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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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