At least 8,000 protesters hit the streets of Brussels on Friday furious over what they see as flimsy tax rules for Europe’s rich.
Earlier this week, the world’s fourth richest person, Frenchman Bernard Arnault said he might pack his fashionable bags and head to Belgium.
If the new socialist government in France gets its way, the top rate of tax could soon rise to 75 percent.
‘‘In Belgium, there isn’t capital gains tax when you sell assets, which is the case in France, with regard to taxes on property holdings. In addition, Belgium, like most of the rest of the world, doesn’t have a wealth tax and the inheritance tax on property in Belgium is between zero and seven percent, whereas in France it is much higher,’‘ tax lawyer Manoël Dekeyser said.
The Louis Vuitton chief has said he will go on paying tax in France for the moment. That may change if President Francois Hollande carries out his election pledge to squeeze the rich.
In Brussels, some say the number of those fleeing higher taxes from abroad is rising. Estate Agent Caroline Lucidi-Joubert, who hunts the choicest properties in Brussels for the rich told euronews: ‘‘The people who come are younger and younger. Families with children, aged around 40 or 50. There are also those who’ve retired, who’ve stopped work and want to protect their assets.’‘
Alain Lefebvre is French but moved to Belgium to avoid paying capital gains on his large share portfolio. Today, he publishes a magazine for French expatriates. He is deeply critical of how his homeland treats risk takers.
‘‘We are very egalitarian in France. We don’t like shows-offs or big-heads, or people who succeed. We don’t like entrepreneurs. Boss is a dirty word,’‘ Lefebvre said.
But don’t be fooled. Belgium is no tax haven. While capital gains might be low compared to France, income is taxed at around 50 percent, one of Europe’s highest rates.