In the face of strong opposition from the art world, the French government appeared to back down last week from a move to include works of art valued at over €50,000 in annual assessments for wealth tax.
There was alarm among both commercial and
non-commercial sectors when it emerged earlier this month that as
part of the cost-cutting 2013 budget, the government's finance
committee had put forward an amendment to the ISF (impôt de
solidarité sur la fortune or wealth tax) that would incorporate
works of art valued over this level.
The proposal immediately drew strong
reactions from trade bodies such as SYMEV (the French auctioneers
association), the Paris Drouot auction group and antiques dealers
and art galleries associations. They variously pointed out that the
levy would seriously weaken the French art market as buyers ceased
to purchase works and vendors took their works overseas to sell and
that the measure would only yield low fiscal benefits.
SYMEV's president, Jean-Pierre Osenat, said
the association regarded the proposition as short-term fiscal
popularism and appealed to the deputies of the government not to
sacrifice an exemption from tax that has been maintained by
governments of both left and right for 30 years.
A letter was also sent to the culture
minister signed by representatives of seven of France's leading
museums and galleries, expressing their concerns that alongside its
threat to the art market, the tax threatened public collections,
exhibitions and art historical research.
Owners would be reluctant to be identified
by giving or lending works, they predicted, preferring to send them
abroad for sale, thereby risking the disappearance of French
heritage, with works of art no longer handed down from one
generation to the next.
The threat appeared to be diffused when Prime Minister Jean-Marc
Ayrault said last Tuesday that the government would not be
approving the amendment to include works of art in their
calculation of the wealth tax.