France's richest say: Tax us more

Liliane Bettencourt during a TV interview on 14 July 2010 Liliane Bettencourt is among those offering up some of her wealth

Some of France's wealthiest people have called on the government to tackle its deficit by raising taxes - on the rich.

Sixteen executives, including Europe's richest woman, the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, offered in an open letter to pay a "special contribution" in a spirit of "solidarity".

Later the government is due to announce tighter fiscal measures as it seeks to reassure markets and curb the deficit.

They are expected to include a special tax on the super-rich.

Before the announcement, expected on Wednesday evening, a letter appeared on the website of the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur.

It was signed by some of France's most high-profile chief executives, including Christophe de Margerie of oil firm Total, Frederic Oudea of bank Societe Generale, and Air France's Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

They said: "We, the presidents and leaders of industry, businessmen and women, bankers and wealthy citizens would like the richest people to have to pay a 'special contribution'."

They said they had benefited from the French system and that: "When the public finances deficit and the prospects of a worsening state debt threaten the future of France and Europe and when the government is asking everybody for solidarity, it seems necessary for us to contribute."

They warned, however, that the contribution should not be so severe that it would provoke an exodus of the rich or increased tax avoidance.

The move follows a call by US billionaire investor Warren Buffett for higher taxes on the American ultra-rich.

Rating fears

The French government has already said it is working on a special tax on those earning more than 1m euros (£900,000) a year.

The measures are expected to be part of a new package aimed at cutting up to 14bn euros from the budget deficit over the next two years.

It is not clear exactly what form they will take, but they are expected to include a reduction in tax breaks and increased taxes on big companies.

The government has been forced to act after recent fears that France's AAA credit rating could be downgraded.

France plans to trim its public deficit to 5.7 % this year, 4.6 % next year and 3% in 2013.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    If the rich generated jobs and income for others ter would be no redundancies when their profits were threatened would there? The rubish of job creation and trickle down does not wash. No one believed in the 80's and 90's and no one believes it now. If it were true then the gap in incomes would be reducing with increasing wealth, not increasing. Find another cliche please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    A follow up to Buffett and co saying much the same thing, and on the face of it, welcome, whatever the personal circumstance. The problems however lie in the tax exemptions for perceived "investors" such as have bedevilled the US, the shady but legal practices of rich tax minimisation, and the obsessive greed on which society benchmarks success. The latter gave itself global meltdown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Oh and she had some problems with the French taxman as a few others have stated plus she was involved in a poliital scandal which hasn't really been settled.

    As the song goes "Its the same the whole world over......"

    Perhaps she is helping Sarkozy out now and this might possiblly help the tax and donation scandal outcome.

    Cynical moi?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    It is a classic attempt to get good PR. Mme Bettancourt will hardly miss the money even if it is a few million Euros.

    She has had a number of fallings out with her family and isn't the first flush of youth.

    It strikes me as an attempt to pre-empt a possible worse scenario whilst seeming to be the heroine of the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Not a great secret that the French are prepared to pay more tax for their services. They have a 24 hour GP door to door service which says a lot for their care. They have also not been obsessed by house purchasing and as a result there is less debt.

    In previous recessions it has not made sense to tax but it may be the only solution. Gold help us if credit crunch II rears its ugly head

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The economic problems we are currently experiencing are down to fear and greed. It is about time people realise that this world would be such a great place if there was more a community feel, if people helped each other more instead of being envious of others' successes or indifferent to others' plights. Capitalism & consumerism are deeply flawed and bring out the worst in us. We need a new model.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    "The reason many are super-rich is because they are clever"

    If you make that claim, then I suspect for you it's true.....but only because you must be so terse everyone looks superior to you.

    Try actually meeting some rich people before you accept the hype

    Is this a sign that some people are destined for slavery as 'second class citizens' - because they put themselves there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Before you all give credit to Liliane Bettencourt and this egalitarian plea, you should all be aware of the history here.

    "France's richest woman, who recently ran into trouble for allegedly evading taxes"

    Not the great sacrifice this is proported to be, is this not simply giving what should have been given already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Yeah, tax the rich that'll fix it! And many entrepreneurs & wealth/job creators will either leave, or never come here in the first place.
    The reason many are super-rich is because they are clever so if UK put up taxes they will go and UK will get even less tax revenues as well as enjoying another "Brain Drain" as happened decades ago.
    Complex problem needs a long-term solution. this isn't one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.


    I wonder what caused Lilianes change of heart regarding paying taxes in France? There is more to this methinks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I doff my cap to those in France who have volunteered to put country before self. A clever ploy, perhaps, but it is a least a step in the right direction. If those responsible for the massive financial fubar followed their example, instead of continuing to milk the system and or whinging about bonus payments we just might see light at the end of the tunnel earlier than expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    #8 Pickles and Osbourne have never said that the 50% rate is evil merely questioned whether it raised any significant money. My gut feel is that they will find that the 50% rate actually costs HMRC more than it raises.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Play your part, pay your way, Bravo. Vive la République. Liberté, Fraternité, ÉGALITÉ. Simple principles for society. Anglo-American financiers and corportists please note this is not anti-competitive. And these people love their country and will not depart to tax havens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    If the rich in Britain paid their taxes like the rest of us, we would not be in this shambles !! They are getting away with sheer robbery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    ' Vive La France' --- might chuck in the odd quid myself ! ---
    Signed -- the £100 a week ' Millionaire '

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Don't believe the hype!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Whether there is an ulterior motive for this move is arguable but it is a gesture which the British super rich would never contemplate. France is leading the way here .
    I´m sick of hearing how the wealth generated in the "city" trickles down to the rest of us. It simply keeps the super rich in super yachts in Ibiza. Well done L'Oreal. You're worth it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    You won't here that in Buckinghamshire !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    finally a start in the right direction .While the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Now it would seem to be the time to get 38 Degrees and Avaaz into action to shame Britain's super rich into following suit. Not mentioning any names, but a certain fashion store owner with a penchant for 'T' shirts saying 'I Pay No Taxes' could be singled out for attention.


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