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‘No more tax rises’ – A French minister’s pledge

The French public breathed a communal sigh of relief on Wednesday when the country’s finance minister vowed there would be no more tax rises before the end of Hollande’s presidency in 2017. But will the promise be kept.

'No more tax rises' - A French minister's pledge
France won't be raising taxes until after 2017, the finance minister promised. Photo: AFP

Three years without any rises in taxes.

That’s what French finance minister Michel Sapin promised on Wednesday in a bid to try to restore the public’s faith in the French government.

In a press conference on Wednesday Sapin said: “The government will not propose any new measures to raise taxes, not in 2015, 2016 or 2017.

"From now on the only contributions that will rise will be linked to decisions already taken," said Sapin.

The government has been under pressure to ease the tax burden on struggling households and Sapin’s promise comes after the 2015 budget included tax cuts for millions of the worst off.

The promise, which many will doubt the government can keep, given the pressure France is under from Brussels to reduce its deficit, comes after it emerged more French households than ever were struggling to pay their tax bills.

France has seen an explosion in the number of households requesting a deferral or cancellation of part or all of their tax bill in recent years.

The country’s public finance body, the DGFiP, says there was a 22% rise in the number of such requests between 2011 and 2013, from around 177,000 to more than 216,000.

Over the same period, the number of reminders for payment sent out by the French government has soared from 4.5 million to nearly 10 million.

France has a global reputation for its high taxes. A recent study by liberal minded Brussels-based think tank the Molinari Economic Institute study found that the real tax rate for an average worker in France in 2014 stands at 57.17%, well above the EU average of 45.27%.

The French are also having to dedicate a larger portion of their earnings to paying off the taxes. The Molinari study found that the “day of fiscal liberation” for French workers – the day when they have earned enough to pay their tax bill for the year – fell on July 28th, two days later than the year before.

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Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.

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