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Depardieu to give up French passport after PM 'insult'

Video by Katerina VITTOZZI , FRANCE 2

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-12-17

Angry after being "insulted" by the French prime minister for his plans to move to Belgium for tax purposes, actor Gérard Depardieu said in an open letter on Sunday that he will be handing in his French passport and his social security card.

After coming under fire from the French prime minister for choosing exile in Belgium for tax purposes, actor Gérard Depardieu said on Sunday that he would be handing in his passport and his social security card after being "insulted" by members of the government.

'I didn't say Mr Dépardieu was pathetic'

Last week French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu’s decision to quit France “pathetic” and unpatriotic at a time when many French people are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce the country’s debt.

In an open letter to the weekly Journal du Dimanche, Depardieu accused France’s Socialist government of punishing “success, creativity and talent”.

The actor, best known to English-speaking audiences for his role in the 1990 film Green Card, said he had paid €145 million in taxes since starting work at age 14 as a printer.

“In 2012 I paid 85 percent tax on my income, while I employ 80 people,” he wrote. “I’m not complaining, and neither am I bragging, but I refuse to accept being called pathetic. I’m sending you (Ayrault) back my passport and my social security card, which I’ve never used."

"You call me pathetic; I call that pathetic," Depardieu wrote.

Depardieu said the reaction to his leaving France was particularly severe. “People more illustrious than me have gone into [tax] exile," he said. "Of all those that have left, none have been insulted as I have.”

No wealth tax in Belgium

Dépardieu put his Paris mansion up for sale last week, reportedly for €50 million, and has bought a property in the Belgian village of Néchin near the French border.

The 63-year-old multimillionaire’s decision to leave France comes three months after Bernard Arnault, chief executive of luxury retailer LVMH and France's richest man, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium -- a move he said was not for tax reasons.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is levied on those with assets over €1.3 million, and they do not have to pay capital gains tax on share sales.

In Europe, taxes are paid according to the rules of the country where the tax payer resides. By moving to Belgium, Depardieu will not be obliged to file a tax return to the French authorities, even if he retains his French citizenship.

Not all creative talent is leaving France, however. On Sunday renowned French novelist Michel Houellebecq, who has lived in Ireland since 2000, announced that he was coming back to France, but stressed that he wasn’t doing so “to make any kind of point”.

The author of "Plateforme" and "Atomised" told AFP that he had now mastered the English language and wanted to return to a French-speaking environment.

“If I chose France rather than another French-speaking country it is for entirely personal reasons,” he wrote. “Yes, money is important, but it’s not the most important thing there is.” 

Date created : 2012-12-16

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