employees, but also of fairness and healthy competition between companies. For more than a decade, USSR adjustments have been increasing year on year and this increase is the result of many factors other than the platform economy.

We have invested a lot more resources in turnarounds. Between 2017 and 2022 there was a 30% increase in the number of inspectors dedicated to the fight against illegal work. The USSR is making progress in targeting controls by taking sides data extraction. These are techniques that allow you to better target the risks of hidden work. USSR has also developed legal expertise on dossiers presenting complex agreements.

Have the two long years of the pandemic suspended checks?

The fight against fraud and hidden work was suspended only during the first confinement. As regards the control activity, which is characterized by the verification of errors committed by companies, it was decided in 2020 and 2021 not to intervene in the most fragile sectors. Controls in these sectors resumed in 2022 considering that activity had returned to normal.

All help provided Opera have they led to an increase in fraud?

We haven’t seen any more errors or frauds. As soon as new measures are put in place, there is always a risk of fraud or error. Economic actors must take charge of these new rules. We have done a lot of support and training with companies for deferrals or exemptions from contributions.

On January 1, 2023, the USSR will have to take care of the collection of Agirc-Arrco contributions. At the beginning of the summer, several senators asked for the postponement of this great reform to January 1, 2024. Where are you?

It is first of all a reform to simplify businesses. They will have only one interlocutor instead of two for the recovery of contributions. USSR has been working on this reform for three years. Technically, we are ready for this collection transfer. Agirc-Arrco’s contributions represent almost 80 billion euros every year.

It is a form of simplification for businesses. There is a performance problem in collecting these contributions. A gain is expected from the extension of the USSR checks to the Agirc-Arrco checks. Currently, the controls and adjustments concern only the sector of the USSR contributions. Tomorrow it will be possible to carry out our checks on Agirc-Arrco contributions. This is an employee rights issue, but also a financial one. Finally, there are predictable gains thanks to the centralization of collections and controls.

This reform is part of a larger movement to centralize collections in the social sphere around the USSR. More than ten years ago, for example, the collection of unemployment insurance contributions was transferred to the USSR. USSR has developed skills in all these new missions.

Interview by Grégoire Normand