Please tax us, French super-rich tell government

16 company executives, business leaders and super-rich called for "a special contribution".

Paris: Some of France`s richest people, including the billionaire heiress of L`Oreal and the head of oil giant Total, urged the government on Tuesday to tax them more to help to solve the country`s financial problems.

In a petition published on the website of weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, 16 company executives, business leaders and super-rich individuals called for the creation of "a special contribution" that would target wealth without hurting capital flows.

The petition follows a recent call by US billionaire Warren Buffett for US authorities to raise taxes on himself and other ultra-high earners to contribute to austerity efforts.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is already planning to axe some tax exemptions that benefit the wealthy as he tries to squeeze some 5-10 billion euros in extra revenues in the 2012 budget following a market rout that has highlighted concern over French public finances.

Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse said this month that the government was working on a new contribution from taxpayers earning more than 1 million euros ($1.41 million) a year.

"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," said the petition, signed by the chief executives of advertising group Publicis, bank Societe Generale and the president of Air France.

Sarkozy, who faces a tough battle for re-election in April, initially planned to raise an extra 3 billion euros next year by clamping down on tax breaks as he seeks to trim the 2012 deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product from a forecast 5.7 percent this year.

But weak second-quarter economic growth and Standard & Poor`s downgrade this month of the U.S. credit rating have convinced Paris it needs to act more urgently to shore up its AAA rating, crucial for the stability of the euro zone as it wrestles with its debt crisis.

"When the public finances` deficit and the prospects of a worsening state debt threaten the future of France and Europe and when the government is asking everybody for solidarity, it seems necessary for us to contribute," the petition said.

Bureau Report

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