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Major disruption at Calais as French customs officers continue Brexit protest

French customs officials warned of lengthy delays at the port of Calais on Tuesday as their strike to demand greater resources to deal with the impact of Brexit, snarled traffic for a second day, leading to queues of trucks measuring several kilometres (miles).

Major disruption at Calais as French customs officers continue Brexit protest
All photos: AFP

protestCustoms agents began their protest on Monday to press their demands for higher pay and demonstrate what will happen if greater controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, planned for later this month.

“Agents are doing longer checks than usual and it creates traffic jams immediately,” Vincent Thomazo from the UNSA union said. 

“It's a protest that might last a long time because officers are just doing their jobs.”

(AFP)

(AFP)

Trade unions have called for an increase in overnight pay, a danger allowance, and more staff to help with the extra work which is expected once Britain breaks away from the EU. 

The French government has announced the recruitment of an extra 700 customs officials to cope with the demands of Brexit, but unions want more.

On Tuesday there were several kilometres of trucks backed up along the A16 motorway which leads to the port of Calais and the entrance to the Channel tunnel which links France and Britain.

(AFP

Some truckers sounded their horns in frustration, fearing a repeat of the chaos on Monday when many had to wait six or seven hours to get on boats or trains heading for Britain. 

Around Dunkirk, another major port handling freight between the neighbours, traffic was moving freely, unlike on Monday, local officials said. 

The head of customs services at Calais, Rodolphe Gintz, told AFP that the strike had “absolutely nothing” to do with Brexit.

“It won't happen like this. We are not going to create queues of trucks. We're not going to inspect every truck one after the other for a minute,” he said on Monday. 

He explained that controls would be in the other direction — on trucks arriving from Britain — and that there would be extra resources if necessary.

The leader of the Hauts-de-France region, which includes Calais and Dunkirk, told AFP last month that fears about monster traffic jams after Brexit were overblown.

“From our point of view, for the ports and the tunnel, we will be ready,” Xavier Bertrand told AFP.

Member comments

  1. This will not affect vehicles leaving the EU for the UK.What happens if the UK reciprocates ??

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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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