French star Gerard Depardieu, famous for his performances in La Vie en Rose, Asterix and Obelix, and most recently in Life of Pi, has moved to a ‘tax haven’ in Belgium to avoid a 75% tax on his film fortune.
Nechin, a village in Belgium just 800 yards from the border of France, has been under the spotlight in recent years for its notable clientele of French millionaires, apparently dodging higher tax rates in France.
It is reported that Depardieu, 63, moved from Paris, where President Francois Hollande recently passed a new tax law charging 75% tax on all earnings over £1million.
This new tax on the super-rich has resulted in an increasing number of France’s wealthiest citizens departing for tax-friendly shores. Already a third of the 2,000 strong population of Nechin are French, with one street dubbed ‘Millionaires’ Row.’
As well as the newly arrived Depardieu, residents of Millionaires’ Row also include the Mulliez family, owners of the international supermarket chain Auchan.
Many wealthy residents in Nechin have been criticised for their blatant move to avoid tax, particularly during recession when some of the poorest regions in France could potentially benefit from a redistribution of tax. Journalist Frederic Delepierre, who grew up in the tiny Belgian village and first broke the story, voiced his scepticism:
“The reason is obvious,” said Delepierre, “Look around. The village is dead. There is nothing here, nothing. What could possibly attract someone like Depardieu and all the other wealthy French who live here to Néchin?”
The French language newspaper, Le Monde, joked that Depardieu had relocated to the unassuming Belgian village, ‘pour le paysage.’
British estate agents have also recorded astonishing figures of wealthy French clients hunting for luxury property in London following the tax increase. Speaking in June before the tax had been approved, Prime Minister David Cameron announced at a Business Summit in Mexico:
“If the French go ahead with a 75 per cent top rate of tax we will roll out the red carpet and welcome more French businesses to Britain…And they can pay tax in Britain and pay for our health service and schools and everything else.”
Infuriated French politicians responded by saying the Prime Minister must have been ‘drunk,’ when he made the comments.
Among those who have sought tax havens in the past are superstar David Bowie, who moved to Switzerland in 1976 to avoid the 83% income tax rise for Britain’s highest earners.
Formula 1 Champion Jensen Button currently enjoys zero income tax in Monaco, and former James Bond star Sean Connery, who was said to have moved for political reasons, relocated to Spain, and after the Bahamas, saving millions from lower tax rates abroad.