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How to file your 2021 French tax declaration

How to file your 2021 French tax declaration
It's tax time! Photo: AFP
The French tax system can be daunting if you are not used to it, so as deadlines approach for 2021, here's what you need to know.

Do I have to do it?

Probably, yes. France’s tax system has everyone declare their taxes in the spring for the previous year. That means that your 2021 tax declaration is based on your 2020 income – the French tax year runs from January 1st to December 31st.

Previously everyone resident in France had to fill in the tax declaration (déclaration des revenus) but that began to change last year, following the introduction of ‘taxing at source’ for employees.

This only affects employees, not self-employed or retired people, and only a few categories are concerned – if this affects you, you should have received a notification per email already, or been exempt from last year’s declaration.

If you belong to this group but something has changed since your last fiscal declaration (anything at all – income levels, address or other) you will still need to declare your taxes.

Everyone else needs to fill in a declaration, even if you don’t earn any income in France (for example people who get a pension paid from another country).

READ ALSO: What the French government doesn’t tell you about filing taxes

When is the deadline?

Last year declarations were extended because of the lockdown, but this year has reverted to the normal timeframe, with declarations opening online on Thursday, April 8th.

The deadline to have the return completed, however, depends on where you live:

  • People living in département numbers 1 to 19 and people who are not full-time residents in France have until 11.59pm on Wednesday, May 26th to make their declaration
  • People living in départements 20 to 54 have until 11.59pm on Tuesday, June 1st
  • People living in départements 55 to 95 and all overseas French territories have until 11.59pm on Tuesday, June 8th

Can I only do it online?

The government has vowed to render tax declarations paperless and this year even first-timers are told to file their declarations online.

Exemptions for online filing include groups like elderly and people without internet access – for example those living in so-called ‘white zones’ – who may make their declarations on paper and send them in by post.

You can get your tax form at your local tax office, or download it and print it from the tax site.

If you are having trouble you may call 0809 401 401 for help.

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First time declaring? 

If this is your first year filing a tax declaration in France, you will first need to get a tax number (numéro fiscal), you can get one through the official website of impots.gouv.fr.

Once you have received the number, you then need to register with the tax website.

If you are already registered online for property taxes such as the taxe d’habitation, you use the same site.

Visit the site impots.gouv.fr and go to the section that says “votre espace particulier“.

This is where your recent declarations and tax bills will be found. You’ll need three pieces of information to set up your account: your tax number, your online access number and your reference tax income (votre numéro fiscal, votre numéro d’accès en ligne et votre revenu fiscal de référence).

If you are not registered, you first need to set up your online account – head to impots.gouv.fr and click on votre espace particulier, if you have not created an account previously you will be given the option to set one up by entering details such as your name, address and social security number.

Once registered, head to the blue button ‘Accéder à la déclaration en ligne‘ to begin filling in the online form.

READ ALSO Ask the expert – what to put in each section of the French tax declaration

What do I need to declare?

Everything, basically.

People often assume that anything they have already declared to the tax authorities in their home country does not need to be included on the French tax form, but this is not the case.

The French taxman is asking for all of your assets, which includes income from rental properties in another country and income on financial products such as shares or ISAs in the UK.

All bank accounts must also be declared, even if they are dormant. New information-sharing rules between international banks mean that your bank can and will tell the French taxman what accounts you have in your home country, and if that information doesn’t match what is on your French declaration you could find yourself in trouble. 

Tax credits are available against tax you have already paid in another country – so you don’t end up paying twice on the same income – but you must still declare it.

International tax specialist Jason Porter explains more here.

What if I forget something?

If you realise too late that you have made a mistake on your tax declaration, you have until mid December 2021 to correct it on the government’s website, impots.gouv.fr.

Taxed as a household 

In France you are taxed by household. So if you are a married couple or if you are “pacsed” (in a civil partnership) then you should make one joint declaration rather than two. If you got married halfway through the year you can now declare one common declaration for the whole year.
 
And if you have any children living with you that are earning then you’ll need to declare their earnings too…and that includes any summer jobs. 
 
Tax deductibles
 
There are some professionals, including journalists, who receive tax breaks from the French government. 
 
The French can also claim tax breaks for house improvements, child care and gifting so it’s worth asking if you think you might be able to benefit.  Find out more about the deductions available here.
 
If you were working from home for the majority of 2020, as many people were due to the pandemic, the government has stated that any extra allowances given to you by your employer to cover extra costs of home-working will not usually be subject the income tax, the government has stated
 
Visit the English page of the tax authority’s website
 
The tax section is less labyrinthine than some French government websites, and there is a section in English.
 
This can be found here.  

Member comments

  1. What if I move to france in the middle of the tax year? Do I have to declare income before I arrive?

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