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Billionaires To French Government: More Taxes, Please!

Following a similar proposal last week by American billionaire Warren Buffett, 16 of France’s wealthiest people sign a joint public statement calling on higher taxes for the super-rich to respond the the economic crisis.

Maurice Lévy, CEO of Publicis
Maurice Lévy, CEO of Publicis


PARIS - In a joint communiqué published Tuesday, 16 of France's wealthiest people – among them L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and Publicis communication group chief Maurice Lévy – declare themselves ready to pay more taxes to help the country in this time of crisis.

"We, company presidents or CEOs, businessmen or businesswomen, professional financiers or very wealthy citizens, welcome the creation of an ‘exceptional financial contribution" that would be paid by the wealthiest French taxpayers. This contribution would be of a reasonable amount of money, so as to avoid unwanted economic effects such as capital flight or an increase in tax evasion," the statement reads on the website of Le Nouvel Observateur weekly.

"We are well aware that we fully benefited from a French tax system and a European environment we feel attached to, and one we want to preserve," the signees go on to say. "This financial contribution is not a solution in itself: it has to be a part of a more general reform effort focused on both spending and tax revenue."

The joint statement was the brainchild of the magazine itself, Le Nouvel Observateur's editor, Laurent Joffrin, explains in an accompanying article. The eventual signers of the communiqué were approached individually to see if they would be willing to pay extra taxes. Joffrin was inspired by a recent opinion piece Lévy, who is also president of the Afep (the French Association of private companies), wrote for the French daily Le Monde. In his article, Lévy said wealthy people like himself should contribute to help the country financially.

"After what Maurice Lévy said, it was tempting to ask other CEOs and very wealthy French people if they would want to pay a new tax, temporary or not," Joffrin explains in his editorial.

Last week, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett made a similar "offer" when he called on Congress to require higher income taxes for people whose annual income exceeds $1 million. He wrote in The New York Times that "while the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks."

This week's French equivalent strikes as similar chord. "We feel it's our duty to bring a financial contribution to our country at a time when the public spending deficit and the prospect of seeing the country's debt increase even more threaten the future of France and Europe," the statement reads. "The government is asking everyone to show solidarity and want to do just that."

Read the original story in French

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