Tax is a constant burning issue these days in France. It’s a socialist kind of country with high taxes and high levels of public services, but it doesn’t make paying your taxes any easier and the recent introduction of a 75% tax band for income levels over €1,000,000 has caused much discussion across the nation. The professional football league – already in the second tier of European leagues when it comes to attracting big names with big money – has been screaming “foul!” for some weeks now.
89-year-old golden crooner Charles Aznavour has admitted both in print and on air that he had his own personal solution to tax headaches: Rather than bother his head to calculate how much tax he owed, he took the short cut of handing the right person a wad of cash to make it all go away.
His admission came during a live interview on France Info radio, where he was guest of host Philippe Vandel to promote his autobiography “Tant que Battra Mon Coeur”. Vandel quizzed Aznavour about his alleged fiscal fraud during the reign of President Valery Giscard D’Estaing:
“There are, in fact, certain political people who could apparently sort things out for me and I gave some cash for the votes that they needed… It cost me a lot of money.”
Aznavour is a world-famous singing star, having sold millions of records in a career that started in 1933, when he was just nine years old. The multilingual Frenchman of Armenian extraction is best known in the English-speaking world for huge hits such as “She” and “Dance in the Old-Fashioned Way” and is still performing live as he approaches his 90th year.
Since the 1970s, Aznavour has been resident in Switzerland even though he remains a tax resident of the French Republic – a self-imposed exile that was of a personal, rather than a fiscal nature:
“I didn’t leave France – I was pushed out,” he says, referring to the media hounding he got following the tax evasion charges of 35 years ago. His solution was not one to be recommended as it normally means a one-way ticket to prison. In any case, Aznavour today says that he has settled all his debts to the Republic and admits that his brown-bag payments and solicitor fees ended up costing considerably more than his tax bills.