Obélix among the Belgians | Katonah-Lewisboro Real Estate

Gérard Depardieu, the French actor, has said he is giving up his passport in an escalation of his dispute with François Hollande’s Socialist government over its punitive tax rates.

In an open letter to Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, on Sunday, Mr Depardieu said he was quitting France for Belgium because “you consider that success, creativity and talent … must be sanctioned”.

The move by the 63-year-old film actor, who is popular in France after playing roles such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Astérix the Gaul’s sidekick Obélix, would be the highest-profile departure since Mr Hollande imposed a 75 per cent tax rate on people earning more than €1m a year.

“I hand over my passport to you and my social security card, which I have never used,” the letter said, referring to prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

It is unclear whether Mr Depardieu has taken concrete steps to renounce his French citizenship though he has reportedly inquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency.

In his letter, Mr Depardieu said he had paid 85 per cent taxes on his revenues this year and estimated that he had paid €145m in total since he started work as a printer at the age of 14.

Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH and France’s richest man, has also sought to establish residency in Belgium, though he has insisted this is not for tax reasons.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, offered to “roll out the red carpet” to French tax exiles after Mr Hollande’s election in May, though much of the evidence of departures has remained largely anecdotal so far, with estate agents and hairdressers complaining about the loss of custom as bankers quit Paris.

Other business leaders such as Jean-Paul Agon, chief executive of L’Oréal, have warned of the damage to France as a global business destination from the new tax rate, which the government says is temporary while the economy recovers.

Mr Depardieu, who has put his luxury house on Paris’s Left Bank up for sale for an estimated €50m, had been labelled “pathetic” and unpatriotic by Mr Ayrault after it emerged that he was planning to leave the country.

In his angry letter, published in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Mr Depardieu said he had been “insulted” by Mr Ayrault.

“I haven’t killed anybody, I don’t think I have acted in an unworthy manner. I’ve paid €145m in taxes in 44 years, I have created work for 80 people in businesses that have been created for them and which are managed by them. I’m not complaining or looking for praise but I reject the word ‘pathetic’.”

The actor added: “Who are you to judge me like this, Mr Ayrault? I ask you, who are you?”

The furore has taken place amid evidence of the increasing unpopularity of Mr Hollande’s government, including from the left after its perceived capitulation during a dispute with ArcelorMittal over the closure of two steel furnaces.

Ifop, the French pollsters, said at the weekend that Mr Hollande’s public approval rating was just 37 per cent and Mr Ayrault’s 35 per cent.

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  1. Report A_Reader | December 16 8:45pm |

    Dear All,

    Let me see if I understood well. CB’s printed money to keep the Oligarchy intact and the whole Socio-economic structures exactly as it was before the crisis. This means that in practice nothing changed in terms of who has the power.

    We have in place the same people who did the bad decisions and the bad investments and who to save their own positions have literally messed up the lives of the ones who had foreseen and advised what had to be done before the crisis. had the CB’s not put a penny in the system and let it fail wll the current Establishement would be now failing and in disgrace. Insurance companies would have gone broken and also many of the asset managment companies and the banks and in this way the so called billionares would have a high probability of being in the best of the cases millionaires.

    Only the few ones with access to liquidity would have been saved. People who would be honest and have their assets in a non-leveraged way would be saved and would probably be quite rich as they would be able to buy those expensive assets for peanuts.

    The good ones would have been the ones gettiong the world. Now what we have is the richers even more richer having used the money from the rest to keep the Status Quo just like it was…. and they do not want to understand that they have been bailed out…. at the cost of the good ones….

    What a mess!!

    Mr Depardieu is certainly right in not wanting to pay 75% in taxes…. but I am not sure he is well aware of how much he would have lost if the crooks would not have been saved by the current crooks in power…

    What a robery!!

    Many thanks, Best regards, A_Reader

  2. Report Bob G. | December 16 8:11pm |

    The French socialist revolution is going to sink France into depression. How can one dream of grandeur in a country that will Robin Hood your money to feed government bureaucrats? It doesn’t even make its way to the poor. France declared war on finance and rich people. They certainly have every right to flea the country under asylum rules. Will France succeed as a country of technocrats, striking unions and whiners? Let’s see.

  3. Report Apostle | December 16 6:38pm |

    Pathetic are Ayrault’s personal attacks and Hollande’s leadership.

    Ayrault and Hollande have taken a sharp left turn, their road leads to serfdom and poverty, their sermons of ‘high taxes are patriotic’ nothing more than Orwellian ‘slavery is freedom’ and ‘ignorance is strength’.

    Merci, Mr. Depardieu, for having the courage to stand up, speak your mind and walk out in protest.

  4. Report Thinkofitthisway | December 16 6:23pm |

    Not much to add to Depardieu´s very good letter. One cannot help but feel contempt for a government which pushes people out of their own country. Arrogant, resentful and short sighted the Hollande team represents the worst kind of conservatism: no ideas, no courage, just slimy and cheap populism.

  5. Report W Kurtz | December 16 6:21pm |

    Obviously he is just a greedy unpatriotic old man Who for some reason is unhappy with retaining a generous 15% of the income he had earned. The real question here is why let him keep that 15% . Why not make the tax 99% of income or better yet get it over with and take 100% of what he earns. If he does not comply we can assassinate his character.. to start with. From each according to his means, to each according to his needs. Clearly the government can redistribute that money in a better fashion than he can. Hmm. Where have we seen this kind of model before? Anyway I’m sure it will work out fine.

  6. Report MacroMacro | December 16 5:32pm |

    At 75 PCF tax revenues will still fall short, so what then 85 pct, 90 pct, perchais thé lot.

  7. Report MarkH | December 16 4:45pm |

    The rich in the USA are kicking and screaming about a modest tax increase from 35% to as much as 39% and consider the new rate would be crippling. Is it any wonder that the sensible wealthy like M. Depardieu are fleeing France when faced with a ridiculous rate of 75%?

    Well done, Gerard, for showing some common sense and sending a message to the lunatic left in Paris and let’s hope that more like you leave France in the immediate future until Holland et co get the message that this super tax and other measures they are taking are doing irreparable damage to the French economy. Once the wealthy businessmen flee the country and take their businesses with them, they won’t be coming back.

  8. Report SZehle | December 16 4:44pm |

    According to a survey carried out by Ipsos in 2011 in France, 66 % of French parents would like their children to become civil servants “fonctionnaire”. In other words they want their children to be paid by other people who create wealth. To finance those ambitions a tax rate of 75% seems roughly right.

  9. Report The real greybeard | December 16 3:54pm |

    @Nina Benitez
    Difficult to be a young person in Europe today. Educated beyond the capacity of the job market. Well educated but nobody gives a damn. Just wanting an opportunity to start somehow, somewhere …

  10. Report Nina Benitez | December 16 1:42pm |

    The current Socialist government has no new ideas. It’s still following the OLD prescriptions. There is nothing in the policies of Hollande’s government to help young people start new businesses. Young people in France suffer disproportionately high unemployment. They work on lousy temporary contracts for low wages. They’re ambitious and want independence (i.e. starting their own businesses) just like lots of young people around the world. But France’s regulations make it so hard and expensive for a young person to do that and now, the government, via its increased taxes, has just made it impossible for these new businesses to raise capital. Many young, smart, ambitious people are leaving France. And it’s not because they’re greedy. They just want to have a decent chance to start something of their own.

  11. Report The real greybeard | December 16 1:07pm |

    Let him go.

    When you are rich you can decide where to reside. This is a benefit of being rich and when you are rich enough you will decide where you want to live, whatever the income tax..

    I have several friends who left UK to avoid tax. Of course the UK does not control how often they are in UK so it is an easy scam. Still they worry when they cross the border.

    Personally I am rich enough that I do not care about the tax rate and I live where I choose. Luxury!

    Tax avoidance is for the in-betweens.

  12. Report Frank63 | December 16 1:06pm |

    Yes, the wealthy should pay their fair share towards society, but paying 85% or even 75% in taxes is simply daylight robbery. No sane government should imagine that it can take away half or more of anyone’s income. Psychologically not holding onto half of what you earn is simply going to enrage most people and cause them to take evasive action. The French smash and grab is a lazy way of dealing with the real issues.

    Having said, the current capitalist system is surely broken and we need a different form of capitalism, but again, grabbing 50% or more of what a person or company earns is not the way to go.

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