Dec. 13 - Actor Gerard Depardieu has become the latest wealthy Frenchman to look for shelter outside his native country following tax hikes but French politicians are fighting back. Joanne Nicholson reports
It'll be a far cry from the red carpet but a move to Belgium means Gerard Depardieu will dodge France's wealth tax. The Cyrano de Bergerac star has bought a home in the village of Nichin, just a short drive from the border, and many there are on his side. (SOUNDBITE) (French) PENSIONER AND NECHIN RESIDENT, JACQUES RUCQUOIS, SAYING: "He is taking advantage of the system. If we could do the same we certainly would." (SOUNDBITE) (French) FISH AND CHIPS SHOP VENDOR, MALIKA PATTYN, SAYING: "Enough with paying taxes, enough with working when others are making money just sitting at home. I completely agree with him. " Almost 3000 French live in the area. Since France's socialist President imposed a 75 percent tax on its super rich, many have fled. The policy has been widely criticised and some say it dampens investment. Britain's Prime Minister recently offered to "roll out the red carpet" for French firms. Bernard Arnault, the billionaire chief executive of the luxury brand LVMH, requested Belgian citizenship in September, although he says it's not for tax reasons. He's ranked as the world's fourth richest man with a total wealth of $41 billion. That's more than the 30 billion euros France is looking to save in 2013 - a fact not lost on socialist MP Yann Galut. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH SOCIALIST MP YANN GALUT, SAYING: "I want the tax exiles to pay the difference between the taxes of their country of origin and their country of residence. That's the system in America and I want that to be French law." Galut says exiles cost France up to 8 billion euros a year and there should be sanctions against people like Depardieu. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH SOCIALIST MP YANN GALUT, SAYING: "This man - who owes France everything, who owes it the honours he received, who was raised in French schools - doesn't want to pay his share for the rest of society even at the end of his career at a time when he is extremely rich." Galut's bill would also see the tax evaders stripped of their French citizenship. But that won't happen until parliament starts work on the budget for 2014.