Monday, December 31, 2012

Gérard Depardieu Stirs Belgian Border Town

I love this, at the New York Times, "Coming Soon to Belgian Village, a French Film Idol Fleeing Taxes":
NÉCHIN, Belgium — The last time a big star lit up this sleepy village of potato fields and rain-drenched pastures was in 1667, when the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, stopped by for the day. But even he may not have created quite the commotion caused by Gérard Depardieu, the celebrated actor, turbulent bon vivant and, since a visit to the mayor’s office here on Dec. 7 to register as a resident, France’s most reviled tax exile.

“I thought it was a joke,” said the mayor, Daniel Senesael, recalling his disbelief when he was first told that Mr. Depardieu intended to leave his mansion in Paris and move to Néchin, a rural settlement in Belgium with just 2,200 people, two cafes, a fast-food fry shop, a ruined chateau and no cinema.

“Let’s be honest, this is not Las Vegas,” Mr. Senesael said. “There are no lights and no discos. I get flooded with complaints when anyone suggests opening even a wind farm.”

Michel Sardou, a veteran French singer who has joined a frenzy of criticism directed at Mr. Depardieu in France, mocked the actor’s flight to Néchin, predicting that he would be “as bored as a rat” here. “So, there is some divine justice after all,” the singer joked on French television.

For Mr. Depardieu, and scores of wealthy French citizens who already live here, however, Néchin does have one seductive asset: it is beyond the reach of the French tax authorities but so close to France that an unmarked border running through the village puts the gardens of some properties in France and adjoining houses in Belgium.

“Our geographic situation makes us very attractive,” said Mr. Senesael, noting that Néchin is an easy place to get into and out of, with a nearby airport, a major highway and a railway station just a few miles away in the French city of Lille with regular high-speed trains to Paris, Brussels and London.

“Nobody should be astonished that big fortunes have found a certain fiscal advantage” in moving to this side of the border, said the mayor, whose domain covers Néchin and a cluster of other hamlets that form what is known as the Entity of Estaimpuis. Mr. Depardieu’s critics, he said, should direct their ire not at the actor but at the failure of European governments to harmonize tax rates across the 27 nations of the European Union.
More at that top link.  (And that should be "the failure of Europe to establish a uniform 75 percent tax rate on incomes over €1 million euros...")

Also, "France's 75 Percent Tax Rate Struck Down on Constitutional Grounds."

For now. Depardieu's smart to skedaddle out of there.

BONUS: From the editors at the Wall Street Journal, "Le Tax Fairness."