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Macron to scrap France's exit tax
French President Emmanuel Macron has stirred up a new hornets' nest with a promise to scrap the 30 percent "exit tax" on top-earners who take their assets out of the country. Left-wingers seized on the announcement in an interview with American business magazine Forbes to repeat their claim that Macron is a "president of the rich".
"Regarding foreign companies and the exit tax, I want to suppress it," Macron told Forbes in an interview that gave him a more than sympathetic hearing. "The exit tax sends a negative message to entrepreneurs in France, more than to investors."
Pointing out that it earned the exchequer very little, he claimed that it discouraged startups "because it means that beyond a certain threshold, you are penalised if you leave".
"And I think, if you want to get married, you should not explain to your partner that 'If you marry with me, you will not be free to divorce'," he explained. "I'm not so sure it is the best way to have a lady or a man who loves. So I'm for being free to get married and free to divorce.
Left up in arms
The exit tax brought in 70 million euros in 2017, a slight rise on previous years but much lower than the 200 million euros a year predicted when it was introduced by right-wing former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
The Macron government has already scrapped the wealth tax on everything but property and created a "flat tax" of 30 percent on all financial income, including dividends, earning Macron a reputation for favouring the rich.
"Even tax evasion is no longer discouraged," declared Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure in a tweet.
"With Emmanuel Macron it's again as always 'exit tax' for the most well-off ... who can now go into tax exile with complete impunity," said Socialist MP Boris Vallaud, while hard-left MP Alexis Corbière dubbed the announcement "appalling".
Former budget minister Christian Eckert, another Socialist, declared himself "shocked", claiming that the low revenue from the measure proved it works.
"At a time when everybody is talking about fighting tax dodging, it seems incomprehensible to scrap it," he commented.
Far-right politicians Florian Phlippot and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan also slammed the decision as more help for "the priveleged" and "tax exiles".
In the Forbes interview, Macron also vowed to face down strikes to his changes to the public sector, notably on the railways.
"Perhaps some of them will want to organise strikes for weeks or months," he declared. "We have to organise ourselves. But I will not abandon or diminish the ambition of the reform because there is no other choice."
His experience in the private sector helped him understand US President Donald Trump, with whom he enjoys cordial relations, he said.
" Your president is a dealmaker," he told the Forbes journalists. "I understand his personality. He's a dealmaker."
Trump's behaviour might be counterintuitive to traditional polticians, Macron said. But "when you see him as a dealmaker, as he has always been, it's very consistent. That's what I like about him and working with him, and that's where my business background helped me a lot."