France backtracks on plan to impose supertax on art

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 1:54am


The French government will not impose a wealth tax on works of art following an angry backlash against the planned levy from the country's leading museums, including the Louvre.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was forced to backtrack on Tuesday, insisting: "The position of the government is very clear. There will be no inclusion of works of art in the calculation of taxes on wealth."

The move would have involved taxing works of art worth more than €50,000 (HK$500,000) as part of a raft of reforms proposed by the socialist president Francois Hollande's administration in its 2013 budget, including a "supertax" band for those earning over €1 million, aimed at slashing France's budget deficit.

The measure had been championed by the budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, but provoked a furious response from museum chiefs. The heads of France's seven largest museums sent an angry letter to the culture ministry saying the tax would weaken their collections.

"We fear that a tax on works of art will lead to their owners not wanting to loan them [to us] for fear that if they are put on display they [the owners] will be identified," they wrote.

"The international recognition and the work of our establishments will be weakened."

The left-leaning Liberation newspaper described the proposed tax as "grotesque" and said it was an "intellectual and political regression". It said the measure would scare off potential art collectors.

"This measure is grotesque, first of all because even those who defend it say it will bring nothing or almost nothing to the state's budget," the newspaper wrote in an editorial.

"It will, however, disorganise the fragile ecosystem that allows exhibitions to come together, art historians to work and our cultural institutions to draw in visitors."

The debate on the 2013 budget began in the National Assembly on Tuesday. Ayrault said the amendment relating to the taxation of works of art, which has been passed by the assembly's finance committee, would not be approved.