A Capitalist Revolt in Socialist France
The French government is trying to reign in its deficit by jacking up taxes, including the capital gains tax, which it wants to bring to the same level as the tax on income earned by the sweat of your brow—an old philosophical pillar of the French left. But an explosive essay published last Friday hit a nerve with entrepreneurs, venture capital investors, artisans, and mom-and-pop business owners. And their anger, which spread across the social media, the papers, and finally TV news, turned into an open revolt.
The trigger was an editorial in La Tribune by John-David Chamboredon, Executive President of ISAI, an internet startup fund. After the Finance Law 2013 was proposed during the presidential elections, he wrote, “la France du business stopped breathing.” Investments and hiring were put on hold. The cause: the capital-gains tax provisions. An entrepreneur, for example, who risked his savings, spent 10 years growing his business, created perhaps hundreds of jobs, survived all the challenges, and then wanted to cash out, would have to pay two layers of taxes on the capital gains, totaling, according to his calculations, 60.5%. And so would investors.
It would kill entrepreneurship. Funding for startups would dry up. And growth in the private sector would wither. “If the fiscal maelstrom is confirmed, the sequence of events is quite clear,” he wrote. “Instead of hiring people and developing the business, owners threatened by this confiscation would spend the rest of 2012 imagining ways to escape it.”