Friday, December 21, 2012

Flush French Fleeing France

Pardon the title, but I couldn't resist.

Dear America: this is what
a socialist really looks like.
Photo courtesy Jean-Marc Ayrault
Sadly, some rich French people are fleeing France due to President Hollande. Hollande, who once famously stated that he hates rich people, is pressing ahead with plans to tax rich people at 75% when even Hollande's advisors admit that the millionaire tax is merely symbolic and won't generate substantial revenue.


I've already written about Bernard Arnault, the richest man in Europe, leaving France and giving up his citizenship, but now the legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu has moved to Belgium and is giving up his French citizenship. In an open letter to Hollande, Depardieu wrote "Je pars, après avoir payé, en 2012, 85% d’impôt sur mes revenus" (I leave after having paid, in 2012, 85% of my income in taxes).

Yes, I would leave, too. Interestingly, one (online) poll shows that 70% of France supports Depardieu decision.

Experienced politicians know that when you're in a hole, you stop digging. You simply don't get on the national stage by compounding error after error. Remember Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, or Rick Perry in the US (or Dan Quayle, for the older folks)? Despite widely discussed and anticipated presidential ambitions, they're never going to be President. You simply can't rise to that level of power by looking like a bumbler.

Well, except for Hollande. During the recent French presidential campaign (which I'm sure all of you were following keenly, right?), he was sometimes described as a left-wing Mitt Romney: a boring, out-of-touch, bureaucrat. He didn't win the French presidential election so much as fell into it. Sarkozy, the former French president, started embracing allegedly racist far-right positions in an attempt to win votes from Marine Le Pen's followers. Hollande's lackluster campaign responded with an unusually brilliant and provocative ad, putting Hollande in a campaign video with "Niggas in Paris" as the music and people of many different races holding up their electoral cards.


So catching up to the present day, rich-bashing President Hollande is continuing with his plans to tax rich people at 75%, despite some of them publicly leaving the country as a result, despite lackluster support from the French people, despite France's beloved Depardieu sharply rebuking Hollande. Now that Hollande is in a hole, he may be reaching for the shovel.

It appears that France is again considering the idea of taxing "tax exiles" who live abroad. There are, of course, many issues with this. Tax treaties with many countries would have to be renegotiated and defining "tax exile" could be difficult. Much of the information around this is unclear, due in part to the problematic aspects of the proposal, but it's entirely possible that the French government may consider shifting the tax from residency to nationality, joining the US as the only other country to do so (the Eritrean dictatorship imposes a 2% "income tax" on expats, but Canada has ruled that it's illegal to collect and Sweden may join them).

I can't tell if my French is so poor that I can't quite grasp those articles or if they're just vague (I suspect a combination of the two), but my mind immediately races to our daughter. She's French-American. What happens if France decides to start taxing their expats, too? She could easily live in London, have a well-paid job and go broke under the weight of trying to comply with taxes for three different countries. Hell, if the law passes, my wife and I could easily find that we can't afford to live anywhere but in France or the US. The world is becoming more and more complicated and countries don't seem to be doing a good job of keeping up with the complications.