French star Gerard Depardieu has upped the ante in his tax battle with the government of French President Francois Hollande, threatening to hand back his French passport in protest.
In an open letter to President Hollande and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault published Sunday in Le Journal du Dimanche, the Oscar-nominated actor said he was “insulted” by government attacks on his decision to move to a town in Belgium just across the French border in an apparent attempt to avoid paying higher French taxes.
Depardieu’s move comes in response to a new 75 percent tax on the wealthy introduced by Hollande’s left-leaning government. The new tax rate, which comes in next year, will tax all income above $1.3 million (€1 million) at the new 75 percent rate. Across the border in Belgium, there is no wealth tax and capital gains on stock sales are also tax-free.
Depardieu’s move to the small Belgian town of Nechin, within walking distance of the French border, has been roundly criticized in the French media. Prime Minister Ayrault called his decision to move “shabby,” “pathetic” and unpatriotic at a time of austerity programs.
“Pathetic, you say? Pathetic!” Depardieu’s letter to Ayrault begins, before the actor claims he has paid “$190 million (€145 million)” to the French state in taxes over the past 45 years and that he employs 85 people. “I do not mean to complain or brag but I refuse to be called ‘pathetic,'” Depardieu writes. The actor, who is known for his conservative political views, goes on to say he and France’s current Socialist government “no longer have the same country.”
The 75 percent wealth tax has drawn sharp criticism from some quarters in France, with Chanel fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld calling Hollande an “idiot” for introducing the new law and celebrities such as singer Johnny Hallyday and the actor Alain Delon leaving the country for tax reasons.