15 Dec 2012

Move to Belgium by Depardieu decried

11:05 am on 15 December 2012

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of France describes a decision by Gerard Depardieu to move to Belgium to avoid higher taxes as "shabby".

He suggested that the film star's move to the town of Nechin, just over the border from the French city of Lille, was unpatriotic at a time of cutbacks.

Mayor Daniel Senesael revealed this week that Depardieu, 63, had taken up home there.

''I think he wanted to enjoy the atmosphere in Belgium, our identity, the rural, bucolic setting," he told RTL radio.

The BBC says there is a general disgruntlement in business circles over tax rates in France.

Luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault made headlines three months ago when he announced plans to relocate to Belgium, denying it was for tax reasons.

Nechin is already home to some 2800 French citizens including the Mulliez family, owners of the hypermarket chain Auchan and the Decathlon sports stores.

However, a BBC correspondent says Depardieu's departure is seen as less damaging to the government as he is regarded as a rather grumpy, temperamental character.

The top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1 million euros next year. It is currently 50% in Belgium.

"I find this quite shabby... All that just to avoid paying tax," said Mr Ayrault.

''Paying a tax is an act of solidarity, a patriotic act," he said on the France 2 TV channel.

A BBC correspondent says it appears Depardieu's new home is an old customs officer's house, close to the border.