One of France’s most famous footballers Eric Cantona once said “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” Well, Francois Hollande’s decision to levy a 75% tax on the wealthy appears to have the trawlers and wealthy speeding towards Belgium.
France’s Prime Minister has criticised citizens fleeing the tax on high earners, saying they were greedy profiteers seeking to ”become even richer”.
Jean-Marc Ayrault spoke out after France’s best-known actor, Gerard Depardieu, took up legal residence just over the border, in Belgium, with hundreds of other prosperous French people seeking lower taxes.
”Those who are seeking exile abroad are not those who are scared of becoming poor,” Mr Ayrault declared after unveiling sweeping anti-poverty measures. They were leaving ”because they want to get even richer”, he said. ”We cannot fight poverty if those with the most – and sometimes with a lot – do not show solidarity and a bit of generosity.” Announcing plans to spend up to €2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) by 2017 to help the poor, Mr Ayrault said poverty affected 12.9 per cent of the population in 2002, but the figure rose to 14.1 per cent in 2010.
France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, who famously once said ”I don’t like the rich”, has pledged to tax annual income of more than €1 million at 75 per cent. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would ”roll out the red carpet” for any French residents fleeing the tax increase.
Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now slapped on individuals with assets over 1.3 million euros ($1.70 million), nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales. France has also imposed a 75-percent tax on incomes exceeding 1 million euros.
The tax hikes have been welcomed by left-wingers who say the rich must do more to help redress public finances but attacked by some wealthy personalities and foreign critics, who say it will increase tax flight and dampen investment.
Depardieu’s move comes three months after Arnault, chief executive of luxury giant LVMH, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium – a move he said was not motivated by tax reasons.
The left-leaning Liberation daily reacted with a front-page headline next a photograph of Arnault telling him to “Get lost, you rich jerk”, prompting luxury advertisers including LVMH to withdraw their advertisements.
It would seem that not even living French legends like Depardieu, who also played Napoleon Bonaparte, Cyrano de Bergerac, the Count of Monte Cristo and Pierre le Pelt in “102 Dalmatians,” are willing to subsidize French President Francois Hollande’s costly and divisive experiments in socialism.
Yet the French left is not amused. Socialist MP Yann Galut says Depardieu should be “stripped of his nationality.” Consumption Minister Benoit Hamon publicly branded the actor “anti-patriotic” and charged him with giving France “the finger.”