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French government on tenterhooks as new income tax regime rolls in

The French government sought on Wednesday to downplay fears that workers will be left out of pocket as the country transitions to a pay-as-you-earn tax system that could fan the flames of a revolt over spending power.

French government on tenterhooks as new income tax regime rolls in
Photo: AFP
After years of delays, France on January 1 ditched a system whereby residents file income tax returns based on the previous year's earnings, replacing it with a system where the state deducts the taxes directly from people's salaries or pensions each month.
   
Opinion polls show the French broadly supporting the change but the shift presents risks for President Emmanuel Macron, not least that workers may feel poorer when they receive their new net pay — even if they will no longer have to save up to pay their taxes three times a year.
   
Any glitches in the new system which could see taxpayers pay more than they bargained for could further infuriate the “yellow vest” anti-government protesters who have been demonstrating around the country since mid-November over Macron's fiscal policies, which they see as skewed towards the rich. 
 
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Photo: AFP

Visiting a tax query call centre in the northern city of Amiens, Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin attempted to assure the French that the change would be painless.
   
“Taxation at source is like the mobile phone. In a month's time we'll be wondering how we ever managed without it,” he said, calling it a “big step forward for the French”.
   
He attempted to silence the doomsayers, noting that so far there was no sign of the much-prophesied chaos and that the number of queries received by the call centre were on a par with an average month.
 
93 million letters
 
The shift to a pay-as-you-earn system was adopted by the Socialist government of Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande, but is only now being implemented, after some dithering by Macron on the issue.
   
To prepare the French for the change the government has sent 93 million letters and emails explaining the new system.
   
The move, which will only affect the 43 percent of households liable for income tax, brings France in line with most Western countries but comes at a 
critical juncture for the Macron.
 
French government to push ahead with taking income tax from workers' payPhoto: AFP
   
Over the past six weeks, “yellow vest” demonstrators — so-called after the high-visibility jackets they wear — have repeatedly clashed with police in Paris and other big cities, plunging Macron's presidency into crisis.
   
The “yellow vest” movement began in rural France over fuel taxes and quickly ballooned into a wider revolt against the 41-year-old president's pro-business policies and perceived arrogance by low-paid workers and pensioners.
 
In mid-December, he attempted to calm the rebellion by backtracking on a planned increase in anti-pollution fuel taxes.
   
He also announced 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) in tax breaks and income support for the low-paid and retirees, setting back his deficit-reduction drive in the process.
   
Since then the protests have appeared to lose steam.
   
In his New Year's address to the nation on Monday, Macron vowed to resume his reforms programme in 2019, including trimming the sprawling public sector and shaking up the unemployment and pension systems, all potential political minefields.

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

Rail strikes, summer drinks and avoiding ticks: Six essential articles for life in France

From how to avoid that pesky, disease-carrying insect to the tastiest, most refreshing beverages in France and whether you can plan on a summer of delays and cancellations on train lines, here are the six essential articles for life in France.

Rail strikes, summer drinks and avoiding ticks: Six essential articles for life in France

Many of us are feeling the call to evacuate the cities and head for the great outdoors as the warmer weather and sunshine take hold across France. If you’re off on a hiking trip or simply taking your pet for a walk in an area with high grass, you might be wondering about the chances of being bitten by a tick. Unfortunately, these pesky insects can be found across France, though they are more common in certain areas.

If you do find yourself in a particularly tick-friendly environment and you’re wondering how to protect yourself, or you’re simply wondering which parts of France are tick hotspots, we’ve put together a guide for avoiding these tiny insects while in France.

What you should know about ticks in France and how to avoid them

While France is known for being a global gastronomy capital, sometimes a delicious beverage is just as important as a hearty meal.

Thankfully, France has a wide range of refreshing drinks to try, and these warm weather specific beverages are sure to quench your thirst whether you’re sitting on a terrace or along the beach.  

If you find yourself hosting pre-dinner drinks in the coming weeks, you’ll want to consult our list of the best things to drink in France this summer. There are options for everyone, for those looking for alcoholic beverages and non-drinkers alike.

Rosé, spritz and pressé: 5 things to drink in France this summer

Strikes are an undeniable part of French cultural identity. But will this summer be worse than average when it comes to industrial action? After over two years of pandemic shutdowns and layoffs, and amid rising inflation, workers are demanding higher wages. SNCF (France’s national rail service) saw its workers stage a one-day walk out in early July, causing widespread delays and cancellations.

So how much of a headache will travel during the first summer without strict Covid-19 related restrictions be? We’ve tried to look ahead to try to give you an idea of what to expect from rail strikes this summer in France, and whether they’re likely to rumble on.

Will rail strikes in France rumble on throughout the summer? 

Regardless of whether you’re looking to stun with your next Bugatti or simply seeking out a trustworthy Peugeot, buying a car in France as a foreigner might feel confusing, particularly if you do not hold a French driver’s licence.

Living in France involves a lot of paperwork, and so do procedures for buying and selling cars here. However, you might be pleasantly surprised that the process is more straightforward than you might have thought.  

Complete with the list of documents you need to provide, this article will help speed along your process toward your next vehicle.

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

On the topic of driving, you might be considering heading off to your summer holidays by car this year. With the school year finished, families across France are hitting the roads to make their way to la campagne for some much needed R&R.

Each year, France’s traffic watchdog, Bison Futé, keeps us informed of what to expect in terms of road congestion, offering four different levels of traffic intensity to help you decide whether to pack that extra snack and book for the long ride. 

When – and where – to avoid driving on France’s roads this summer

If you have a television in your living room, you might be able to look forward to saving €138 this upcoming year. The French government recently announced plans to scrap the TV licence, but if you’ve wondered what that money actually goes to and why it might be done away with, you’re not alone.

The TV licence actually raises over €3.7 billion a year for national public broadcasting, so the decision to get rid of it has not been met with applause from everyone. We’ve explained exactly what your €138 had been going towards, and answered your question of how public media in France might end up being funded in the future without the TV licence to help

EXPLAINED: What France’s TV licence pays for and what might replace it?

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