* Tax is equivalent to oil distribution sector’s margin
* Minister says tax a “one-off in principle”
* Industry says tax will hit refiners hard
PARIS, July 4 (Reuters) - France confirmed on Wednesday it would impose a one-off tax on the oil sector to raise some 550 million euros ($693 million), helping depleted government coffers but hurting its struggling refining industry.
“This should, in principle, be a one-off tax,” Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac told reporters at a news conference presenting the amended bill for France’s 2012 budget.
The tax, which the new Socialist government said would tap a sector whose margins have been boosted by the sharp rise in oil prices, will hit all owners of oil stocks in mainland France, from refiners to supermarket petrol stations and traders.
The tax will amount to 4 percent of the value of average crude and fuel stocks owned in the last three months of 2011, the bill document showed.
That includes refineries of oil majors such as Total , which had a total net profit of 12.3 billion euros in 2011, and petrol stations owned by supermarket chains such as Carrefour.
However, the targeted French oil distribution industry had a net margin of about 500 million euros last year, according to statistics from the Comite Professionel du Petrole industry think-tank, equivalent to the amount sought by the government.
The head of France’s oil industry body UFIP Jean-Louis Schilansky told Reuters last month the tax would be a severe blow for the ailing refining sector.
European refiners have been struggling for years due to poor margins and weak demand for fuel products, prompting Total to shut its Dunkirk, northern France, refinery at the start of 2010 and Petroplus to end refining at its Reichstett plant in eastern France in May 2011. ($1 = 0.7933 euros) (Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Daniel Flynn; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Keiron Henderson and David Holmes)