By William Horobin
One of France's leading actors, Gerard Depardieu, said he is surrendering his French passport and social security after the prime minister called his tax exile in Belgium "pathetic."
Mr. Depardieu said earlier this month he had taken up residency in the Belgian village of Nechin, just across the French border, to benefit from Belgium's more favorable tax system.
In a letter to premier Jean-Marc Ayrault published in Sunday's edition of French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Mr. Depardieu says: "I'm leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished.
"I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used."
Since President Francois Hollande's Socialist government announced it will introduce a 75% income tax on those earning more than 1 million euros ($1.32 million) a year, some of the country's wealthiest have been setting up residency in countries with lower taxes.
Mr. Depardieu says in the letter that over a period of 45 years he has paid EUR145 million in tax and employees 80 people in his businesses. In 2012, Mr. Depardieu said he paid 85% tax on his income.
"I've no place to complain or to boast, but I refuse to be described as pathetic," Mr. Depardieu said.
Ministers in the French government were quick to react to the publication of the letter. Labor Minister Michel Sapin said in a radio interview on Europe 1 there is "nothing more normal" than for those that earn a lot of money to pay a lot of tax.
Separately, culture and communication minister Aurelie Filippetti said in a telephone interview with news channel i-Tele: "We shouldn't be receiving moral lessons from people who abandon the battlefield when we need everyone to be mobilized."
Speaking in Brussels Friday, Mr. Hollande said fiscal treaties should be changed to deal with cases of people who take up residency "in a Belgian village."
Newspaper Web site: www.lejdd.fr
Write to William Horobin at [email protected]