The French Football League (LFP) on Saturday welcomed news that France’s top constitutional body had thrown out plans by the Socialist government to introduce a 75-percent upper income tax rate.
The rate would have applied to anyone earning over one million euros a year – therefore top footballers such as Paris Saint Germain’s Swedish star striker Zlatan Ibrahomovic, would have been affected.
The policy was also a centrepiece tax measure for the government of President Francois Hollande.
Although the government has vowed to propose a new measure which would conform with the constitution the LFP welcomed Saturday’s news.
“This is a fine and indispensable collective victory” for French football, the body said in a statement.
“Professional football did the right thing in fighting (the measure),” said LFP chairman Frederic Thiriez. “Right from the start we had sounded the alarm on the dangers of such taxation – dangers for French football with disastrous consequences for clubs.”
He added that if the measure had reached the statute book there could have been an “exodus of the best players” in the French league.
The Constitutional Council said the temporary two-year tax rate, which had been due to take effect next year, was unconstitutional because unlike other forms of income tax it applied to individuals instead of whole households.
Thiriez said the Council had listened to detractors of the policy, including the LFP and had with its ruling averted a “grave threat to the future” of the professional game in France.
The chairman of the clubs’ union UCPF, Jean-Pierre Louvel, told AFP it had been “important to rule this tax offside”.
Louvel explained: “Aside from PSG (bankrolled by its Qatari owners) no club has the wherewithal to pay this tax” hence there would have been an “outflow of talent.”
The tax rate had also angered business leaders and prompted some wealthy French citizens to seek tax exile abroad, including actor Gerard Depardieu, who recently took up residency in Belgium after the government personally criticised him.
The Council ruled that the proposed policy “failed to recognise equality before public burdens”.
Though largely symbolic — it would have applied to only about 1,500 individuals — the Socialists said the tax rate was aimed at making the ultra-rich contribute more to tackling France’s budget deficit.
It was a flagship promise of the election campaign that saw Hollande defeat right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in May.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]