An official in Bordeaux has risked the ire of some chateaux owners by saying a tax break meant for small-scale producers should be closed to estates controlled by corporate firms and wealthy families.
Chateau d’Agassac in Ludon-Medoc, owned by insurance firm Groupama
Ludon-Medoc’s assistant mayor, Benoit Simian, called the current system for Economic Territorial Contribution tax (CET) a ‘fiscal injustice’. France’s agriculture sector, including wine, is exempt from paying CET.
Calling for a change in the law, Simian told Decanter.com, ‘I am not suggesting a tax on the rich, just that the tax break be applied fairly and not used by big corporations.
‘A small florist in our town pays local CET of about €700 per year, while business-owned chateaux are exonerated. It’s not fair.’
He refused to put figures on how much tax would be raised by a change of law, but said it would be a very ‘interesting’ amount.
Several family and corporate owned chateaux in the area rejected Simian’s argument.
The director of Ludon-Medoc-based Chateau d’Agassac, Jean-Luc Zell, described the estate as a small-to-medium enterprise, despite being owed by French insurance firm Groupama, which had a net profit of €283m in 2013. Zell said it would make his wines less competitive if he paid and some estates did not.
At Chateau La Lagune – owned by the Frey family who also own Domaine Paul Jaboulet in the Rhone and 45% of Champagne house Billecart-Salmon – director and oenologue Caroline Frey said the deputy major was wrong on two counts.
‘If the owner is not the operator, then the tax must be paid, but, in our case, and in most cases, the owner and the estate operator are the same,’ she said.
Frey said Simian underestimated the value chateaux bring to the local economy. ‘I employ more than 50 people and 90% of them live locally.’
Written by Sophie Kevany