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When in France, tax the rich

March 5, 2012: 3:54 PM ET

Raising taxes on the rich isn't just an election year issue in the United States -- it's also a big deal in France.

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande last week proposed a 75% tax rate on income above 1 million euros, a move that has sparked debate, with some arguing that raising taxes to that level would result in an exodus of French citizens to other European countries with more favorable rates.

Hollande is expected to face off against Nicolas Sarkozy in a May election that has implications for both France, and the way the eurozone debt crisis will be handled.

But why does Hollande want to tax the rich?

The BBC quoted the candidate as saying it "is patriotic to agree to pay a supplementary tax to get the country back on its feet."

The policy proposal is also polling very well, with two surveys showing a majority of French citizens favor the 75% top rate.

Stateside, President Obama has made the argument that the rich should pay higher taxes as a matter of fairness. He wants to let the top two tax rates -- currently 33% and 35% -- revert to their pre-2001 levels of 36% and 39.6%, as well as other tax hikes that would hit the rich.

Obama's proposed top rate on income is nowhere near 75% -- which interestingly is lower than top marginal rates in the United States as recently as the 1960s.

While hiking taxes is always going to upset certain segments of society, Hollande is facing some blowback that is unlikely to be an issue for Obama: French footballers are apparently quite upset (and wealthy).

Frédéric Thiriez, France's top soccer official, is warning of disaster for French football if taxes are raised.

"If this plan saw the light of day, it would end in catastrophe for French football, it would be impoverished and downgraded on a European level," Thiriez said according to wire service AFP.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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