Tax rates have risen so high and so often in recent years in France that even socialist ministers are urging the president (an avowed socialist himself, natch) to reconsider his tax-and-spend policies. Oh, the irony!
Returning from their summer break, the French are about to discover stinging rises in tax bills in their letter boxes – the result of a series of new levies enacted by President François Hollande as he seeks to plug the French deficit and bring down public debt – now riding at 92 per cent of GDP.
But the extent of the hikes has apparently even shocked the very Socialist ministers who implemented them.
The total tax pressure (taxes and social security contributions) will account for 46.3 per cent of GDP this year – a historic high – compared to 45 per cent in 2012.
Some 16 million households will see an automatic 2 per cent rise in income tax as calculations are no longer mitigated by inflation. Family tax breaks will be cut.
Does this mean that socialist leaders will finally forgive French actor Gérard Depardieu for taking his money elsewhere? Don’t count on it. Meanwhile, top ministers in Mr. Hollande’s government are urging caution over the issue of taxation, in part by launching a public relations campaign to soothe the ruffled feathers of an already angry public:
Pierre Mosovici, the finance minister, told France Inter radio:“I’m very sensitive to the French getting fed up with taxes We are listening to them.” Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister followed suit, warning Mr Hollande to be “very, very careful” as “there’s a level above which we shouldn’t climb”.
One Socialist told Les Echos newspaper that the hand-wringing was totally hypocritical as “they are crying wolf, but the wolf is us.”
The topic was top of the agenda at the Socialists’ annual “summer university”, which opened today , and where Ségolène Royal, Mr Hollande’s former partner, called for a “moratorium on new taxes.” Even more categorical was Bruno Le Roux, Socialist leader in the National Assembly, who declared: “There will be no new taxes” for the rest of Mr Hollande’s five-year mandate.
However, commentators said that was not possible, as some had already been programmed for next year.
Mr Hollande’s government introduced over 7 billion euros of fresh taxes after coming to power in May 2012 and another 20 billion euros in the 2013 budget.
History, as they say, tends to repeat itself. One of the reasons Margaret Thatcher rose to power in Great Britain was, well, because the public was utterly dissatisfied with the status quo. Might the citizens of France, then, be a bit more sympathetic to a center-right coalition coming in and retaining power during the next election cycle? After all, the French Right-wing UMP party has already vowed to implement “massive tax cuts” if they’re elected in 2017, according to the Telegraph. The only problem, however, is that the election isn’t for another four years.