The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Depardieu Says Adieu to High French Taxes

France’s steep new top-income tax rates have created another tax refugee. Gerard Depardieu, the famous French actor and a leading emblem of French culture, has relocated to Belgium.

With France’s new income tax rates, Depardieu would have to pay the government 75 percent of his income as tax in France (his asking price for a film is two million euros), whereas in Belgium he will only have to pay 50 percent. There is also no wealth tax in Belgium, whereas in France, anyone with more than 1.3 million euros worth of assets is taxed on this wealth.

The French government is fuming about the move, as the BBC News reports:

Speaking on the France 2 TV channel, [Prime Minister] Mr Ayrault said: “I find this quite shabby… All that just to avoid paying tax.”

Depardieu was a “great star” whom “everyone loves as an artiste”, he added.

However, according to the prime minister: “Paying a tax is an act of solidarity, a patriotic act.”

Depardieu is not the first of the French to question this definition of patriotism. Bernard Arnault, the owner of several luxury brands as well as one of the richest people in the world, recently moved to Belgium too, although he denied doing so for tax reasons.

By raising the tax rate, the French government made a choice. Facing a bloated budget, they could cut cut costs across the board and face the wrath of the public, or they could  raise taxes on the rich and face the wrath of a few choice individuals. Now that it is done, they will have to accept the consequences, even if it involves losing a few famous faces—not to mention their millions in potential tax revenue.

Meanwhile, the French need not fear: Depardieu won’t be too far away. His new house is about as close to the French border as you can possibly get: it was once a customs house.

Published on December 13, 2012 12:11 pm