I'm still expecting an answer from a relative who has worked on this case within the French fiscal administration to get the other side of the story.
Exactly. So far we have the story from jw-media.org (a WT site and therefore the story carries WT spin), and just a couple of other sources. We already know from when the court battle began that the JWs were not alone in beging categorized a sect/cult (the WT never mentions that after careful examination they were treated the same as Moonies, Solar Temple, Scientologists, et al).
What's wrong, WT, don't want to know why a detailed analysis over several years lead to grouping you together with all those groups that most JWs would agree are high-control/cultic? Yeah, if I were you, I would do the same thing: pretend like you alone have been singled out, and tell your members that it was because "The Catholic Church hates the fact that we don't worship Mary/the Cross/The Trinity so they conspired with the French gov't to persecute us." (seriously, my mother tells me this all the time). Yes WT, you can rely on the fact that your members are so ignorant (about how truly "secular" the french gov't is) and invent bushllit excuses that will never be questioned by your members. Don't give them the chance to ask themselves "what criteria led to us being called a cult like those other cult groups?"
OK, one thing we don't know is how the other groups responded when they were categorized like the WT; I'll bet not all of them could launch a major legal campaign like WT did; I speculate that the excessive rate (60%) might be punishment for wasting time in court? Just a hunch. If true, it means that Watchtowerism's glorious battle backfired and cost them much more than if they had just paid taxes like you and I do.
It would be great if BBC, CBC, or PBS would do a documentary on this topic, so we can get some "spin free" facts.
~Quotes, of the "prefers secular government" class
French High Court confirms 60-percent confiscatory tax measure on religious
I haven't got the first-hand information I expected yet.
From what I understand now, the 60% rate is not exactly punitive though. It is just the strict application of the general law on unqualified donations between non-relatives. The French WT fell under this most general (and admittedly dissuasive) status for choosing not to declare any of its income in any other form (which would clearly have brought a lighter taxation rate). The delays are paid in addition to this, in the form of legal interest and administrative penalties.
Simply put: because they tried to pay nothing they now have to pay more.
Of course they attempt to present this as religious discrimination (with the blessing of the US Department of State). And some uncautious comments were made by anti-cult associations and politicians who depicted the fiscal action as a way of fighting a cult. But basically there is nothing discriminatory in the motivations alleged by the tax administration. Moreover, all the really cultual activities of JWs in France (including public activity) obviously go on unhindered. They will try to show that the Bethel was affected as a "central place of worship", but it is quite easy to show it for what it is actually: a (free) work and production center.
The next step will be the European court.