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What changes in France from January 2016

The start of the New Year in France brought in a flood of changes, including a complete reworking of France's map and the introduction of compulsory doggy bags in restaurants. Here's everything you need to know.

What changes in France from January 2016
"Doggy bags" in the kitchen of a restaurant in Lyon. Photo: AFP
A new French map
 
It's 2016 and France now has 13 regions – down from 22 – thanks to a major rework of the regional map.
 
The new map, pictured below, saw some regions like Brittany unchanged, but the fusion of two or even three regions in some other cases. The move is an effort to streamline regional councils and to run the country more efficiently.
 
The names of the new regions remain unannounced, and for the moment are just a combination of the names of the previous regions. 
 
If you want to see an interactive map detailing the changes, head over to this page on the official government website, or click here to read more about the new regions and their capitals
 
Paris gets bigger
 
January 1st sees the official launch of Grand Paris, or “La Métropole du Grand Paris” to give it its full name.
 
Essentially, the project means that the large Parisian suburbs of Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne – as well as a handful of smaller communes – will now become much closer integrated with the capital in the aim of inter-communal cooperation. 
 
Grand Paris will see over 200 councillors working together on everything from environmental issues to economic development. 
 
Increase in minimum wage
 
Those on minimum wage in France can expect an ever-so-slightly fatter wallet – with a six-euro increase per month. The minimum hourly wage is now €9.67 an hour, or €1,466.62 a month. 
 
Tampon tax drops
 
The tax on women's sanitary products has dropped from 20 percent to just 5.5 percent. This has been a hot topic in France, seeing protests from women's groups around the country who argued that tampons should be taxed like condoms, or food. 
 
The government initially opposed changing the rate, saying it would reduce tax receipts in 2016 by €55 million. 
 
Drop in gas prices
 
For the fourth consecutive month, France's gas prices have fallen, this time by an average of 2 percent. The prices have dropped by an average of over 10 percent since January last year.
 
Doggy bags introduced
 
Restaurants now officially need to provide doggy bags for customers who want to take their meal home. The law applies to any restaurant that serves over 180 meals per day.
 
It's a move by the government to cut down on the 7 million tonnes of food wasted in France each year – but it remains to be seen if the French will adopt this typically American custom. 
 
Get paid to cycle to work
 
Those who cycle to work are now eligible for a little extra pocket money, with a new plan rolled out to pay cyclists 25 cents for every kilometre they cycle between their home and their office. Payment is capped at €200 a year. There's more information here (in French)
 
Pay less taxes
 
France is set to get a simplified tax system this year which will see income tax (Impôt sur le revenu) taken automatically at source rather than the following year after the individual annual declarations.
 
It is estimated that 8 million people in France will pay less tax this year than they did in 2015, with new “one stop shops” opened around the country to make bill paying easier. 
 
Increase in bank fees
 
The average fee to have a bank account in France is set to be €16 this year, compared to €12 last year. 
 
January will see several jumps in these maintenance fees, notably at the Banque Postale, which will leap from €4.20 to €6.20. 
 
And even though there were no fees in recent years, January will see the implementation of new fees at BNP Paribas, Société Générale, and Caisse d'Epargne Ile-de-France – which will charge an annual €30, €24, and €15 per account. 

 
Extra “terrorism taxes” 
 
Those with home or car insurance will pay a bit more “terrorism tax” – meaning the total will jump from €3.30 to €4.30 from January on. 
 
This money will go towards helping the families of terror victims and those who have been injured in terror attacks. 

 
 

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PROPERTY

The post-Brexit tax rules on selling second-homes in France

British second-home owners in France who want to sell their properties are being warned of an extra layer of administration - and expense - in place since Brexit.

The post-Brexit tax rules on selling second-homes in France

Brits wishing to sell property in France may now need to appoint a représentant fiscal (tax representative) in France in order to properly declare the sale to French tax authorities. 

Who?

This law applies to people who own property in France but do not live here – mostly that would be second-home owners but it could also apply to, for example, anyone who has inherited property.

This requirement has always been the case for non-Europeans such as Americans, Canadians and Australians and now also applies to Britons since the end of the Brexit transition period. People who live in another EU or EEA country are exempt.

The law is based on residency, not nationality. So if, for example, you have your main residence in the UK but have an Irish passport, you would still be covered by this requirement.

Exemptions

As well as EU residency, there are a couple of other exemptions;

  • If you sell your property for less than €150,000
  • If you have owned the property for more than 30 years (in which case the sale is exempt from capital gains tax and social security contributions).

What is a représentant fiscal?

This is simply a representative for tax purposes in France, and the person does not need specific qualifications in law or accountancy.

The following can be appointed:

  • A company or organisation already permanently accredited by the tax authorities;
  • A bank or credit institution operating in France;
  • The buyer of your property, if they are domiciled in France for tax purposes (they do not need to be a French citizen);
  • Any other individual who is domiciled in France for tax purposes (they do not need to be a French citizen) – in this case they will need to be accredited by the local authority;
  • If the property is in Paris, the individual will need to be accredited by the Île-de-France tax authorities – département de Paris-Pôle gestion fiscale Centre-Missions foncières, 6 rue Paganini, 75020 Paris. Tel: 01 53 27 46 45

If you decide to appoint an individual rather than a company as your représentant fiscale, bear in mind that the process can be quite complicated, so it would be better to check that they are confident in dealing with the tax authorities, to ensure that you don’t end up with unfinished business with the tax office.

If you chose a company, they will naturally charge for the service. 

Whichever representative you chose, you will need to provide a dossier of documents relating to the property sale and also confirming that you are a tax resident of a country outside France (tax returns, banking information, for example).

Will you have to pay tax on the proceeds of the sale?

If your main residence is not in France, you have no other income in France and you do not complete the annual French tax declaration you will not usually have to pay tax in France on the proceeds of the sale, provided your total estate is worth less than €1.3 million.

Properties worth more than €1.3million may be liable for the impôt sur la fortune immobilière (property wealth tax).

You will of course have to declare the income from the sale in the country where you are resident and, if applicable, pay capital gains tax.

What about French property taxes?

If you have owned property in France you will have been paying the taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation.

These will cease, but bear in mind that taxe foncière is charged based on who owned the property on January 1st of the relevant tax year. So if you sold your property in February 2022, you will still get a tax bill in autumn 2022 to cover that year. Only the following year will the new owner become liable, unless the sale contract for the property included an agreement to share or split outstanding taxes.

Find more information on the Internationals section of the French tax office website HERE or pay a visit to your local tax office in France. Find your local office by searching ‘Centre des Finances publiques’ plus the name of your commune – tax offices are open to the public on a walk-in basis and the staff are usually friendly and helpful. 

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