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“Today, I no longer have to look at my accounts” – Liberation

Three wealthy men have agreed to talk about their income, their heritage and their relationship to tax, contrary to the refrain on “fiscal fed up”.

They are rich in the sense that the vast majority of people understand it, millions. Well beyond the “wealth threshold” at 3,673 euros per month for a single person and 490,000 euros in assets defined by the Observatory of Inequalities. But their fortune is very far from approaching that of the magnates of the CAC 40. And unlike those of most French billionaires, it comes more from work than from the inheritance of large families. Creation and resale of a company on an original post-sixty-eight idea for one, very profitable professional activity for the other. Both agreed to confide in Release talking more or less freely about their lives, their comfortable incomes and their assets. Originality in common: their consent without hesitation to the tax, contrary to the refrain on the supposed “fiscal ras-le-bol” of the wealthiest French people.

Henri, 74, ex-business manager: “I did not understand that Emmanuel Macron was stopping the ISF”

“I was born into a bourgeois family in Venezuela, because my father worked there for an American company and I was lucky enough to live there until I was 10 years old. Returned to France, I was educated in religious schools before making the revolution at the age of 20 during May 68 (laughs). At the time, France realizes that it has 600,000 students. In the wake of the barricades, I was recruited by the broadcasting team of the express, in the heyday of Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber and Françoise Giroud. And I had the idea in 1972 to create with a partner an independent subscription system at reduced prices for students, the University Press Office (Ofup), which has been very successful. In 2000, I sold the company to convert into private equity. Today, I am 74 years old, I am retired and I live very well. My real estate assets are a beautiful Haussmann apartment in Paris and a second home worth 1.4 million euros, 1.2 million euros in life insurance, a monthly income of 7,000 euros all types of pensions combined and I own a hotel in the 17th arrondissement of Paris worth 6 million euros. I also have shares in three companies on a minority basis and I am part of the Paris Entreprendre association, where I have been helping young entrepreneurs to grow on a voluntary basis since 2004. I have an interesting retirement, because I started invest very early in funded pension systems.

“But I also made sure that Ofup contributes for all my employees and I made them participate in the shareholding of the company. I find it abnormal to be paid 1,000 times the lowest salary when you’re the head of a company. Me, I limited myself to 10 times more, beyond that I find it indecent. Today, I use my money to allow myself a good restaurant once in a while. Above all, I am going to do major work to transform my heating system into geothermal energy in my house in Seine-et-Marne and it costs a fortune. I’ve been lucky enough to have a full life, I’ve traveled a lot, so I try to be environmentally conscious. I also donate 10,000 euros to several associations, such as the Auteuil apprentices. I also pay tax without any problem. I did not understand that Emmanuel Macron is stopping the Solidarity Tax on Wealth (ISF). I paid for it at one time, and I didn’t go to the Elysée to drop a bomb. I remember above all that there are 9 million poor people in France, and that it is not very glorious.

Gérard, 45, business lawyer: “I am not a candidate for tax exile, I love France too much”

“I was born into a family where my parents, workers, always voted for François Mitterrand. When I was younger, I told myself that I wouldn’t want to have to look at my bank account every month. My mother had big discussions with my father about the advisability of this or that purchase. The day I earned enough was the day I could buy one of my kids jeans without having to count. And today I no longer have to look at my accounts before making an expense for one of mine. I have just bought an apartment in Paris, I have a residence in Normandy and accommodation in New York. To be rich, if I believe the admission criteria of banks specializing in wealth management, is to be able to immediately entrust a million “cash” euros to invest. Being rich by one’s own doing or that of one’s parents is not the same thing. I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in the technology sector, who have made their own fortunes. The heirs live in the shadow of their ancestors.

“Not so long ago, the level of compulsory levies, even when it was high, had to be considered with regard to the quality of public services. Paying taxes is one way to fund these benefits. Today, most of those who have money put their children in private schools and do not seek treatment in public hospitals. However, I am not a candidate for tax exile, I love France too much. Those who leave are mostly pensioners. I consider that the reform of the ISF wanted by Emmanuel Macron is a mistake. It created frustrations and in particular the yellow vests. Today a liter of gasoline is two euros, which is a charge for the most modest incomes and the wealth tax has been completely revised, it is not consistent. Especially since the ISF in its first version had an important symbolic aspect: it was possible to fulfill it by financing SMEs. Most of those who pay a lot of taxes find the tax burden too high, but in the end they live with it. I am proud to have the level of resources that I have reached, knowing where I come from. Many of my clients have built their wealth themselves by taking risks. In France, you can become rich.”

Olivier, 42, employed in tech: “Just walk around the car park of the box with lots of Tesla”

“My box, a large American company, has set up a specific system, which allows us to have part of our salary converted into shares in the company, which is listed on the stock exchange. We can choose the proportion: we can go up to 12 or 13% of our monthly remuneration, and there are two windows in the year during which these operations can take place at a defined price. In addition to this, there are sometimes distributions of free shares, which are blocked for several years, and which are like a kind of bonus. This is done to reward performance and retain employees. Obviously, this has had a major impact on the evolution of my assets in recent years, in particular thanks to the rise in the stock market: at one point, all of these shares were worth something like 400,000 dollars. [environ 375 000 euros au cours actuel, ndlr] ; with the stock market correction of recent weeks, they have fallen significantly, perhaps by half, but the amount remains significant. I have never sold any of these titles, but it is obvious that the reduction in capital taxation decided by Emmanuel Macron [le prélèvement forfaitaire unique à 30 %, ou “flat tax”] made these devices more advantageous. They are very common in the tech world. Just take a walk in the car park of the box to realize it: it is full of electric Teslas and BMWs. It is also linked to our industry, which is doing very well and this translates into rapid acceleration: five years ago, my salary was 130K euros gross per year; today it is around 170K euros. Even if I changed grade and product, it is considerable.”

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