08/23/2011 04:23 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2011

France's Mega-Rich Sign Petition Saying They Want Higher Taxes

By Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal

Warren Buffett is playing well in France.

A group of 16 of the richest people in France has signed a petition asking the French government to increase their taxes. The group includes Liliane Bettencourt, the billionaire heiress of L’Oreal; Christophe de Margerie, the head of oil giant Total; Frederic Oudea of bank Société Générale; and Jean-Cyril Spinetta, president of Air France KLM SA. (Given SocGen’s share price, Mr. Oudea may not have as much wealth to tax).

The group says the government should create a “special contribution” that would target the rich.

“We are conscious of having benefited from a French system and a European environment that we are attached to and which we hope to help maintain,” the petition said.

Conservatives will argue that the French are already socialists, so why care? Those on the left will say the petition is proof of a new global movement to get the rich to pay more of a fair share.

In France, they may well get their wish. Unlike the U.S., where Warren Buffett’s Tax Pledge calling for higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires was met with stiff opposition from Republicans, France is leaning toward raising it’s already high taxes on the wealthy.

The wealthy pay a top rate of 40%. Plus, they pay an annual wealth tax on their total assets, levying fees of between 0.5% and 1.8% on assets above $1.1 million. (Not to mention all the other estate and inheritance and gift taxes and social taxes and corporate taxes and VAT taxes and, well, you get the idea).

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