Be not too hasty to condemn that giant, literal and metaphorical, of French cinema, Gérard Xavier Marcel Depardieu, chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, for his apparent willingness to ditch French citizenship for Russian over a tax bill (though he has yet formally to confirm his acceptance of Vladimir Putin’s offer). Au contraire. After all, might his “mercenary, unpatriotic” act not appear in a somewhat different light had he chosen Irish citizenship over Russian?
Indeed, do we not pride ourselves on the way our easygoing tax system acts as a magnet to companies and individuals? Do we not got out of our way to attract to these shores creative writers by exempting works of artistic merit from tax? (Although, unfortunately, we’re not as good at fêting interpretive artists, not considered worthy of Aosdána). And, clearly, we can’t consider those who do succumb to such financial blandishments to come and live here, and who may eventually opt for citizenship, to be anything other than worthy upstanding characters whose choice is both welcome and devoid of any suggestion of moral culpability. Mutatis mutandis in respect of Gérard Xavier.
Of course it’s quite understandable that the French might not see either Depardieu’s defection to Russian citizenship – or that in prospect, she announced yesterday, of Brigitte Bardot over the treatment of two circus elephants – in the same light. “Shabby” is how the prime minister described it, and reports suggest that up to 5,000 others of the country’s top earners have, or are in the process of, decamping to Belgium, the UK, or elsewhere. All to escape François Hollande’s rather socialist 75 per cent tax on the incomes of the super-rich.
The French government also takes a similar rather unforgiving view of Ireland’s corporate tax regime, a blot on an otherwise improving relationship. Perhaps then it’s just as well that the star of Green Card – ironically, about a man who enters into a marriage of convenience in order to get US residency – did not choose Ireland. No point in rubbing salt in wounds.