Depardieu conveniently relocates just out of tax range

‘Bonnet de Douche!!’ as Derrick Trotter might say. When one thinks of all things Gallic, especially with an eye on the arts, one may settle on two iconic figures. One would be the increasingly plastic features of the ‘French Elvis’ Jonny Hallyday and the other would be the smooth yet quirky charms of actor, Gerard Depardieu.

So how are these two giants of French culture faring in their commitment to Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite? Not that well it would seem – especially on the ‘Fraternite’ front. Hallyday legged it from the French tax system in 2006 and set up camp in the tirelessly chic village of Gstaad in Switzerland. Not to be outdone, Depardieu has just bought a house in the Belgian border town of Nechin to add to a list of properties that includes a chateau in Anjou, vineyards in France, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Algeria and Ukraine, three Paris restaurants, a fishmongers and a motorbike shop.

His protestations that he just fancied a change of scenery have been met with a certain skepticism as falling over in the garden of his new house would probably have you back over the French border. A mere 15 minutes drive to Lille and full TGV and Eurostar services make his new, decidedly modest domicile the ideal place to leave France without really leaving it.

While the rumblings about his apparent fiscal betrayal ring out across France, Depardieu is no stranger to controversy. He was arrested for drink driving last week after falling off his scooter in Paris, is facing an assault charge after an "altercation" with a motorist in August, and last year courted scandal by urinating in the aisle of an aircraft. This backlash should be child’s play to ignore then.

But while tax avoidance is a sensitive issue here in the UK too – and quite rightly, do spare this thought. At what point is a government who imposes a 75% rate of tax on its wealthiest citizens to blame when those citizens emigrate in droves. Look what happened in the UK in the 70’s when the top tier of tax was 98% and wealth creators fled. Striking that balance has always been the key to public sector economics

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