|Monday, 17 December 2012|
|The actor Gérard Depardieu will be French no more, so exasperated is he with French taxes and the French government, he declared in an angry open letter to France’s prime minister on Sunday, The New York Times reports.
Mr. Depardieu, who has been accused by France’s Socialist government of abandoning the country to avoid paying taxes, will be giving up his French citizenship and taking up residence over the border in Belgium, he wrote. Mr. Depardieu insisted that his move was not solely for tax reasons, but also because he felt the government believed that “success, creation, talent — difference, in fact — must be punished.”
Mr. Depardieu’s decision to leave France, where the Socialist government has created a 75 percent marginal tax rate for incomes above $1.3 million amid stagnating growth, rising unemployment and a contracting budget, has drawn reprobation from politicians of all ideological stripes, as well as the news media and a good number of ordinary citizens. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has called the actor’s departure unpatriotic and “pathetic,” while the labor minister, Michel Sapin, deemed it the sign of a “form of personal degeneration.”
In his letter, published in the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Mr. Depardieu said he had paid an 85 percent tax rate on his 2012 revenue and a total of 145 million euros, or $190 million, in taxes over his working life.
“I am neither to be pitied nor to be praised, but I refuse the word ‘pathetic,’ ” Mr. Depardieu wrote.
Mr. Depardieu, 63, who has been in almost 200 films and has won numerous awards, has drawn attention in recent years for his love of drinking and several related episodes that caused him embarrassment.
“Who are you to judge me so, I ask you, Mr. Ayrault?” he wrote in his letter. “Despite my excesses, my appetite and my love of life, I am a free being, sir, and I will remain polite.”
On Friday, President François Hollande took up the subject, calling for “ethical behavior” by French taxpayers and suggesting that France may renegotiate its fiscal conventions with Belgium. He also joked that French residents of Néchin, the Belgian border village where Mr. Depardieu has bought a home, should not get too comfortable. Mr. Hollande noted that the mayor there is also a Socialist.
While several wealthy French citizens have reportedly departed for other fiscal shores since Mr. Hollande’s election in May, Sunday brought the unanticipated return to France of the writer Michel Houellebecq, who had been living in Ireland, where tax rates are relatively low.
“The major reason is that I want to speak my language, once again, in everyday life,” Mr. Houellebecq wrote in an e-mail to Agence France-Presse, insisting that taxes and politics had little to do with his repatriation.
Mr. Depardieu, too, will be able to speak his native tongue in his new home. Though many Belgians speak Flemish, Mr. Depardieu’s neighbors in Néchin speak French.
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