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LIVING IN FRANCE

The ‘revolution’ in French bureaucracy you need to know about

France is to "revolutionize" the relationship between the public and the state in a bid to make things much simpler. The move has been described as "Christmas come early" for the public.

The 'revolution' in French bureaucracy you need to know about
Photo: Harald Groven/Flickr
The French government has announced a series of measures that should dramatically simplify the way administration is done in the country.
 
“This bill resembles Christmas come early for the average citizen,” was how one French newspaper summed up the reform. Another newspaper described it as nothing less than a “revolution”.
 
The French state is renowned for its unforgiving and burdensome bureaucracy, but all that is about to change. If we believe the government.
 
The budget minister Gérald Darmanin (pic below) presented a new bill this week featuring 48 measures that are aimed at dramatically simplifying the relationship between the state and the public when it comes to administration, such as tax declarations.
 
 
It's been described as an attempt to reconcile the French public with the much-hated administration.
 
Darmanin's key pledge is to introduce what is known as the “droit à l'erreur” which roughly translates as “the right to make a mistake”.
 
Essentially this “droit a l'erreur” will allow French people to make mistakes in their forms for French administration, such as tax declarations, and not be subject to an automatic fine.
 
Instead the mistake will be judged as an honest one, unless the state proves otherwise and the tax payer will have the chance to make up for it. Companies will also benefit from the same “right to make a mistake.”
 
The small but significant change is aimed at improving relations between the public and the dreaded administration while also freeing up fonctionnaires to do other jobs.
 
 
So what will change?
 
Stanislas Guérini, an MP who helped draft the bill accepted that the “right to make a mistake” already existed informally but it all depended on the personality and perhaps the mood of the agent you dealt with. 
 
“With this bill we are shoring up good practice so it becomes the norm everywhere,” he said.
 
“The work of simplification will be long,” said the MP. “That's why we need to ensure flexibility in the relations with the administration. The right to make mistakes is also a right to dialogue”.
 
Currently you are able to make changes to your online tax declarations before a certain cut-off date. After that if you are found to have made a mistake you have to pay a fee (2.4 percent per yer). However from now on if you report that mistake yourself to the tax man, then the late interest payments will be cut by half.
 
This does not include non-declarations or late payment of taxes, however so anyone who hasn't bothered filling in those will be liable to pay.
 
It is a similar situation for declarations to the CAF (Caisse d'allocations familiale), which deals with family allowances as well as payments to cover maternity and paternity leave.
 
The government gave the example of a mother on maternity leave who returns to work but who fails to notify the CAF and continues to receive payments. In future the “error” will be judged as honest and although the mother will have to pay back the money, she won't be fined.
 
But this shift towards judging the public in “good faith” won't always be the case. For example anyone applying for housing benefit who say they live alone, but really live as a couple will be subject to financial penalties, because it will be deemed fraud.
 
 
Other admin changes you need to know about include an effort to delete all forms of paper admin by 2022, meaning in five years every interaction you have with the French state will be done online.
 
Plus some admin offices, such as education offices in each department, will remain open until 8pm in future so in theory you can do your admin after work.
 
Companies that fail inspections in the work place whether health and safety of hygiene will first be warned before they are penalized.
 
In many cases you will no longer be required to provide proof of address to authorities to obtain certain things.
 
More information will be provided to those who want to start a business so they know they exact rules that impact their new activity.
 
At the CAF one specific agent will be in charge of handling all your cases and it will experiment with opening later on one day per week to help those who cannot get to visit the offices during the working day.
 
For businesses, they will also have the right to ask for checks to be carried by the state to make sure they are complying with all the laws, but won't be subject to fines if it's found they are not. Up until now business owners have been reluctant to call in help fearing they will be hit by financial penalties.
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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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