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Number of tax payers quitting France rockets

Ben McPartland · 23 Oct 2013, 08:59

Published: 23 Oct 2013 08:59 GMT+02:00

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The number of French tax payers quitting France has shot up by 62 percent according to the latest figures released from the French finance ministry at Bercy this week.

The figures, which were handed over to the Senate’s finance committee, revealed that 35,077 French nationals had upped sticks for foreign climes in 2011 – the most recent year for which figures are available.

That number represents a 62 percent rise on 2010, when 25,473 tax-paying French citizens left the country.

"The departure of tax payers represents a loss of confidence and even a rejection of France," said the senate committee's Philippe Marini, from the opposition UMP party, who had requested the figures.

Among those who emigrated from France, most were of the younger generations with 37 percent aged under 30, and 24 percent aged between 31 and 40.

And when it came to the chosen destinations for French expatriates, it was the UK that proved the most favourable followed by Belgium and the United States.

BFMTV, which reported the figures on Wednesday, questioned whether the steep rise in 2011 might have had something to do with former Prime Minister François Fillon "increasing the tax burden on French households" because of the financial crisis.

But the figures show that out of the 35,000 who emigrated, only 2,024 had a household revenue of over €100,000 and only 251 were earning more than €300,000.

“It’s not possible to pinpoint exactly the ones that are leaving for professional reasons and the ones who escape France for tax reasons. Sometimes the reasons are mixed together," Marini told Les Echos newspaper.

“The figures for those going to the United Kingdom and the US represent the attractiveness on a professional level, because they can work easily there without being subject to a punitive tax system.

“The fact that the under 30s account for 37 percent of those leaving but only represent 17 percent of French tax payers, shows clearly there is a growing need among ambitious young people to be mobile.

“The younger generations have been brought up to be more flexible and their integration into an Anglo environment is more natural as a result of globalisation.”

The Senator fear however that with the tendency only set to increase it will lead to a brain drain and a decreased talent pool in France.

Ever since French actor Gerard Depardieu stirred up a hornet’s nest by moving to Belgium, where the tax man is much less demanding than his French counterpart, the question of tax exiles has dogged the Socialist government.

But speaking to The Local earlier this year, Fabienne Petit, director of international activities at French firm Humanis, poured cold water on the notion that the French were leaving to avoid paying high taxes.

Story continues below…

“No, this is a myth,” claims Petit, whose company works with French expatriates in the area of health cover and insurance.

“It’s a real cliché to say that all French people are going abroad for only fiscal reasons. In fact only 17 percent of people leave for financial reasons, so we need to put an end to this myth,” she said.

Neither did Petit believe that people leave because of the renowned inflexibility of the French labour market, where permanent jobs are hard to come by.

“The labour market in France is not very flexible for businesses but there is more protection for workers. If they go abroad it’s not because of the French employment system. If you have a CDI (permanent contract) in France then it can be very beneficial.”

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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