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French Soccer Clubs to Strike to Protest Hollande’s 75% Tax

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Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- French soccer clubs said they won’t play a round of league matches in November to protest President Francois Hollande’s tax on the highest salaries kicking in next year.

“This is a historic decision, made unanimously and with determination, to save soccer,” the French Football Federation said in a statement on its website.

The strike, the first of its kind since 1972, is over Hollande’s plan to impose a 75 percent levy on earnings of more than 1 million euros ($1.38 million). The tax was announced by Hollande in February 2012 as part of his presidential campaign and was designed to appeal to his Socialist base. It has become a symbol of his government’s record-high rate of taxation.

A first attempt to put the tax into law was shot down by the constitutional court last December because it applied to individuals and not households. Hollande later revived the levy, specifying that it would apply to salaries and would be paid by employers rather than individuals.

For some unprofitable clubs, the extra burden is a threat to survival, according to the Ligue de Football Professionnel.

“The consequences of this measure will be dramatic,” said Frederic Thiriez, head of the LFP, said in a statement. “France must be the only country that taxes money-losing companies.”

The clubs, which are canceling matches between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2, are asking the government to abandon the tax.

Mixed Burden

Professional football contributes about 700 million euros in taxes annually to the French state and provides about 25,000 jobs, according to the LFP.

Some clubs can handle the burden better than others. Paris Saint-Germain, France’s richest soccer club, has at least 12 team members who make more than 1 million euros a year. They include Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who earns 15 million euros a year.

Former England captain David Beckham would escape the tax because his five-month stint at PSG didn’t qualify him as a French resident. While Beckham is soccer’s best-paid player with 36 million euros this year, only 5 percent of that comes from salary, according to France Football.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Deen in Paris at markdeen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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