“Fiscal fed up” seems to resist all fashions. Catapulted into the public debate more than 10 years ago by a socialist Minister of Finance, the expression retains all its relevance, according to the latest barometer of tax levies published this Tuesday by an organ of the Court of Auditors, which currently presides over today this former minister, Pierre Moscovici. While the tax pressure peaks at a historic high (45.4% of compulsory deductions compared to GDP in 2022, according to INSEE), the French consider, unsurprisingly, that there are too many taxes. In fact, 75% of respondents in this second edition of the Council for Compulsory Deductions (CPO) barometer think that the level of taxation in France is too high. A rejection which is stable over two years, since the last barometer measured the same rate for the year 2021. The opinion concerning social contributions is approximately equivalent: 76% of French people consider them too important. “If these results remain to be confirmed in future editions, they make it possible to note that the difference in nature between taxes and social contributions has little influence on the consent of those responsible,” underline the CPO experts.
A little more surprisingly, the French are less strict on their personal situation than on the general tax burden in the country. So “only”, 63% of French people surveyed believe that they pay too much tax, a good third (33%) consider that they pay just enough and 3% think that they should pay more. This nuance is found at the level of social security contributions: 65% of respondents consider that they pay too much. “The difference between the two measures essentially comes from the 40% of the lowest-income households, who may find that the general level of taxation is too high in France but who do not think that the taxes they pay personally are too high” , analyzes the CPO.
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As for the quality of the use of public money - which is one of the most important sources of consent to tax - the French are increasingly dissatisfied with 67% of respondents in 2023 declaring themselves dissatisfied of the use made of public funds (they were 64% in 2021). Looking closely, the majority of respondents trust local authorities to use their money efficiently (68% for municipalities and 58% for departments and regions). In this area, social security administrations also receive a narrow majority (52%). The European Union, on the other hand, inspires confidence in only 37% of French people. Last, the State only receives a 32% positive opinion on the way it spends taxpayer funds.
Even if the majority consider the contributions too high and poorly spent, the French are paradoxically not in favor of a reduction in social benefits with a view to obtaining a reduction in the taxes and contributions which finance them. “Thus, only a minority of respondents would accept a reduction in public spending in exchange for a reduction in their taxes, this observation remaining valid whatever the expenditure item studied. In detail, only 29% would accept it for public pension spending, 30% for health, 32% for justice and security, 35% for education, 42% for the fight against poverty and exclusion and 44% for defense,” specifies the barometer.
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A trend confirmed by the latest results of the Paul Delouvrier Institute barometer on the perception of public spending. According to this document, half of French people would prefer to “improve the services provided by public services, even if it means increasing the level of taxes and levies” compared to 46% who would rather opt for “reducing the level of taxes and levies, even if it means reducing services”. “In 2014, these percentages stood at 33 and 65% respectively, a significant change in opinion over the past 10 years,” underlines the CPO report. However, most of those questioned think that it would be possible to improve public benefits and services at constant means, or even by lowering taxes. Thus, only 7% of them consider that it is absolutely necessary to raise the level of taxes or social contributions to improve public service.
Another parameter measured, knowledge of the main tax data among the population is quite poor. For example, “16% of French people do not know if they pay the CSG”, and among those who say they pay it, “58% do not know its rate”. The Court of Auditors therefore recommends that public authorities “improve information for taxpayers on how public money is used” in order to strengthen consent to tax.