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Boris Johnson cheered and booed at French Bastille party

Boris Johnson was cheered and booed at the French ambassador's Bastille Day party in London on Thursday, his first engagement as Britain's surprise new foreign secretary.

Boris Johnson cheered and booed at French Bastille party
Johnson sings the French national anthem at the event. Photo: AFP

Boris Johnson was cheered and booed at the French ambassador's Bastille Day party in London on Thursday, his first engagement as Britain's surprise new foreign secretary.

The top Brexit campaigner attended the July 14 party at the ambassador's residence and tried to “reassure” the French about his love for Europe.

But Johnson's charm operation earned a mixed reception from a party guestlist stuffed with business chiefs, diplomats, actors and writers who closely followed his campaign for Britain to quit the European Union in the June 23rd referendum.

“We are not leaving Europe, alright? It would be geographically, physically, culturally, aesthetically, emotionally and historically impossible,” Johnson said, to applause in the garden of the plush residence, a stone's throw from Kensington Palace.

The former London mayor said the vote instructed the government to find a new relationship with the EU.

“We will intensify the cooperation and partnership at an inter-governmental level, and forge a new global role,” he said.

With his mop of blonde hair as unruly as ever, Johnson could not resist his habit of delving into historical allusions,  drawing comparisons between the Storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789 and Britain's vote to leave the EU.

Guests cheered when he said: “Nothing that happens in the next months and years, in the course of the change in our relationship, should in any way, in my view, prejudice the rights of the French men and women living here in this city.”

“Their rights will be preserved,” he added, in French.

But at the end of his speech, he was both applauded and booed. “He shamelessly talks absolute rubbish,” said one French lady at the party, who did not want to give her name, but who had lived in the British capital for 30 years.

Johnson then had to stand and smile as France's Digital Affairs Minister Axelle Lemaire spoke about the virtues of the EU.

Lemaire spoke about a community of values, free movement of people and was applauded by guests. Johnson and the “Vote Leave” campaign had made limiting immigration a key plank of their pitch.

The soiree may well be a forerunner of the reception he may receive when he visits Brussels on Monday, his first foreign trip since being appointed on Wednesday by new Prime Minister Theresa May.

Johnson may struggle to convince them that divorce from the EU will result in closer cooperation and partnership.

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Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Over the summer people living in France have received their tax bills, and some Brits who are residents here will have noticed that their bill is larger than usual - here's why.

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Brits who live in France and make a tax declaration here, but have income from the UK, may have noticed that their tax bill has increased this year – here’s why and whether you can challenge the increase. 

Brexit

Yes, this is Brexit related and it refers to social charges on non-French income. The standard rate for these charges are 7.5 percent for income from an EU country and 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country.

The tax bills received over the summer relate to the annual French tax declaration filed in April 2022, covering the 2021 tax year. In other words, the first year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Social charges

Social charges are levies with a social purpose introduced in France in the 1990s to finance the country’s complex social security system.

If you have a French payslip you will already be familiar with them, and they actually make up the bulk of deductions from salaries, significantly more than income tax.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

One of the big questions is whether France’s social charges are actually a ‘tax’ – the government repeatedly insists they’re not, for all that they look like a tax and are paid like a tax. 

The position on French social charges has changed several times in recent years, sometimes in response to court action all centred on whether this money that government deducts from your income can be called a ‘tax’ or not.

Katey Murray, at The Spectrum IFA Group, explained: “Article 29 of the amended Finance law of 2012 extended social charges to rental income from French properties and capital gains on properties for people who are not French tax resident.

“In 2015, a Dutch national challenged the fact that he was paying social charges in France and social security contributions in the Netherlands. The case went before the ECJ, which ruled these levies were similar to social security contributions and therefore contrary to European law.”

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, confirmed the ECJ’s ruling. “French tax offices then, if a claim was made to them, reimbursed undue social charges,” Murray said.

“However, the French Government stated that these claims could only be made by someone covered for their healthcare by the system of another European country (EU, EEA or Switzerland) and not someone covered by a non-European health system. 

“This was confirmed by the ECJ for a French national living in China in a case in January 2018.”

Foreigners in France

And it’s this ‘healthcare system’ distinction that has become the key detail for Brits in France, clarified by a court ruling from March 2022 on the details of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

Social charges are currently set at 7.5 percent for income from an EU country, or 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country. So income from the UK jumped to the higher rate at the end of the Brexit transition period.

However the ECJ ruling on healthcare cover is the key bit – essentially if you are already contributing to another European country’s social security system, you benefit from the lower rate.

This mainly affects two groups – Brits living in the UK (and therefore covered by the NHS) who have income in France, and Brits who are living in France and who have an S1, which states that their healthcare costs are covered by the NHS.

S1 holders are mainly British pensioners living in France, but the scheme can also apply to other groups including students and posted workers. 

Brits who are living in France and are covered by the French health system pay the higher rate on income from the UK. 

Technically the 7.5 percent rate is a ‘social levy’ rather than the prélèvements sociaux.

The ‘social levy’ is not charged on pensions, so if you are an S1 holder who receives a British pension, you will not have to pay any social charges at all, while certain types of property income may also be exempt from social charges.

Tax

As we stated above, social charges are not a tax (although they are deducted from your income by the tax office).

Taxes on income from the UK is covered by the bilateral dual-taxation treaty between France and the UK, which states that you don’t have to pay tax in France on income that you have already paid tax on in the UK. 

So the first thing to check on your tax bill is whether deductions relate to impôt (tax) or prélèvements sociaux (social charges).

Challenge your tax bill

So what to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged on income from the UK?

If you are an S1 holder, it’s a case of telling the tax office that you benefit from the lower 7.5 percent social levy, rather than the 17.2 percent social charge.

Murray said: “You can state that you are not subject to social charges by ticking boxes 8SH/8SI on your tax form (2042 form) or, if you have been charged at the higher rate, you can claim them back on your personal page on the impots.gouv.fr website.”

If the over-charge relates to a different issue – for example you have been charged both tax and the social charge or charged on exempt income – your first step is talking to the tax office, either in person or over the phone.

READ ALSO How to challenge your French tax bill

This article is a general overview of the tax rules and is not intended as a substitute for financial advice, if your financial affairs are complicated you are always better off getting professional help from an accountant who specialises in international taxation.

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