Depardieu to surrender French passport


French actor Gerard Depardieu has said he plans to give up his passport after the prime minister called him “pathetic” for seeking to avoid taxes by moving to Belgium. However, one of France’s best-known novelists, Michel Houellebecq, has announced he is returning to France after years of living in tax exile in Ireland.

In an open letter to French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Depardieu complained that he was being vilified after years of supporting France and paying millions of euro in taxes. Mr Ayrault had described Depardieu’s decision to move to Belgium as “pathetic” and unpatriotic at a time when the French were being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce the huge national debt. “I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned,” Depardieu wrote in the letter, published yesterday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

On the same day that Depardieu issued his letter, however, Houellebecq said he was returning to France. “Let’s say that money is important, but it’s not the most important thing,” he said.

“The main reason is that I wanted to again speak my language in my daily life.” The 56-year-old author of Atomised had been living near Shannon.

As the Depardieu controversy raged last week, a socialist member of parliament proposed that France adopt a law that would force anyone trying to escape full tax dues to forego their nationality.

The actor recently bought a house in Néchin, a Belgian village close to the border with France, where 27 per cent of residents are French nationals, and put up his €50 million Parisian home up for sale.

He has also inquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residence, and said yesterday he was handing in his passport and social security card.

Belgian residents do not pay wealth tax, which in France is now levied on those with assets of more than €1.3 million. Nor do they pay capital gains tax on share sales.