back to article French letter shock: Tax us more, demand rich people

So rich French people have written a letter demanding that they be taxed more. The text (fortunately in English) is here. The missive began: We, chairmen of companies and business leaders, business men and women, finance professionals or wealthy citizens, call for an exceptional levy that would target France's richest …


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  1. James Thomas
    Thumb Down


    What a spurious argument. Can the writer not see the difference between someone asking for higher taxes on an entire bracket and being willing to give that money voluntarily and unilaterily?

    It's the difference between saying 'here have my gun and let everyone else keep theirs if they wish' and 'I'll keep my gun unless you take everyone's away'. The former is perhaps more noble, but also fucking stupid.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I couldn't agree more! Tim Worstall's writings are normally logical and coherent; but this is just right-wing rhetoric masquerading as logic.

      It's the difference between defending against an invading army by yourself, or defending against an invading army with the full support of your comrades in arms.

    2. ArmanX

      I'm sorry, but... what?

      In your example, were one person to relinquish their (lone) firearm, he or she would then be in danger from others, simply because there would be no way to defend against an attack.

      However, that is not the case with taxes. In this case, several people are sitting on millions (or billions) of guns. If giving some of them to the government by coercion leaves them no worse off than before, then giving out of charity should also have little impact on them.

      The writer's point is valid. If you want taxes raised on you because you're "too rich," go ahead and donate that money you think is too much, first. Otherwise, you are just spouting empty words.

      1. Filippo

        Re: ArmanX

        "If you want taxes raised on you because you're "too rich," go ahead and donate that money you think is too much, first."

        But that's not what they want. They want taxes raised on their whole class, not just on themselves. You can't fault them for not behaving consistantly with an objective they *don't have*.

        Look at it the other way around: if Jack is a union worker demanding a lower income tax for the middle class, and the government tells him "okay, Jack, we'll give you and only you a tax break as long as you shut up", it's not inconsistant for him to strongly reject the proposal. Applying tax changes only to the people who demand them is deeply unfair.

        1. Mark 65

          raised taxes

          What's more, as they wrote the letter, they were probably all buying property and domiciling themselves in Monaco.

          1. eurobloke

            Can't work

            Unfortunately (for them) being in Monaco means that they still have to pay French income tax due to a treaty. Hence why Jonny Halliday tried change his citizenship to be Belgian, so he could live in Monaco.

        2. ArmanX


          While I agree with the point in your first sentence - that certain rich want taxes raised on all the rich - that still doesn't invalidate my point, or the authors. It's all talk, no action. If the rich were to donate some cash, THEN complain that no one else is, I could see that. But that's not what they're doing, is it?

          If a millionaire began demanding that other millionaires donate lots of money to his favorite charity - to which, by the way, he refuses to donate even a single penny - he would be booed off the stage. Action first, then words; otherwise it's "do what I say, not what I do."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do realise...

    ... That those rich people have an army of accountants who exist purely to minimize tax exposure to the letter of the law, and that those rich people do not necessarily wish to know (because of their extensive holdings) how much is refunded, but rather just how much they've *paid* in tax. Besides, making additional tax payments that do not fit into any known accountancy rules make accountants *very* nervous.

    One very public exception is Warren Buffett, who knows exactly where his money goes, how much tax he pays, and how much he feels he is morally obliged to (which is why he published that letter telling the US government to tax him and his class of tycoons more). However, again he has an army of lawyers and accountants who specifically shield him from doing so because it could leave him open to legal implications that are not defined yet. You should know lawyers and accountants by now. It has to be just so, or not at all.

    Buffett has already pledged much of his wealth to philantropy (by pledging it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and I am sure any trustees would strongly object to him giving the government a couple of billion dollars just to help them out because it means less for the coffers of what they are entrusted with.

  3. Boring Bob

    Screw the French

    As with everything in French politics this letter is a set-up. Sarko has increased taxes for the rich and for the poor so it all seems far, except as the letter requests the increases in tax for the rich is an exceptional one-off levy, the increase for the poor is permanent.

    August is always a bad month for workers in France. Most of the country goes on holiday for the entire month, so this is the month the government screws them - every year. No wonder the French go on strike every autumn.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    not quite right

    Those people don't do there own taxes. They have highly payed staff handling it. And when even the rich complain they aren't paying enough, it's really time to start paying attention. It's not acceptable that those who make the most cash often end up paying a smaller portion of it in taxes then the average salaryman. That's the situation in a surprising number of places these days.

    and were is the IT angle?

    1. James Micallef Silver badge


      It's the same with the US as well. The "raise taxes over our dead bodies" Republicans, who fought tooth and nail to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and who were willing to allow the country to default on its debt rather than raise any taxes, are only too happy to let payroll tax cuts (aka tax cuts for the not-so-rich) expire.

      And I would guess it's the same in every country as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        And yet,

        people keep voting them (or their indistinguishable opposite-party counterparts) in!

        Democrasy is people (on average) getting what they truely deserve.

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    By the same arguement

    Anybody who says that the government must fight terrorism - but didn't then personally fly to Afghanistan and shoot up a wedding party is wrong

  6. Number6

    Value for Money

    While they continue to waste it, I object to giving any more of my money than absolutely necessary to the UK Treasury. I'm sure I'd feel the same way if I was a billionaire, too.

  7. Nerd
    Thumb Down

    Extra Extra - Register products more drivel

    Yet more drivel from the the "journalists" at the register. I don't know why I even bother reading this rubbish any more.

    1. PsychicMonkey

      and yet

      you still feel the need to comment....

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        Or even...

        you still feel the need to read it.

        If you don't like what's written on the site, there are other publications you can read.

      2. easyk

        still feel the need blah blah

        this canned response to any compliant is understood and need not be stated.

    2. jm83

      re vfm

      Whilst i dont disagree that there are definite efficiency savings to be made in govt. I would be more careful with my words. What your opinion of waste is may differe from the majority. For example I can bet there are those out there which think spending money on universal healthcare is a waste (obviously cos they can afford their own team of specialists).

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


        Personally I would think that 'waste' would come under the category of 'giving some artist £xm to dip sheets in the Thames' kind of thing.

        Less of that, more nurses and coppers and Bobsherunkle, Faneezyeraren't.

        1. Number6


          Plenty of government artists out there, unfortunately, all drawing the dole.

          Don't forget that they do need to keep some experts on hand for when a good whitewash job needs to be applied in a hurry.

      2. Number6


        I look at it that I seem to be taxed more, with extra fiddly little stealth taxes everywhere, and yet nothing seems to have improved. Account for all the extra money and show that it's adding real value. In practice it seems that a quango gets allocated a chunk of money and promptly spends a large chunk on a compliance team to show they're spending it properly, so the net amount available is severely reduced.

        Universal healthcare provides healthy workers for those who can afford their own specialists, so even they benefit indirectly from it.

    3. BrownishMonstr

      No, it's not the same.

      That analogy doesn't work Because we already get taxed and increasing it for the rich won't really affect them. tellin us to put our lives at risk to fight terrorism coz we dont agree with it is a whole different thing. we have people to fight on our behalf. I do understand what you're trying to say though, i do agree with you.

    4. LaeMing Silver badge


      I tend to agree - people have far less issues with paying taxes when they can see the money being spent on things that benefit actual society-as-a-whole (which includes themselves, of course).

  8. ComradeOgilvy
    Thumb Down

    Or, perhaps a better interpretation...

    ... is that they are willing and prepared to pay more tax themselves. There's a world of difference between that and simply volunteering the money. They may well give a lot of money away to charities they deem worthy. If you can prove otherwise (...?), you have a better point.

    They are, after all, in a very good position to refute the usual claptap about high taxes forcing them (and their peers) abroad. Warren Buffett was even more explicitly in saying "tax me". It's worth the politicians paying more attention to what these people are saying.

  9. Eddie Edwards


    "So while we get all sorts of rhetoric from all sorts of people arguing that taxes should be higher, almost no one seems to think that it's their own taxes that should be higher."

    The signatories to that letter are saying their own taxes should be higher, so what's your point?

    That really must be the most mean-spirited piece of writing I've read in several years.

    1. Richard IV

      What the signatories are saying...

      ... is that they are prepared to allow the government to decide to tax them more just this once, so long as more isn't more than they want to be taxed. That's all that an exceptional levy "calculated in a reasonable way" amounts to. Even more cynically, does anyone think that, come the wider reform of the tax system that they are also calling for, they won't be lobbying hard for changes that will get them the money back and more?

      1. Eddie Edwards

        Not really

        No, being "prepared to allow" something is not the same as requesting it.

        1. Richard IV


          Requesting something but saying it must be done in a reasonable way gives you the opt out of being able to say "but that's not reasonable" if you're not prepared to allow it.

          It's like offering someone to help themselves to pizza. They start to cut a quarter, you go "Whoa! Too much!" cut the quarter in half and give them the eighth that you were thinking of in the first place.

  10. John Latham

    In unrelated news...

    ...shares of guillotine manufacturers are up amongst speculation that Xerox's patents may be invalidated by prior art.

    I suspect the underlying reason for this might be that rich Frenchies have lots of paper wealth in French banks that are looking decidedly shaky right now. Saving banks is a politicial action which requires the support of the proles.

    Also, anything which makes the government debt pile appear less wobbly (e.g. rich people appearing to offer to pay it off with increased taxes) reduces the risk of a structural failure which would wipe out their wealth.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lead by example... all very well in theory but quite hard to do in practice. "Oooo, look at me giving money to the tax office" is hardly going to make one any friends.

    Campaigning for higher taxes and then paying those taxes along with everyone else make much more sense.

    Removing the fiscal shield would be one way of doing that.

    The effort is to be applauded.

  12. Bluenose

    Rich pay more tax

    But only a little bit more. They have agreed to 3% for people earning more than £1 million but its not a permanent increase and does not impact on the tax avoidance schemes that they use today so overall not much more to be paid.

    An increase in French govt revenues could mean that Bull (if its still going) could be in for a bit a more state aid

  13. Dr. Ellen

    Bah, humbug!

    I know a multi-millionaire. I haven't the faintest idea what he pays in taxes - but I know about the projects he's funded. The country is getting a much better deal with the money he's kept and spent on his own. Feeding money to a government, beyond a certain point, is only feeding waste and regulation.

    1. Blake St. Claire

      humbug indeed

      If Warren Buffet is only paying 10% on his federal income tax, I'm thinking that's what I ought to be paying too. Last year I calculated that I paid about 16%. Why am I paying more than he is?

      FWIW, on top of 16% federal I also pay 5.5% state (in my state, others maybe higher or lower), plus social security, medicare, and then for an apples-to-apples comparison to you over on that side of the pond, what I pay for health insurance, I guess I'm near 45% total. I'm guessing the likes of Warren Buffet and Ted Turner aren't paying anywhere near that much.

    2. jm83

      self flagellation

      You dont think you could do anything better with the extra pounds that you would (theoretically) save in tax if everyone contributed their fair share?

      1. ArmanX

        Hahaha! You're funny!

        Extra...? When in the history of history has any government anywhere ever said, "No, that's ok, we've got plenty of money, we don't need any more"? It never happens! Government is like air: it expands to fill the space. Any space. If the government suddenly got 25% more money over last year, they would complain that it wasn't 50%, rather than saying, "Oh, that's 5% more than we thought we'd get, here, have a 5% refund."

  14. auburnman

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    If Tycoons have too much money and want to pay more tax, why don't they put their extra cash into raises for their employees? They can improve the lifestyles of their workforce, increase the competitive edge of their company (retaining better staff) AND some of that cash will go to the government through employees tax and sales tax anyway. It sounds like win-win-win, which is probably why no-one will do it.

  15. John Latham

    @Dr. Ellen

    Exactly, it's not about a cynical interpretation of a public spirited act, only that no one in their right mind believes that a government can spend their money better than they can themselves.

    1. Oninoshiko
      Thumb Up

      This is a good point

      Or maybe hire more people, but it's a similar theory.

      If more employees make more money, then more taxes will be had, and less government resources will be used by them.

  16. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    A reminder

    Rich people own or manage businesses. If you force them to pay more taxes they will pay you less salary.

    Don't rejoice at the thought of government getting more money - they will find new ways of spending it so that it never reaches your pocket or benefits you in any way.

    Those who believe that "taxpayers money" belong to taxpayers are deluded.

  17. peter_dtm

    this is a title

    does anyone on here believe they pay too little tax ?

    you do ? - well send a cheque to HMRC for what ever you feel you have been under charged.

    there easy.

    Me; I believe I am over taxed - basically because there is so much historic proof out there and current examples that demonstrate that PEOPLE spend their money far more effectively than governments

    No this is nothing like any of the strawman arguments above regarding fighting terrorism and other stupid comparisons.

    .This is out of the 'Look at me aren't I a good little socialist' play book - if any of those people seriously believed they were paying too little tax they would do one of three things

    1) quietly get on with paying whatever they felt the shortfall was; and quietly getting on with their life

    2) quietly donate the excess money to suitable charity/charities

    3) Do 1 or 2 with maximum publicity to assuage what ever stupid guilt complex they suffer from; thereby proving that it isn't about the benefit their 'generosity' may cause but purely about their public image and how they feel about themselves.

    Why drag a compulsory increase in tax FOR OTHER PEOPLE ? OOOHH I know; no one who earns money pays enough tax; everyone should pay more - there; aren't I susch a GOOD and NOBLE person ? - bollocks

    Self serving selfish idiots. When they have given all their money and assets away and forgone their life of privilege by living on average pay in an average house with the average amount of staff (no servants; accountants or lawyers) then they may have cause to suggest that other people MIGHT like to do the same

  18. John Savard Silver badge

    Why Do We Have Taxes?

    If this article really had a valid point, we wouldn't need to have taxes in the first place. If people aren't willing to give their money to the government voluntarily, obviously they don't want to pay taxes, so we should just abolish them.

    The thing is, though, that aside from being able to buy toys directly, money is also useful in competing with the next fellow to attract the best-looking birds. Thus, people can realize the need for certain government expenditures and activity - but only be willing to help pay for them if they can be sure that the next fellow will do his bit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You fail to understand what they are trying to say...

      Take Mme Bettencourt (L'Oréal) and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway). Both are filthy rich. On paper. In investments. NOT CASH.

      Buffett published his annual salary from BH, it's around $160K. That's what he pays taxes on. Not on his investments. His investments are managed by BH, and he is only filthy rich by virtue of him owning the majority of the shares in BH. He only pays capital gains tax on those shares that he sells, or capital gains tax on the dividend he gets from his shares. So his tax burden on his total income is very low. He doesn't have the 'burden' of payroll taxes.

      Mme Bettencourt owns a large chunk of the *SHARES* of L'Oréal. Investments again are not taxed until such time that they are cashed in (and become liable for capital gains tax) or dividends are received, which again are taxed at a lower tax rate than your ordinary payroll tax. Mme Bettencourt doesn't work. She doesn't need to. She lives off the investment income.

      So, ultimately, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If the majority of the populace should only be taxed 10% on their savings income (i.e. interest) or let's say 15% on investment income, then the filthy rich, who have a proportionally higher investment or savings income are no different from you. They pay their taxes at the prescribed rate.

      If Warren Buffett was taxed on his entire wealth at the same rate as payroll taxes, he would not have said what he said.

      1. peter_dtm


        so - how did they get money to make investments ?

        1) Inherited -- taxed massively now; so all that wealth HAS ALREADY BEEN TAXED

        2) Paid with income - and that would be TAXED income wouldn't it ? If not then I am sure the tax authorities would be investigating them

        So all the investments have already been taxed


        their increase in value is also taxed.

        And 'living of investment income' is what all NON-STATE pensioners do; as well as anyone who spends money received from savings accounts; shares dividends or insurance policies.

        Of course clever people minimize their tax liability (contry to current socialist doctrine; minimizing (avoiding) tax liability is not illegal; and is something any sane person should do - its like shopping for the cheapest price [ a form of tax avoidance as you also minimize the VAT you pay]); and I look forward to the far distance day when I can afford to retire and live on my investment income (thank you G Brown - that ain't now ever going to happen)

  19. oldredlion

    why oh why

    don't these rich types give a sizeable chunk of their wealth direct to a charity?

    There are plenty of charities that could do with a donation so why does it need to go to the Government?

    It's not as if the Government will take the extra money and spend it wisely, they'll just waste it and then borrow more and compound the current problems.

    Silly people.

    1. 100113.1537

      - and take a tax deduction for the donation

      Says it all really.

      Marginal rates of income tax mean nothing to the really rich since they are able to declare very low "income" on which to be taxed. They are quite happy with a symbolic gesture of saying "raise our tax rate' because they won't actually pay very much more anyway.

      And yes, they employ lots of laywers and accountants who have a legal and moral duty to get the best deal for their client - unless that client tells them to do otherwise. In other words, you tell your tax accountant that I do not want you to minimize my tax liability and, hey presto, you pay more tax. Easy-peazy, lemon squeazy - but don't go blaming the lawyers for this one (they deserve enough blame for the other crap that goes on!).

  20. Figgus

    Seems the only fair way to go about it...

    ... is a flat percentage tax, no deductions and no exemptions (and no minimums). It would be nice if the rich (and the poor) suddenly paid the same rate the people who actually worked for a living.

    Of course, think of all the lawyers, accountants, IRS agents (and whatever they are called on your side of the pond) who would suddenly be out of work!

  21. Efros

    Reason is less altruistic

    I think the rich may be getting an inkling that the poor unwashed masses may not put up with the shit sandwiches for much longer. Certainly the perception and the fact is that the rich pay proportionately less tax than much poorer people, maybe the poorer people will wake up smell the roses and start polishing the guillotine again. Where's me knitting gone?

  22. John Sturdy
    Thumb Up

    Follow the signs of competence

    Agreed. Accumulating great wealth may imply a level of competence at running an organization reasonably efficiently (it could be just be luck, but that's not likely to persist for long). If money is to be taken from these people for the public good, I'd rather see a forced donation to charitable causes than higher taxes.

  23. frobenius

    This is not the tax you are looking for

    Does this "tax us more" letter perhaps successfully divert attention from the recent sharp drop in the French wealth tax, on assets? Just gone down from 1.8% to 0.5%: for the very wealthy, who own much, much more than they receive in income, this is a real win.

  24. heyrick Silver badge

    Perhaps the French are waking up

    and realising the economy is crap, only they don't want to see their country be flushed down the toilet like so many English seem to (either intentionally or by apathy).

    I work in France and the social charges are high, but the tax is a breeze compared to what I used to pay under PAYE in the UK. Want to tax me a % more? Go ahead. It's still less than I would have payed in the UK for the same earnings. And yes, this would be for the noble aims of keeping the country going, even if that translated into fancy meals to keep Carla fed... ;)

  25. Mickey Finn

    Experience teaches us otherwise...

    When the Bilderberger Denis Healy made "the pips squeak" in the 1970's it was like the migration of the wildebeast in the UK, except they all scattered in different directions.

    And do you know what....?

    I didn't envy them then, nor did I find their actions deplorable... Mind you, there was a certain amount of schadenfreude in regard to those lefty's amongst them.... Ha ha!

    Of course, what is deplorable, is that the rest of us seem to be silent in regard to our masters, who have stripped us of much of our income, and spent it shi**ing on us from above. They have engineered a system, where there is no social housing, but where all the unnecessary stuff (all the stuff we can do for ourselves) has been socialised, they have also left us defenceless against all manner of marauders from within and without.... And they have colluded with the banks and financial "industry" to build the "information economy" (and feather their own nests), and now they are making us pay for this too, all with no obvious benefit.

    And all for ha'peth of dogma!

    The question is...

    Why shouldn't we rise up and rip their throats out? Why are we not massing on Downing Street with pitchforks and cudgels?

    1. CD001

      What's the point?


      Why shouldn't we rise up and rip their throats out? Why are we not massing on Downing Street with pitchforks and cudgels?


      The greatest trick the Tories ever pulled was to destroy society (as a collective) - I'm alright Jack, everyone else can get stuffed. You may see sporadic bouts of self-motivated upheaval (rioting to nick some trainers and TVs perhaps) but unless there is a fundamental societal change there will never be any large scale, organised resistance to the status quo; people will keep their heads down and stay in their place - nobody will try to improve the situation for _everybody_.

    2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


      "Why shouldn't we rise up and rip their throats out? Why are we not massing on Downing Street with pitchforks and cudgels?"

      You should have done it prior to the last couple of general elections. But you were happily lapping up Labour's handouts and borrowing more money than you can possibly repay and living beyond means.

      The Soviet Union needs to be recreated so that people like you could be sent there for a mandatory 15 year long reality check. That'll learn you...

      1. Mickey Finn

        Pot.... Meet Kettle...

        If you noticed sir, I did say "WE"... or actually "US"!

        And it should have been more than a couple of elections back... At least as far back as Heath's time... Or even following the Attlee disaster.

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