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Taxing the Rich: Americans Have It Good, Compared to the French

Gerard Depardieu has become the latest to surrender his French passport and social security benefits, choosing to move to a bordering town in Belgium that's attracting many of France's wealthiest expatriates.
French actor Gerard Depardieu moved to Belgium to avoid France's high taxes on the rich. (Photo: AP)

With all of the chatter about class warfare and tax rates likely going up next month for high earners, it's important to remember that wealthy taxpayers in some countries have it worse.

America's rich will, for the most part, not be applauding when they see the top rate on qualified distributions jump from 15 percent this year to potentially as high as 43.4 percent in 2013.

Perhaps they should be glad that new rates will be so low: France is boosting the top tax rate on its wealthiest residents from 48 percent to a rate as high as 75 percent -- and inducing many business owners and celebrities to bid their home country adieu in the process.

Departure of Depardieu

Iconic French actor Gerard Depardieu has become the latest to surrender his French passport and social security benefits, choosing to move to a bordering town in Belgium that's attracting many of France's wealthiest expatriates.

It seems like something drawn from the pages of an Ayn Rand novel. There's an exodus by some -- though clearly not all -- of the country's most financially productive citizens. Revenue-hungry France thought that taxing the rich would be an easy fix to its problems. Instead, it may go from collecting 48 percent of earnings from some of them to zero percent.

If France wants class warfare, the rich can afford to move out if they don't want to be richly taxed.

Pardon My French

Come 2013, a 75 percent tax will be applied to those earning more than $1.3 million a year. President Francois Hollande is also raising the taxes that the well-to-do pay on capital gains and on household wealth.

If a successful businessman leaves, France may take a hit, but it's taking Depardieu's departure personally.

He's prolific. He's a tastemaker. The French government's strategy is to call him out as a traitor, but it may backfire. While France's prime minister is calling him "pathetic" for leaving, Depardieu is fighting back.

"I'm leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished," Depardieu wrote over the weekend in France's Le Journal du Dimanche, claiming that he has paid roughly $192 million in taxes over the past 45 years, employing 80 people in his businesses.

It's a Taxing Dilemma

Who is right here?

Class warfare played a major part in the U.S. presidential election last month, and it seemed like a smart tactical move at the time. Pitting 98 percent of the country against the wealthiest 2 percent made mathematical sense at the polls.

However, what happens if America's wealthiest citizens get fed up?

The highest tax rates in this country are a far cry from France's soon-to-arrive 75 percent, and wouldn't even approach France's old rate under the most far-fetched scenarios coming out of Washington today. But picking on a class that's an important contributor to a country's bottom line can prove to be a risky strategy.

Proponents of raising tax rates only on the wealthy may rightfully feel that they are the ones that can afford to contribute the most, but there's never a shortage of countries open to taking in the world's wealthiest citizens.

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mike shaffer

I say if the American people keep voting for these spend thirfs then they must pay the piper when the bills come in...i say tax all working people at 75% until the debts come under control...I say the strong caster oil is needed..

December 26 2012 at 9:34 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

When the rich finally leave the middle class will just be burdened further. The middle class is the cash cow.

December 26 2012 at 8:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wecome Gary!

Your New Years gift of Higher taxes to All of you who voted for him is just days away, I hope you enjoy it, because he lied to you and now you'r eall f%c#d!

December 26 2012 at 8:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The top tax rate on America's wealthiest earners was 90% in the 1950's. America was not in debt then. The rich got the tax rate lowered to 70% around John F. Kennedy's time- from the 1960" into the 70's. America's debt wasnt too bad then either.. Then the rich got the politicians to cut , and cut, and cut the income tax rate on the rich, from 70% to 50% tp 35%...and just HALF that amount on passive income like investments- the rich dont work for a living-just make money-off-money..
Wjth tax rates being CUT by 72% ! (from 90% to 35%)...why do people call it RAISING taxes today.....seems like we just OVERCUT and we need to balance the budget and find the center a little. Maybe 50%-60% tax rate on incomes over $250, 000 is about right. If the rich dont stop bellyaching-let's raise the rate to 90% again.

December 26 2012 at 7:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You can sure tell what class of people are on this board,(free loader vs. tax payer).

December 26 2012 at 7:23 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wesivey2's comment

You mean spoiled eliterich versus working stiffs right.

December 26 2012 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I was rich, I'd catch that rabbit headed south, there are country that would love the have rich citizens.

December 26 2012 at 7:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
MIchigan Man

The largest tax on the poor-the lottery. It's called by some, a tax on the stupid. Afew years ago, South Carolina instituted the lottery, namin it the SC education lottery. Well, years later and billions of dollars, SC still remains near the bottom in education. So, I guess more money works. Same will happen with the Obama tax on the "rich". The government officials will collect more taxes so they can waste more of the people's money. Just like the mafia gains favor with the poor, the offer a few crumbs to make the people think they are getting something for nothing (they do). This has been a ploy by the Democrats for decades to entice blacks to vote for them (it works). The black community actually gets little in return other than handouts. No real improvement in education, jobs, or quality of life.Unfortunately, people like to equate politics to a sporting event and feel compelled to support the team, although the "team" doesn't help the fans very much. But, they continue to vote the same rascals into office.

December 26 2012 at 7:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It doesn't seem to matter telling everyone what raising taxes and more spending does to the economy because too many people tend to go with whatever party they like best and believe anything they have to say. You can show them what universal health care has done in other countries and it won't matter. At least this article admits that the democrats have created class warfare which is in itselft an improvement.

December 26 2012 at 6:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Depo just doesn't want to become a tax slave.

December 26 2012 at 6:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

france is in a MESS. maybe do the opposite, tax the POOR more so they can work MORE.

December 26 2012 at 3:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply