Paris (AFP) – French pop singer Florent Pagny has sparked a political row after saying he plans to move to Portugal for tax reasons despite the government’s efforts to appeal to the wealthy.
Pagny’s announcement comes just as new centrist President Emmanuel Macron is cutting taxes to make the country more attractive for investors and high income earners.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has urged Pagny to set up in France while Defence Minister Florence Parly questioned the singer’s patriotism on Thursday.
“Everyone makes their own decisions. I think that those who love their country stay in France,” Parly told the France Info radio station.
After unveiling the first annual budget of the Macron era on Wednesday, Le Maire explained that controversial tax cuts for the wealthy were designed to stem the exodus of entrepreneurs and millionaires.
A host of businessmen and entertainers have quit France for the United States, Switzerland, Belgium or even Russia, including filmmaker Luc Besson, celebrated actor Gerard Depardieu and ageing rocker Johnny Hallyday.
Pagny, who has written lyrics slamming French tax authorities, was prosecuted for fraud and tax evasion in 2005 and ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 euros ($20,000).
The 55-year-old told Le Parisien newspaper last weekend that he planned to move to Portugal because the country did not have wealth or death taxes and did not tax royalties for 10 years.
“Lots of artists are starting to move there,” said the singer, who divides his time between France and Argentina, his wife’s home country, where he owns a large ranch and pays most of his taxes.
Macron has repeatedly urged France’s tax exiles to return, seeking to draw a line under the term of his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande who introduced a 75 percent super-tax on the wealthy.
“Come home! France is the land of conquest,” Macron said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last week.