Business, Finance & Economics

France's super-rich: Raise our taxes, s'il vous plait

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A Ferrari at the Plaza Athenee in Paris. (Photo by Flickr user CarSpotter)

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In the United States, taxes have become anathema to many, and the idea of raising taxes is close to political suicide. In France, however, a growing chorus of super-rich people are calling on the government to raise their taxes.

"It started with just a couple of them, but it’s now grown to 16 of the leaders or the CEOs of some of France’s biggest companies," Sophie Pedder, Paris bureau chief for the Economist magazine told PRI's The World.

"You’re looking at France Telecom, Publicis and even Liliane Bettencourt who is the family biggest shareholder in L’Oreal, the cosmetics firm," Pedder said. "And they’ve all joined a sort of petition saying, 'We are willing to make an extra contribution. We realize times are tough, so tax us more.'"

Some find it strange that this call for higher taxes would come from a country where the rich are already taxed at high rates. "France is one of the very few countries, probably anywhere in the world -- certainly in Europe, that has what’s called a wealth tax," Pedder reports. "Every year, everybody who is a resident in France has to pay a tax on all their assets -- not just their income -- but their assets."

The Prime Minister has already announced what the new tax is going to be. It's a one-off 3 percent tax on anybody here who earns more than 500,000 Euros. "That in French terms is a lot," Pedder says. But the gesture by the super rich is a potent symbol, in a time when austerity measures are threatening the budgets of everyone in the country. Pedder says: " there is a feeling that the rich are contributing their bit too; and they are going to do it, apparently, uncomplainingly."

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