How paying your income tax in France is going to change dramatically

How paying your income tax in France is going to change dramatically
Photo: AFP
It's been coming for years but the French government has confirmed it is finally going to significantly change the way workers pay income tax. Here's what you need to know.

So what's happening?

After years of promises and discussions and abandoned reforms France is finally about to change the way income tax is collected.

Basically, the way we pay our income tax in France will change from us paying it one year late (via a one-off payment or three or ten-monthly payments), to it being taken out of our pay automatically each month as we earn.

So currently workers in France either don't pay their taxes on what they earned in 2017 until 2018, or, as most do, they pay estimated amounts, monthly or thrice-yearly, based on the previous years taxes.

But in future the money will be automatically deducted from our monthly salaries, in an employer based Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) as it is in most European countries. Employers and pension providers will have the job of deducting income tax.

This means that income tax goes from being an annual headache to just an extra line on your payslip, although the yearly tax declarations will still have to be made.

When is it happening?

Well it was already meant to have happened by now. Taxing income at the source was a campaign promise by France's former president François Hollande. In March last year The Local reported how the previous government promised it would be in place by January 2018.

But then the arrival of Emmanuel Macron to the presidency delayed the implementation as the new government wanted time to make sure the reform was actually worth it and to smooth out any problems.

This week budget minister Gerald Darmanin revealed the change will take place on January 1st 2019 – so a year later than planned. The reform will still need to be presented to the cabinet and debated in parliament before the end of the year, before it gets the definitive green light.

What do I need to do?

For the moment nothing. The French finance ministry has released a timetable for how it will be put into action.

In spring next year when tax declaration season opens tax payers will need to declare their revenues as usual.

For those tax payers who live as a couple, they will have to decide whether they want to be taxed individually or as a household, because each person's tax rate will be based on this 2018 declaration. 

In the autumn of next year, those personal tax rates will be sent to each tax payer's employer and will also be displayed for the first time on pay slips.

Then in January 2019 you will notice your net pay is less than normal because for the first time in France you have started paying income tax as you earn.

This doesn't mean that in April and May you won't be have to do you usual annual declaration, because you will still have to declare to the French tax man ALL your OTHER incomes, remember.

At the end of 2019 the French tax man will carry out checks to make sure everyone is paying the right amount. Reimbursements will made to those who have overpaid.

Could we end up paying more tax?

The reform won't change the calculations used for working out how much tax workers pay. The tax codes will be adjusted so households don't end up paying more tax, according to the government.

And what if changes need to be made?

Any events that could change your tax rate, such as births, marriage, divorce, civil partnerships, job change must be signaled to the tax man via the website

This will be then fed into the system so your status and tax rate can be updated .Tax payers will have three months to alert the tax man of any changes.

So my employer will know everything about how much money I have?

Not if you don't want them too.

The only information transferred from the tax man to the employer will be the personalized tax rate, which for 90 percent of workers will be between 0 and 10 percent. Remember many workers in France don't earn enough to qualify to pay income tax.

But if you have lots of other earnings such as rental income and shares or your partner earns a fortune  – which would see you paying a higher tax rate – and you don't want your bosses to find out because you fear they will use it to avoid giving you a pay rise then you can ask the tax man to only send a standard rate to the employer based on job earnings.

The tax man will know the real rate and then take what is his accordingly without your bosses knowing.

So I won't pay tax for my 2018 earnings?

The government still needs to decide what to do for taxes earned on 2018 income, which would normally have been declared and paid in 2019.

We can expect a response in the coming days, but they government looks likely to decide they are simply “non-imposable” meaning they won't be taxed.

But while it appears at first sight that workers won't pay taxes on their 2018 earnings, it doesn't really mean we are getting a year off from having to feed the tax man. Because in 2019 we'll still be paying taxes, just on our 2019 income.

What about tax credits?

Any tax credits or reductions to the annual tax bill  – which can occur for example if you make charitable donations, pay a house cleaner or have to cover childcare costs – will still be valid for 2018, but won't be paid until the summer of 2019. In other words there will still be a delay of a year on these rebates.