French rocker Johnny Hallyday is facing a massive overdue tax bill, it emerged Wednesday, amid an election debate over how to handle the country's many super-rich tax exiles.
The 68-year-old "French Elvis" is a huge star in his homeland, but is resident in Switzerland for tax purposes and divides his time between Paris and Los Angeles, where he held a comeback concert on Tuesday night.
Some of the glitz was taken off the occasion, however, by a report in the weekly French investigative paper Le Canard Enchaine that he had been ordered to pay a nine-million-euro ($12-million) tax shortfall after a 2011 audit.
A source with knowledge of the case confirmed to AFP that money was owed, but would not confirm the total. For his part, Hallyday refused to comment, telling reporters: "I'm hearing about it from you.
"Me, I'm just coming off stage. I performed my music, that's what's important to me," he said at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles after a successful first night of his 2012 tour.
He performed in front of a crowd largely made up of French expatriate fans, delighted he was back on the road after two years of serious health problems.
Despite being a French national icon, Hallyday moved to Switzerland in 2007, becoming in turn a symbol of an exodus of high-earners fleeing France's relatively high tax rates to neighbouring jurisdictions.
His personal income tax is paid in Switzerland, but most of his commercial and artistic earnings still come from the French market and are subject to various levies there.
In 2007, Hollyday was one of several rich celebrities who endorsed Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential bid, but on Tuesday he declared that he would no longer "get mixed up publicly in politics".
Sarkozy formerly cited the tax exiles as an evidence that France's taxes are too high and are driving away talented citizens.
But, after his five years in office were marred by an economic crisis, he is campaigning for re-election with a promise to impose an exit tax on wealthy French people moving abroad and to find ways of clawing back revenue.
Source: AFP Global Edition