What do the average French think of actor Gerard Dépardieu being offered Russian citizenship, and accepting, to avoid high French taxes?
This is a scandal that happened already before with other stars in France, all willing to quit France because of their personal fortune getting too big (becoming a target for very high taxes).
The fact that the country which offers citizenship to Gérard Depardieu is Russia doesn ‘t really matter for most of French people. It could have been Belgium, Switzerland or the US. Any French will understand that a country welcome a guy who is full of cash, plus an international star.
Now most of French people will think several things :
- Gérard Depardieu is an asshole and he lacks of respect for the country and the people who first showed, viewed, loved and even produced most of his movies (lots of public money in French cinema). French audience basically made 99% of Depardieu ‘s career.
- His act of leaving France to avoid paying taxes when the crisis is all around is a complete absence of solidarity and a pure act of selfishness, typical bourgeois behavior insulting millions of people who would love to escape taxes as well. NB: French are very used to this kind behavior from French elite. They mostly don ‘t give a damn as it happens frequently.
- Our complete tax and social system is going nowhere. We can not continue like this and face globalization with such a nonsense way to drive economy in our country.
- Another thing, maybe the most important : All this big debate about Depardieu is just plain useless and all this media hype just prevents from talking about things that really matters i.e. current situation in France and Europe and possible solutions.
In a way, Depardieu gives the perfect example of why French social system is now a (partial) failure: everyone can just take advantage of it during all his life and screw it all when time comes for him to pay back.
Even if taxes are unbearably high for most of French people, we all know they give access to many great things like social welfare, cheap medical insurance, public hospitals, allowances for unemployed people, early retirements, etc. So you will actually hear people in France saying
- “I am proud to pay taxes “* because by some aspects such a protective social system is a unique chance.
Then you will hear a lot of people complaining about taxes being too high in France - to complain is a national sport in the country. Though, poorer people or lower/middle-class usually understand and support the tax system, as they benefit directly from it. They will complain about taxes being to excessive but it is more likely an habit, motivated by real economic concern of surviving with 50% of your wage going into taxes every month.
Then, you have wealthy people who complain (and make a lot of noise like Depardieu) because they don ‘t really understand why they should be taxes, as they never have any direct personal benefit from it. All their companies or activities have usually benefit from public funding though, as almost every initative does in France.
After new election of François Hollande, you could hear in France people saying in business circles : * “Now, I am leaving France “* because taxes will become too high. Many did it. Corporations move to Ireland where they can do almost tax-free businesses, bankers store their money in Luxembourg or Switzerland, etc.
As for the core of your question (and this whole Depardieu thing), most people in France know there is a huge problem with our social system and we are going to suffer from it. Then most of people also think that to divide up wealth somehow is a good think and seeing few people accumulating so much capital without giving anything is just a complete shame. It just feel right to have the wealthiest people paying for the poorest one. Stars can scream and slam the door, big money can find it disgusting, it doesn ‘t really change that fact …
This text was originally published in quora.