We have been discussing the tax policies of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government — a record that I have criticized as ruinous from an economic standpoint. A recent report indicates that for some high-earning families — more than 8,000 — the Hollande policies impose a 100% tax. It is the ultimate “eat the rich” policy. Even for those families facing a 75% rate, it is unclear why they would continue to work in the country. Many are not. France is experiencing a flight of both high earners and companies.
The bizarre 100% tax is the result of a one-off levy last year on 2011 incomes for households with assets of more than 1.3 million euros ($1.67 million). The surcharge was imposed shortly after Hollande took office on a promise to hit the rich with high taxes. The Hollande 75% direct tax was so unfair that the Constitutional Council struck it down. However, this report states that the one-off levy effectively pushed some families to a 100% tax.
The newspaper Les Echos found that nearly 12,000 households paid taxes last year worth more than 75 percent of their 2011 revenues due to the exceptional levy. ($1 = 0.7798 euros).
Putting aside how many families are impacted by taxes above 75%, it is in my view an insane, self-destructive economic policy for France. I just spent an evening with a friend and his parents discussing the situation in France. This is a moderate family politically that has long fished in French waters. My friend is now an American citizen but his parents and family remain in France. They recounted how they had to destroy half of their ships because of taxes. They are seeing other businesses doing the same or simply moving out of France. These a patriotic and proud French people but they are watching their government cannibalize off the economy. The government is getting instant revenue while killing revenue producing businesses. It is like eating the grapes and roots of the vineyards of Bordeaux for food and leaving the fields barren.
As someone who truly loves visiting France, it is disheartening to watch Hollande’s cultural war on the wealthy. I favor higher taxes as part of a comprehensive package of reforms in this country and other countries. However, Hollande’s expressed hatred of the rich resulted in a political success and now an economic disaster. It is also grossly unfair to wealth French who love their country and are not opposed to making sacrifices. Hollande played the class card and told the French that their problems were due to a sinister upper class rather than France’s high labor costs and burgeoning budgets. Even if one dismisses this study and the one-year levy, there are still many thousands of families and businesses who face a government demanding 75 percent tax rates.
These policies however will only lengthen the economic crisis. Indeed, France is already viewed as a hostile country for business and that is likely to continue under Hollande who is fighting the French judges to impose taxes higher than what is viewed as constitutional or fair by the courts.