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BREXIT

UK ambassador to tour France to hear Brits’ Brexit worries

Britain's ambassador to France is to travel around the country to hold meetings with British residents to hear their concerns about Brexit and attempt to answer their questions. He can expect a real grilling.

UK ambassador to tour France to hear Brits' Brexit worries
Photo: AFP
Britain's envoy to France Lord Ed Llewllyn posted a message on the embassy's Facebook page telling British residents in France that can make their “concerns” known as a series of meetings to be held in November and December.
 
The ambassador and his team will be stopping off in Nice, the Var, Brittany, Paris and the Charente where they hope to answer questions from some of the 150,000 or so Brits who live in France.
 
“Over the last couple of months, I and my team have made it our priority to engage with British citizens across France on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union,” writes the ambassador on Facebook.
 
“These engagements have given us the opportunity to update you on the ongoing negotiations – as you may know the fifth round recently concluded- and to hear your concerns and answer your questions.”
 
“Up until now, these events have been set-up in conjunction with British associations and organisations, who know their regions best and are already in touch with a large number of British residents.
 
This has worked well but I am aware, of course, that not everyone is part of an association. So we are planning for our next series of meetings, between now and Christmas, to be “open forum”. 
 
The list of meetings are as follows, along with links to the pages where readers can sign up to the event.
 
7 November – Nice
23 November – St Raphael (Var)
27 November – Brittany (Gouarec area – although location tbc)
6 December – Paris
11 December – Poitou Charentes (Civray/Ruffec area – although location tbc)
 
There may be limited space so those interested are asked to sign up as soon as possible.
 
The ambassador can expect to be told the main worries of Brits in France centre around their right to remain and work in France, reciprocal healthcare and pensions.
 
The ambassador can expect a rough ride if the reaction to a recent video posting is anything to go by.
 

“Words are easy Mr Ambassador, it is actions that count and so far we have seen nothing,” wrote Mike Harlow from Limousin.

“British citizens living in France and elsewhere in the 27 are petrified about their futures. The intransigence of the UK government is making people ill, we are being treated like bargaining chips, and at the moment our future is unclear until 2019.”

 
For members

READER QUESTIONS

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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