Arnaud Robinet is mayor of Reims and vice-president of Greater Reims.
Are we witnessing the return of "Balance your mayor"? While in 2018 this slogan had flourished to criticize elected officials increasing the housing tax, during a television interview Sunday, the President of the Republic blamed mayors for the increase in property tax.
Many elected officials were legitimately hurt by this statement. Why make municipalities scapegoats for inflation? Why not tell the truth to the French? While property taxes are increasing in some cities, 85% of them are not increasing it. This is the case of my city of Reims, which has refused to do so since 2014, while property tax has increased by an average of 4.7% in the country's 200 largest cities.
If the property tax increases in some municipalities, it is partly to compensate for the abolition of the housing tax from which some municipalities are unable to recover. It is one of the only tax levers still available to them.
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If the property tax increases, it is also and above all to compensate for the increase in tax bases of 7% by the State, the latter are used to calculate the tax. This is the highest revaluation coefficient since 1986 and will cost owners €3 billion.
Of course, the abolition of the housing tax is not to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Both Emmanuel Macron and Édouard Philippe have been courageous through a necessary measure. Yes, the housing tax as it was thought before 2017 included injustices, medical secretaries of the poor neighborhoods of Reims could pay more than residents of the seventh arrondissement of Paris. Yes, abolishing €22 billion in taxes is a liberal virtue that I salute like millions of French people. The France needed it.
Mayors have experienced the abolition of the housing tax, even when it has been compensated, which is to be welcomed, as an obstacle to the free administration of their municipality.
But the explosive consequences of this abolition on the fiscal autonomy of municipalities cannot be ignored. The abolition of the housing tax appeared to many local elected officials as a forced recentralisation of the financing of local authorities.
Mayors have experienced the abolition of the housing tax, even when it has been compensated, which is to be welcomed, as an obstacle to the free administration of their municipality. As Christophe Guilluy wrote, it participates in the devitalization of local democracy and political dispossession. A measure that contributes to the disengagement from public life, half of the mayors will not stand again in 2026.
It is clear that there is currently a lack of vision on the skills and means of communities. The abolition of the housing tax appears a posteriori as a time bomb. Moreover, how can we understand the shrinking of the tax levers of municipalities when their financial management is often more efficient than that of the State? The Court of Auditors has indeed praised in 2022 the excellent financial health of local authorities.
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The consequences of this abolition are now prompting us to think of a new tax mechanism to protect our communities and recreate solidarity among citizens, many of whom are no longer taxpayers. It is time to consider a local tax that is simpler, fairer with a broader tax base than the housing tax.
Through the current tax system, our municipalities are experiencing an involuntary tax secession of a large part of their population. The housing tax allowed a contribution of all to the costs of public goods and services of the municipality. From now on, tenants are exempt and no longer have any direct tax link with their place of residence. On the other hand, the owners of empty second homes eleven months out of twelve, with different aspirations of the population, find themselves the first contributors of the municipality.
It seems urgent to rebuild a financial link between the municipality and all its inhabitants. With the abolition of the housing tax, nearly half of the population of some cities no longer participates in the financing of local life. Meanwhile, the France has 57% of owner households subject to property tax. Figures close to the 55% of French people paying income tax.
A civic contribution for all, calculated according to the annual income of each inhabitant, should be considered.
Every French person should participate, even symbolically, in the financing of the goods and services of the municipality. How can we understand that the most modest, often the first beneficiaries of public schools, public transport, libraries or municipal sports complexes do not participate in their financing? It is not a question of casting aspersions on anyone, but of recreating a link between the life of the municipality and its inhabitants, all its inhabitants, based on collective responsibility.
A civic contribution for all, calculated according to the annual income of each inhabitant, should be considered. This income-indexed tax will not penalize the most modest. At 0.5% for an employee at the Smic, it will represent less than 100 euros per year, 8 euros per month. Capped at 1 or 2% of annual income, it will not burden the purchasing power of the middle and upper classes. He will participate for the latter, often owners, to lower the property tax or prevent its increase.
The passport to the next world is the redistribution of powers. As former Minister of the Economy Alain Madelin writes, we must accept the idea that the difficulties of our country are primarily the cause of a concentration of power at the top of a state that is increasingly expanding its action by legislating, regulating and spending more and more. It is the "French evil" so often described.
So as Emmanuel Macron prophesied in these terms: let us dare to experiment, deconcentrate, dare to conclude with our territories and our elected representatives real Gironde pacts. , Mr. President?