Gerard Depardieu Leaves France For Russia Over Misguided 75% Tax On the Wealthy

Update: Depardieu has become a Russian citizen after the 75% French tax on wealthy citizens. A short message on the Kremlin website announced this news.

"Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Gerard Depardieu," the message read.

Depardieu recently announced he would give up his French passport after the government criticised his decision to move abroad to avoid higher taxes (see beow).

In December, Putin said he would be happy to welcome the actor in Russia.

"I'm sure the French authorities did not want to offend Mr Depardieu. But if he'd like to have a Russian passport, consider it settled," Putin said during his annual news conference on 20 December.

.....

Few Frenchmen are more recognizable at home and abroad than the movie star Gerard Depardieu. Last week, Depardieu caused a great controversy in his native land by moving to Belgium — partly to avoid the 75% income tax on the wealthy that was introduced by the socialist President of France, Francois Hollande. Depardieu’s move was condemned by the French political establishment, including the Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who called the actor’s action “pathetic.”

Depardieu shot back; in an open letter to Monsieur Ayrault, he wrote, “I’m leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished. I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used.” The French actor claims to have “paid 85% taxes on his revenues this year [2012] and estimated that he had paid €145m ($189m) in total since he started work as a printer at the age of 14.”

The lessons from Monsieur Hollande’s debacle should be obvious. The rich are a mobile lot and there are plenty of countries that will welcome them with open arms. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has promised to “roll out a red carpet” for the French tax refuges.

Moreover, as my colleague Alan Reynolds reminds us, high tax rates on income may discourage many wealthy people from remaining in the labor force, since, to use economic jargon, their elasticity of taxable income is much higher than that of low and middle income earners. Translated into English, people like me have to work even if our tax rates go up, because we have to come up with money to pay our mortgages, student loans, etc. The rich people don’t.

The French government was warned of the negative consequences of tax increases. It chose to ignore those warnings. Instead, the French socialists assumed that they could go on plucking the golden goose indefinitely. (Then again, the socialist grasp on reality has never been very good.)

Of course, when idiotic policies backfire, politicians feign surprise and then shift the blame onto others. Thus, French Labor Minister Michel Sapin asked in a radio interview “What is more normal than those who earn enormous amounts of money paying lots of tax?” The French Culture and Communication Minister Aurelie Filippetti bemoaned Depardieu’s action by stating that “We shouldn’t be receiving moral lessons from people who abandon the battlefield when we need everyone to be mobilized.”

So, there you have it. A great actor who started with nothing and built a spectacular career that revived the French movie industry and filled the coffers of the French state is condemned for finally standing up for himself by a member of parasitic political elite that has brought a great country to the edge of fiscal ruin. Straight out of Ayn Rand’s novel.

This article originally appeared on the Cato@Liberty blog.

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Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy is a policy analyst with the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing, and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. His articles have been published in the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal (U.S. and Europe), The Atlantic, Spectator (UK), Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Reason magazine, and various other outlets both in the United States and overseas. Tupy has appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN International, BBC World, CNBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and other channels. He has worked on the Council on Foreign Relations' Commission on Angola, testified before the U.S. Congress on the economic situation in Zimbabwe, and briefed the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department on political developments in Central Europe. Tupy received his B.A. in international relations and classics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain.

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