Scenes from François Hollande’s high-tax France:
In the heart of Paris’s Right Bank, where I live, only foreigners seem to buy flats, at prices entirely disconnected from reality. In my street, I have spotted three new Maseratis. Even before seeing their Qatari plates, I knew they couldn’t belong to local owners: they’re an ostentatious admission of wealth no one wants to make in Hollande’s France. (A luxury car is one of the “outward signs of wealth” your tax inspector has been specifically trained to query. The lesson has been learnt: last year, Rolls-Royce sold no cars in France.) On the Left Bank, elegant Americans buy bijoux apartments on place de Furstenberg, at 30,000 euros per square metre, and venture into the fine Café de Flore for elevenses.
“It’s not only that people don’t like to be treated like criminals just because they’re successful,” says a French banker friend who has recently moved to London. “But this uncertainty in every aspect of the tax system means it is impossible to do business: you don’t know what your future costs are, or your customer’s. You can’t buy, you can’t sell, you can’t hire, you can’t fire.”