Hollande Tells Billionaire to Be Patriot in Paying Taxes

French billionaire Bernard Arnault should show patriotism and do his share to contribute to the country’s economic recovery, President Francois Hollande said today in a televised interview.

Arnault, 63, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA chief executive officer, last week filed an application to become a Belgian national. The billionaire promised he would continue to pay taxes in France, countering reports he wants to avoid taxes.

“He should have reflected on what it means to ask for another nationality, because we are proud to be French,” Hollande said on TF1 today. “We have to call on patriotism at this time,” he said.

“Everyone must take part, and I note Arnault said himself he will contribute,” the president added, saying the billionaire made “the right correction.”

Arnault told Agence France-Presse he is “and will remain” a fiscal resident in France. “Our country must be able to count on everyone’s contribution to face the deep economic crisis,” he told AFP today.

Hollande, speaking in a 30-minute television interview, reiterated his campaign promise to create a new, temporary tax for anyone earning more than 1 million euros ($1.28 million) a year. After mounting criticism and several reports last week that he was planning to dilute the measure, Hollande said today he would go ahead with the tax in the 2013 budget law and that there would be “no exception” for those earning over a million euros.

The Belgian citizenship is a “personal action” that he initiated several months ago, Arnault told the Paris-based news agency in an interview. “It must not be interpreted politically,” he added, suggesting his decision was not a political statement against France’s planned tax on very high earners.

The LVMH press office confirmed a report by La Libre Belgique yesterday that Arnault filed for Belgian citizenship, citing Georges Dallemagne, president of the country’s parliamentary committee for granting citizenship.

(Corrects currency conversion in sixth paragraph)
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