Whenever Becky and our kids and I head down to the boatyard to take our 30 foot power boat out on the water for the day, we’re typically surrounded by the mega yachts inhabiting Newport’s docks during the season. Recently visitors to Newport could view Le Grand Bleu, one of the world’s largest private yachts out in the bay.
The mega yachts and the other summer traffic keep thousands of people employed and Newport’s waterfront thriving each summer.
At his blog, International Liberty, Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute explains what happens when tax policy drives the wealthy away from an area. It’s not the rich who suffer, they simply move to the next port. It’s those who were employed by the industry that take the brunt of the punishment. Dan writes:
Remember John Kerry, the former Secretary of State and Massachusetts Senator, the guy who routinely advocated higher taxes but then made sure to protect his own wealth? Not only did he protect much of his fortune in so-called tax havens,he even went through the trouble of domiciling his yacht outside of his home state to minimize his tax burden.
I didn’t object to Kerry’s tax avoidance, but I was irked by his hypocrisy. If taxes are supposed to be so wonderful, shouldn’t he have led by example?
At the risk of understatement, folks on the left are not very good about practicing what they preach.
But let’s not dwell on John Kerry. Instead, let’s focus on other yacht owners so we can learn an important lesson about tax policy.
And, as is so often the case, France is an example of the policies to avoid.
Where have all the superyachts gone? That is the question that locals and business owners in the south of France are asking this summer. And the answer appears to be: Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Spain. …While the ongoing presence of €10 cups of coffee and €1000 bottles of Champagne might serve to reassure the casual observer that the region is still as attractive to the sun-loving super-rich as it ever was, appearances can be deceptive. Talk to locals involved in the multibillion-euro yachting sector—and in the south of France that’s nearly everyone, in some trickle-down shape or form, as yachting is by some measures the biggest earner in the region after hotels and wine—and you detect a sinking feeling. …More and more yachting money is draining away…washing up in other European countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.
Having once paid the equivalent of $11 for a diet coke in Monaco, I can confirm that it is a painfully expensive region.
But let’s focus on the more important issue: Why are the big yachts staying away from the French Riviera?
Apparently they’re avoiding France for the same reason that entrepreneurs are avoiding France. The tax burden is excessive.
The core reason for the superyacht exodus is financial; France has tightened…tax regulations for the captains and crew members of yachts who officially reside in France, and often have families on the mainland, but traditionally have evaded all tax by claiming they were earning their salary offshore. The country has also taken a hard line on imposing 20 percent VAT on yacht fuel sales, which often used to be dodged. Given that a typical fill can be around €100,000, it is understandable that many captains are simply sailing around the corner.
I don’t share this story because I feel sorry for wealthy people.
Instead, the real lesson to be learned is that when politicians aim at the rich, it’s the rest of us that get victimized.
Ordinary workers, whether at marinas or on board the yachts, are the ones who are losing out.
Revenue at the iconic marina in Saint-Tropez has…fallen by 30 percent since the beginning of the year, while Toulon, a less glamorous destination, has suffered a 40 percent decline. …They stated that refueling a 42-meter yacht in Italy (instead of France) “gives a saving of nearly €21,000 a week because of the difference in tax.” Sales by the four largest marine fuel vendors has fallen by 50 percent this summer, the letter said, adding that French “yachties”—an inexperienced 19-year-old deckhand makes around €2,000 per month and a good Captain can command €300,000—were being laid off in droves, as, due to the new tax rules, national insurance, health and other compulsory contributions which boat owners pay for crew members have increased from 15 to 55 percent of their wages. The letter stated that “the additional cost of maintaining a seven-person crew in France is €300,000 (£268,000) a year.”
All of this is – or should have been – totally predictable.
Read more from Dan here.