Wealthy Europeans back Warren Buffett's call for higher taxes on the rich

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Wealthy people across Europe are following in billionaire Warren Buffett's footsteps by calling for higher taxes on the rich.

In Germany, a group of 50 people, called "The Wealthy for a Capital Levy," have urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to make people like them pay more in taxes and "stop the gap between rich and poor getting even bigger," The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.

In France, 16 of the country's wealthiest people, including billionaire L'Oreal heiress Lilliane Bettencourt and oil company Total's chief executive Christophe de Margerie signed a petition calling for wealthy people to make a "special contribution" to the government's finances.

In Italy, Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari, told the La Repubblica newspaper that it was "right" that he pay more because he is wealthy, according The Guardian.

"You have to begin by asking it of those who have most, because it is scandalous that it should be asked of the middle class," di Montezemolo added. However, he said the government should first make savings by selling off property and cutting perks for politicians.

Italian automaker Ferrari representative Luca di Montezemolo displays Ferrari's first four wheel drive vehicle, the Ferrari FF at the Italian embassy in Tokyo on July 4, 2011. The four-seater, four-wheel drive sports car with a V12 6.2-litre engine will be auctioned for the charity in support of the victims of the March 11 tsunami and earthquake disaster. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP

Earlier this month, Buffett, 80, known as the Oracle of Omaha, called for the U.S. government to stop being overly protective of the super-rich.

"My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice," he said.

'More money than we need'
The German group claims that if the richest people paid a 5 percent extra tax for two years that could raise $145 billion, The Guardian said.

Its founder, retired doctor Dieter Lehmkuhl, renewed his call Monday for the introduction of the tax, according to the newspaper.

"None of us are in Buffett's or Bettencourt's league," Lehmkuhl said. "We're a broad church — teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs. Most of our wealth is inherited. But we have more money than we need."

The richest Germans pay a maximum tax of 42 percent, The Guardian reported, after this was cut from 53 percent by the previous chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.

French energy giant Total CEO, Christophe de Margerie speaks during a press conference in Paris, Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. Total SA says its quarterly profit slipped 2 percent on flat production and higher write-offs of refining assets even as the oil price surged. The French oil company says it made euro 2.03 billion ($2.8 billion) in the October to December quarter, down from euro 2.07 billion a year earlier. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)Christophe Ena / AP

Lehmkuhl told the paper that the answer to the current financial problems was "not to bring in cuts, which will disproportionately hit poorer people, but to tax the wealthy more."

"We are always hearing about savings packages, but never tax rises. Yet tax increases are a way out of this mess. That's where the money is: rich people," he said.

Published last week, the French petition said its signatories were "conscious of having benefited from a French system and a European environment that we are attached to and which we hope to help maintain."

"When the public finances' deficit and the prospects of a worsening state debt threaten the future of France and Europe and when the government is asking everybody for solidarity, it seems necessary for us to contribute," it added.