New salty note for the most modest


“P have a tax increase. » Bruno Le Maire’s favorite formula was repeated at will by the Minister of the Economy, on the occasion of the examination in Parliament of bills on purchasing power, which is due to end this week. . But, as often with the government, behind the thesis of unbearable tax pressure, it is above all a question of preserving large fortunes and large groups from a fairer contribution. Because the pockets of ordinary French people will not be spared. And for good reason, the executive and its relative majority, which with the support of LR again rejected the tax on the superprofits of the CAC 40 at the start of the week, are counting on a tax: VAT.

“The government locks itself into an incredible dogma: as soon as you remove a tax, you must not create another. But who foots the bill? The French, who in the end are taxed rather than the profiteers of the crisis”, denounces the PCF deputy Nicolas Sansu. « They announce that everything that will be removed will be replaced by a fraction of VAT: the audiovisual license fee – more than 3 billion -, the end of the CVAE (contribution on the added value of companies – editor’s note) paid by companies and intended for local authorities – enjoyed s of 7 billion –, etc. », details the elected Cher.

However, this tax, which represents a significant share of State resources (38.1% of gross tax revenue from the 2021 budget, compared to 23.7% for income tax, 16% for corporate tax, according to INSEE), is also one of the most unfair contributions: everyone pays it at the same level, regardless of their income. Worse, the note is much more painful for the most modest. « The wealthiest households do not consume all of their income and therefore pay relatively less VAT, because they save more », observe Mathias André and Anne-Lise Biotteau, from Insee. According to Attac, a couple with children whose income amounts to 20,000 euros per year thus devotes 10.6% to VAT, against 6.3% for a household with 100,000 euros.

Difficult, therefore, to rely directly on this tax when you want to champion purchasing power. Bruno Le Maire is therefore committed to it: « There will be no increase in VAT », he promised in June, questioned by the rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon, anxious to know how the government intended to find « 80 billion euros to respect the promise made by Macron to the European Commission » on deficit reduction. But the devil is in the details. “He will never say it clearly, but we are not obliged to raise the VAT rate, it increases mechanically with inflation”, explains FI MP Aurélie Trouvou. “Macronie even pledges its entire budget on this, it means that they hope that inflation will be strong enough to maintain an increasing VAT”, abounds Nicolas Sansu. Already, it should bring in at least 5 billion more in 2022 than in 2021, according to the Directorate General of Public Finance. “This additional windfall is paid in a totally unequal way, mainly by the most in difficulty. Due to inflation, the tax burden increases more for the most modest », thus recalls the ecologist deputy Sophie Taillé-Polian.

« From ‘whatever it costs’ to ‘how much it costs' »

Especially since the end of the soaring prices is not for tomorrow. « We expect at least 7%, but all the players believe that it will go beyond, with a peak rather for the beginning of 2023 », explains Aurélie Trouvé, rapporteur for a monitoring group on inflation. A level much higher than the increases in pensions and allowances granted by the government in its purchasing power package. Even though basic necessities, in particular food or energy, are hit hard. “VAT is 20% on energy. It is an essential product, says the Council of State, and yet the State stuffs itself on it”, already estimated before the parliamentary session Alain Bazot, the president of the UFC-Que Choisir, pleading for “a special contribution for those who gorge themselves on the crisis, who make superprofits”.

However, the government, not content with rejecting the proposals aimed at increasing wages, succeeded in finding a circumstantial majority to exclude such an option, just like the price blocking measures to which the left considers it essential to associate the reductions of VAT. Otherwise, “there is no certainty that this will go into consumers’ pockets. It may very well end up in extra margins,” assures Aurélie Trouvé.

The executive does not intend to stop there. « Not wanting to change the tax architecture to make those who can the most contribute, they will be faced with two walls: that of the debt burden, with already 12 billion more in the amending budget because of the rise in interest rate, and that of the risk of seeing growth stall », forecast Nicolas Sansu. And the deputies on the left have been sounding the alarm even more strongly since the presentation of the 2022-2027 stability program to the Assembly on Tuesday. « We went from ‘whatever it costs’ to ‘how much does it cost' », launched the Minister Delegate for Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal. The objective is clearly stated: « The path we are taking should enable us to bring the public deficit below the 3% threshold by 2027 », warned the tenant of Bercy. If the precise measures must be detailed in September, the main lines are already known: « control of the increase in public expenditure » at +0.6%, and “structural reforms, in particular pensions” are on the menu. Added to these are those of unemployment insurance or the RSA. For the left, this policy has a name, its elected officials recalled in session: « austerity ».

« It’s a double jeopardy »

“It is clear that none of the lessons of the 2008 post-crisis period have been retained. While many have highlighted the deleterious effects of the budgetary consolidation that then took place, you are about to do it again for purely ideological reasons”, pointed out the communist Jean-Marc Tellier. « The austerity underlying this stability program is not compatible with the necessary ecological conversion of our society, nor with the preservation of our health system », added environmentalist Eva Sas. Faced with the minister’s denials, Alma Dufour (FI) also stepped up: “You lie when you announce that there will be no austerity. Public expenditure naturally grows with demographics. The Senate tells us that this growth is about 1.3% per year, yet you are proposing to increase spending by only 0.6% per year. »

« It’s a double jeopardy », summarizes for her part Aurélie Trouvé, who fears that « the policy of raising interest rates » combined with “anti-social policy” not “stifles popular consumption” against the required revival. The government recipe is unfortunately not new. Behind the speeches concerned with purchasing power, it is indeed to the citizens who do not have the chance to be among the wealthiest that the invoice is, again and again, presented.


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