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“I’m interested in knowing where the money that the State takes from me goes”: Bruno Le Maire’s strange pay slip sparks controversy

Failing to be concise - the press kit is 68 pages - Bruno Le Maire wanted to be concrete by unveiling this morning the simplification bill, which will be presented to the Council of Ministers this Wednesday.

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“I’m interested in knowing where the money that the State takes from me goes”: Bruno Le Maire’s strange pay slip sparks controversy

Failing to be concise - the press kit is 68 pages - Bruno Le Maire wanted to be concrete by unveiling this morning the simplification bill, which will be presented to the Council of Ministers this Wednesday. On the pay slip, which he wishes to make more readable by reducing it from “more than fifty lines” to “around fifteen lines”, the minister showed a “before”/“after” pay slip. A demonstration which caused an avalanche of reactions from Internet users.

This fictitious pay slip of Ms. Salariée, customer manager in a jewelry store, residing 91 590 in Ferté-Alais shows a net salary of 1,278.75 euros to be pocketed by the employee after deduction of taxes at source, for a salary gross of 1,912.58 euros. For the employer, the total cost comes to 2,325.44 euros.

Internet users first react to the low salaries, highlighted by this pay slip. “The real question is that with 10 hours of overtime, the person only makes 1278 euros per month. And let us talk about simplification rather than an increase in the Internet to live on…”, reacts Jérôme. Like him, Internet users are sorry that this does not improve purchasing power which is the only concern people have about their pay slips. A reality recognized by the Prime Minister himself who denounced a minimum wage in France and committed to ensuring that work pays more than assistantship.

In fact, the number of employees paid the minimum wage has exploded, reaching 3.2 million people in 2023, or 17.3% of employees, compared to only 12% two years earlier. A debate relaunched last week by Michelin boss Florent Menegaux, affirming that “the minimum wage is not a decent salary”. As a result, Michelin adapted the salary scale to the local cost of living.

Internet users are also surprised by the tax rate of 10%, which seems high to them for a modest salary. But, the French tax system being set up in this way, it is difficult to judge because the rate applied, which can be familyized or individualized as desired, can depend on the spouse's salary level. But also income other than wages (rent on rented accommodation, income from financial products, etc.). “This is a theoretical simulation. What matters is the before/after on the form,” defends Bercy.

But Internet users, although quick to criticize French over-administration and bureaucracy, are not completely convinced of the merits of simplifying the bulletin. “It's not simplifying, it's making the details of taxes disappear, to obscure, to blur the calculations, to accustom people to no longer seeing the details of what is being taken from them. It doesn't simplify anything for the employee, it even makes it more complex, since they will also have to take an additional step to get the information they had before,” reacts Béatrice. “I’m interested in knowing where the money the state takes from me goes. So no “simplification” thank you,” comments another Internet user.

Employers will have to continue to keep accounts to respond to their employees' requests for explanations and justifications. Moreover, business leaders are no more convinced than Internet users. “Companies will have to pay for the administrative processing of this measure since updating pay slip publishing systems is not free,” reacts François Asselin, president of the Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CPME) who underlines that the complexity of the pay slip is not so much linked to the number of lines that appear on it but rather is “intrinsic to labor law and the French social system”. As for the economist Jean-Marc Daniel, he castigated “the height of ridiculousness is this story of deleting lines in the pay slip. If they really want to simplify it, instead of deleting lines, they just need to delete the taxes that correspond to those lines.”

And yet the Council of State underlined “too great complexity” of the pay slip, despite the five laws and decrees passed since 1998. Because this initiative by Bruno Le Maire is nothing very new: French pay slips having been the subject of multiple blows in recent years. Failing to be innovative and totally convincing, the Minister of the Economy will have succeeded in creating the “buzz” and getting people talking about his measure.

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