French Chocolate Makers Bitter Over High Sales Tax

By Agence France-Presse French chocolate makers banded together March 25 to demand candidates in next month's presidential elections promise to cut high sales taxes that they say are making their products uncompetitive. The head of the association of chocolatiers, Bernard Dezaly, who is also the CEO of Ferrero Chocolates in France, lamented in a statement "the tax injustice that the introduction of the euro has highlighted." According to the group, the 19.6% sales tax, or value-added tax (VAT), imposed on chocolates is much higher than taxes in other EU countries, notably Luxembourg (2%), Belgium (6%), Germany and Spain (7%) and Italy (10%). "It is no longer acceptable that children's milk chocolate, lollipops and caramel be taxed like caviar or Cuban cigars," the group fumes in a brochure that is to be handed out to the French public. The chocolate makers are hoping the candidates in the elections -- including the frontrunners, incumbent conservative President Jacques Chirac and rival socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin -- vow to lower the VAT to help out their industry. Jospin, however, has already declared his opposition to an identical demand from restaurant and cafe owners across France, who have been withholding their VAT payments in protest over the lower 5.5% rate levied on fast-food joints they say are gobbling up their business. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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