Living the Dream

Becoming a Fiscal Ghost

December 27, 2012

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Becoming a Fiscal Ghost

I admire the great French actor Gérard Depardieu. Not only does he annoy the French left, he has now left France. In so doing, he has given me a great idea: to transform myself into a fiscal ghost.

My aim in 2013 is to vanish into thin air fiscally. It may turn out to be illegal, but it definitely will not be immoral. There is only so much tax a man can take. And no law, not even one supported by the majority, is necessarily just.

Depardieu has just moved from France to neighboring Belgium in part to avoid the consequences of the new French socialist government’s decision to impose a 75% tax rate on anyone earning more than one million euro a year.

It is the same counterproductive, growth-destructive story everywhere in the Eurozone: tax increases and new taxes not just for the rich like Depardieu who can move, but for the middle class who cannot. All for what? To keep alive the insatiable beast known as the state, which will kill us unless we kill it.

“There is only so much tax a man can take. And no law, not even one supported by the majority, is necessarily just.”

Here in Italy, the sales tax on nearly every transaction is 20%, and the total tax rate on commercial profits is 68.3%, compared to 30.2% in neighboring Switzerland. (It’s 46.7% in America.)

That an actor such as Depardieu, whose personality both on- and offscreen personifies La France Profonde, should quit the country is a heavy propaganda blow to the French left and President Francois Hollande. Film people, as America sadly knows, tend to love the left.

But when France’s socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault nonchalantly dismissed Depardieu’s decision as “minable” (pathetic), it made things worse—for the French left—because last Sunday Depardieu hit back in spades with a letter published in Le Journal du Dimanche. Addressed to the premier, few honest people anywhere could disagree with it:

I am leaving because you consider that success, creativity, talent, and in fact, just being different, must be punished.

Quel homme! What a fabulously succinct definition and critique of socialism! It even comes complete with its own inbuilt flipside, namely: Socialism only rewards unsuccessful, uncreative, untalented sheep. And he added for good measure: “I am handing in my passport.” So he intends not only to leave France but also to renounce his French citizenship. Zut alors!

Depardieu, 63, wrote that he has paid 145 million euro ($189 million) in taxes since he began work at age 15 without a single qualification to his name and that he has never claimed welfare money from the state:

We do not anymore share the same country, I am a true European, a citizen of the world.…Who are you to judge me, indeed I ask you monsieur Ayrault, prime minister of monsieur Hollande, I ask you, who are you?

Like Depardieu and so many other millions, I am very angry at the erosion of liberty and the rise of tyranny in Europe as evidenced by the inexorable rise in the taxes imposed on us.

My profile, unlike Depardieu’s, is very low. He can leave France but wherever he goes he cannot disappear off the fiscal radar screen. But I might be able to swing it.

The general rule is that you pay tax in the country where you live. But I am self-employed and all I need for my work are a computer and a telephone. I could just as easily write while sitting at a table in a bar overlooking the harbor on a Greek island or from inside a centrally heated tent at the North Pole. Who is to know any different?

The Italian taxman knows that I live in Italy and the details of my address here. But there is no law that obliges an EU citizen such as myself to be residente in Italy. I do not need that piece of paper. I can simply be here sans papiers of any description. And I have noticed that my 10-year residenza expires in March 2013. Oh, but you must have one of those, the Italians insist. They say it’s for medical treatment, which in Italy is partly free for adults and wholly free for children. Not true. All EU citizens are covered for the free bits of healthcare in all EU countries.

I plan not to renew my residenza when it expires. How, then, will the Italian taxman be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I live in Italy? Even if he turns up at the Forlì flat and sees my wife and five children, so bloody what? I can simply reply: “Yes, but yesterday I was on a Greek island, and tomorrow I’m off to the North Pole.” His only hope of getting the dirt on me would be to interrogate my mother-in-law. Would he be man enough?

Thanks to the Internet revolution, there must be millions of us rootless cosmopolitans dotted about the EU’s 27 nations whose work requires only a computer and a telephone. It is time for our revolution. Unlike Depardieu, we do not have to move about from country to country. It is enough to pretend we are doing so.

The European Union’s propagandists define their subjects as “European citizens.” Fine. So let us, if we must, as European citizens—not Frenchmen or Italians or Englishmen—pay our taxes to the ghost called “Europe” which does not truly exist.

My aim, as British guitarist Jeff Beck put it, is to tell the taxman that I am “everywhere and nowhere baby.”

Like all my great ideas, it will probably end in tears. But it’s a risk I have to take.


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