After pigeons, 'chicks' battle French entrepreneur rules

Fri May 31, 2013 8:41am EDT
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By Catherine Bremer

PARIS (Reuters) - Seven months after a pressure group called "The Pigeons" forced the French government to scrap tax rises on entrepreneurs, a new movement called "The Chicks" is challenging plans to curb other advantages for the self-employed.

The group, "Les Poussins" in French and backed by more than 20,000 online supporters in a matter of days, is up in arms over a Socialist government proposal to reduce to two years the time that self-employed people can claim the advantageous status of "auto-entrepreneur".

The auto-entrepreneur status, used by everyone from foreign language teachers to people building up businesses, reduces red tape and allows social security charges to be paid as earnings come in, rather than upfront.

"Don't kill our projects in the egg," reads a placard held by a peeved-looking cartoon chick sporting sunglasses and a mohican-like quiff on the site.

The group says curbs on the special status would destroy entrepreneurship and limit future job creation.

Some 900,000 people have joined the auto-entrepreneur system since then-President Nicolas Sarkozy launched it in 2009 and it produces revenues of 5 billion euros ($6.53 billion) annually. Since it was started, it has earned more than 5 billion euros in tax for the state, according to the Chicks.

The plan by Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and a junior trade minister, Sylvia Pinel, to rein it in is aimed at curbing abuse of the system. But it also risks hardening impressions that Socialist President Francois Hollande is anti-business.

The Chicks, set up on April 13 by 19-year-old video games creator Adrien Sergent, had 20,933 signatures on its online petition by Friday midday and 16,000 "likes" on Facebook.   Continued...

French Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg waves goodbye after attending a ministers' meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes