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Philanthropy, Class and Tax in France, WP n°1

Presented at the International Conference on Philanthropy and Taxation of GCP in Geneva on the 25th of November, this working paper will be published in the Routledge Handbook on Taxation and Philanthropy.

Abstract : This paper explores a paradox raised by recent research on the relationship to tax of various social classes. This paradox is the following one: the more an individual or household pays tax, the more she is consenting to taxation. Among the factors that contribute to smooth this rela- tionship between top income groups and tax are tax deductions. Yet, one could go a step further in the analysis and pay attention to the diversity of elites and of their views of tax deductions. In this paper, I dig into the diverse « frameworks » through which philanthropic donors perceive tax on wealth in France. Drawing on a qualitative study that blends ethnographic observation on the one hand and semi-structured interviews on the other hand, I show that there are several different ways to frame tax deduction among those who benefit it the most, i.e households at the top of the wealth distribution that have to pay a wealth tax. Firstly, among a minority of the sample, constituted mainly of small entrepreneurs, one can find a refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a wealth tax. Secondly, among managers and professionals, one can find a set of arguments that refer to the greater efficacy of private provision vis-à-vis state funding and implementing of social welfare. Lastly, among the wealthiest and more religious families, some consider tax deductions as a support for the expression of one’s values. Even if limited, the sample shows a strong relationship between former and actual occupational status on the one hand and use of a given framework of wealth tax, providing arguments for a renewed vision of class that blends wealth and capital with occupations.

Key-words: lass; tax; philanthropy; elites; cultural sociology; framework; gift; France.

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