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French Eyeglass Magnate Afflelou Calls New Taxes ‘Confiscatory’

President Francois Hollande’s government has denigrated France’s entrepreneurs with its attitude toward business and its “confiscatory taxation,” said Alain Afflelou, the founder of a chain of eyeglass stores.

“We must stop saying that company chiefs are dishonest people and thieves,” Afflelou, who’s moving to London, told RTL Radio Dec. 22.

Afflelou is relocating for “two to three years,” though he says he’s moving to work more closely with his eponymous company’s new British shareholder, Lion Capital, and to expand the chain into Northern Europe, not to shrink his tax bill.

Hollande, elected in May, is imposing a 75 percent tax on income of more than 1 million euros, keeping a campaign pledge. The millionaire tax has been followed by new levies on capital gains, an increased tax on wealth, an increased tax rate for income of 150,000 euros or more, a boost to inheritance charges and an exit tax for entrepreneurs selling companies.

Though there are no official statistics yet, tax lawyers say they’ve seen an increase in French people moving to Britain, Belgium or Switzerland to avoid the new taxes.

The government is seeking to bolster revenue through taxes on large companies, Internet startups and private fortunes to make its budget-deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product next year. Hollande, the first Socialist president in France since 1995, has called on those “with the most to show patriotism” in tough economic times.

Arnault, Depardieu

French billionaire Bernard Arnault, chief executive officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, filed an application for Belgian nationality in September. While he promised to continue paying taxes in France, the action prompted fierce criticism from Hollande and his supporters.

This month, actor Gerard Depardieu, who played Obelix in films on one of France’s most beloved fictional characters, said he’s moving to Belgium and selling his Paris home. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu’s actions “pathetic,” drawing a protest from the actor.

“I am leaving because you consider success, creativity, talent, anything different are grounds for sanction,” the movie star, known for such classic French roles as Cyrano de Bergerac and the musketeer Porthos, wrote in correspondence to Ayrault published in Le Journal du Dimanche. “I don’t expect to be pitied or praised but I reject the word pathetic.”

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