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Obelix Runs Away from Fiscalix

Obelix Runs Away from Fiscalix

The “fear” of taxation dies hard. In 2013, Gerard Depardieu became a French “tax refugee” in the Russian Federation. Half a decade since then, he became a Russian tax debtor in the Russian Federation. In 2018, he was listed in Russia’s Federal Court Marshals Service database as owing taxes in Saransk (the capital of Mordovia, somewhere in “Yevropeyskaya Rossiya”), where he was registered. 

“Give back to the Tsar what is Caesar’s, and to D(epard)ieu what is his!”; it stands to reason that things should be so, since the French Presidents, true Caesars in their own right, have been getting greedy, while Putin the Tsar undergoes the penance of moderation. Not only in a Christian way, but also in the rite of supply-side economics. Very much like a Peter the Great avatar, Vladimir Putin is tempted to bring to Russia not only a spirit of the arts of our times, borrowed from the French court, but also taxes for the state budget; a fine demonstration of what we might call “friendly fiscal imperialism”, unusual by the macroeconomic standards of contemporary era. Currently, Russia may look like a fiscal paradise. But its profile does not truly correspond: it is a huge state, in terms of territory and population, with a cold climate and bitter politics, compared to the loose tropical islands which absorb the money escaped from the claws of voracious tax collectors, or snatched via cross-border crime from the long arm of law and order. Russia has been endowed with natural gifts that enable her to show more friendship to global fortunes. After the former USSR chased away richness in the name of a proletarian dominance of equality, her eldest daughter is now courting the kings of Euro-Asia’s Western extremity.

Gerard Depardieu turned his back on the French Administration, stating that he can no longer remain within a jurisdiction where “success, creation and talent” are being punished. The former Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, referred to this gesture as “pathetic”; this epithet is purely predictable coming from a supporter of solidarity who stands on the proper side of the forced transfers of wealth. The sexagenarian actor had rebelled once before, when he had threatened to move to the tiny Belgian town of Nechin, a stone’s throw away from the French border (a distance measured against the strength of sturdy Obelix), and this had been enough to irritate the fiscal inquisitors in Paris. The scheme that drove him over the edge was Francois Hollande’s attempt to win over the many hearts of those with few financial resources by collecting a 75% tax on earnings over 1 million Euros. By contrast, the 50% tax in the Belgian jurisdiction seemed “une bonne affaire”. That is, up until the point when a fiscal offer that was hard to turn down emerged from Russia.

Throughout his career, Depardieu has paid around 145 million Euros in tax to the French budget; however, he is now accused of lack of patriotism by socialist groups in the French politics and administration. Well, what can one say: in a Europe torn apart in its struggle to correct its excesses in social assistance, the dire present situation has brought to life both emotional blackmail and emotional corruption. For those who are into “fiscal forensics”, an investigation is required to establish whether the actor has really been a net tax payer, since films are known to be private business. Predominantly, in Europe, the cultural state protectorate is the rule that keeps producing both disciples and victims. The French actor has recalled the evidence, if not of his fiscal innocence, at least of his patriotism, by invoking the large number of historical films in which he has proved his love for his country and its history. However, he seems more drawn to a saying dating back to the old Romans (Obelix’s “friends” in the famous series): Ubi bene ibi patria. Depardieu ran away from his own kind, towards the “great Russian democracy” (his own words), just like his fellow character Asterix (Christian Clavier) had fled to London, also in search of greater fiscal privacy.

President Hollande’s measures to avoid the austerity policies attempted by many other European states came up against the brick wall of the arguments put forward by the French Constitutional Council, which claimed that the new tax does not comply with the principle of equality towards the fiscal burden, being applied individually instead of at a household level (thus, a household where millions are made, if composed of members who are “almost millionaires”, does not fall under the scope of increased taxation). Although several measures to calculate the tax had been criticized and rejected, the government from Paris did not step back, as it was convinced it could submit to the Council a proposal that will also obey the Constitution. The French fiscal authorities were and still are at the peak of their creativity.

President Macron’s supposedly more enlightened stance towards fellow high earners may have earned him the enmity of the yellow vests, but it appears to have been too little, too late, as far as Depardieu was concerned, although being caught up in a tax scandal will tend to distract one from shopping around for better fiscal climes. Nevertheless, it will be useful to see whether Macron’s supposedly pro-wealth policies will have an impact on the economic fortunes of the country and on the high earners voting with their feet. France had the distinction of being top of the class among Western countries in terms of exodus of its high new worth individuals, according to the New World Wealth Migration Review. The last year of Hollande’s reign say a net 3% decrease in the number of HNWI in the country through immigration. Macron may have staunched the bleeding, but the country still lost 1% of its millionaires in 2018. Fiscality is an important part of it, but other issues also matter, such as security, the business environment and general well-being, so maybe the President Macron’s policies were outweighed by the man in the street’s vehemence against them.

In the meantime, all that remains is that, instead of a tax advertised as “symbolic” by the French tax guru, Depardieu, a great wine lover going to the vodka lands, had exchanged the “symbols” that burn his wallet with symbols that only burn his throat.

 

Illustration: Asterix & Obelix mural painting. Realisation: Oreopoulos G., Vandegeerde D., Marcelle Bordier and Koen Weiss. Year: September 2005. Location: street Buanderie 33/35, Brussels. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

 
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OEconomica No. 1, 2016