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BREXIT

Certified translations: What are the rules for translating documents into French?

Anyone going through the process of applying for official French documentation such as a residency or health insurance card may need to have some documents translated - but what are the rules on translation?

Certified translations: What are the rules for translating documents into French?
Photo: AFP

When applying for certain official things in France – the carte de séjour residency card or the carte vitale health insurance – you will often be asked for supporting documents such as birth or marriage certificates or pension details. And, of course, these documents are likely to be in your native language and may need translating.

What needs to be translated?

Anything that you supply that is not in French can be requested to be translated. In the carte de séjour application process, many people have reported that their local authorities have not asked for the translation of more simple documents such as birth certificates. But the authorities are within their rights to make such a demand if you are supplying non-French documents.

Who can translate it?

Sadly, it's not as simple as just asking your mate who speaks French. All documents must be translated by a certified translator (traducteur certifié).

This is someone who is on the official roll of the Court of Appeals in France, which is updated yearly. In order to get on to the certified list, translators must prove their competence and have their identity checked.

They are then given a number and a stamp, which they provide together with your translated document, so you can prove to French officialdom that you have used an accredited translator who has provided a faithful and accurate copy of your documents.

What does it cost?

The cost varies depending on who you use and where they are based, but the average cost is about €30 to €40 per page.

And is there a date limit on translations?

Some préfectures stipulate that translations have to have been made within the last six months for a carte de séjour application, leading to frustration for people who have to pay out multiple times to get the same document translated for different purposes.

However the French government's Brexit website says this is not the case when applying for citizenship.

The site states in relation to gaining nationality – rather than residency – states that: “The originals of civil status documents [such as birth of marriage certificates] and their translation by a sworn translator are required in procedures for access to French nationality, but it is not necessary for them to be dated within the last six months.”

Where can I find a certified translator?

Dozens of them advertise their services online, but the French government keeps the official list here.

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. I suggest this is because, in the every day world, not all prefectures insist on applying the “required” bit of the process.
    My prefecture, (Perpignan) for instance, did not require any document to be translated for either my Titre de Sejour or Carte Vitale applications; they were sympathetic and most helpful at every stage.
    Not all ‘fonctionaires’ may be so understanding or forgiving.

  2. Paris has been excellent.
    I’ve heard of horror stories from others in other departments.
    You are correct, Paul … 🙂

  3. If you’re in the USA before you go to France, any office of the French Consul General will (for a modest fee) ALSO “certify” translations which you bring to them in person. (That is, assuming the translations you did yourself or HAD done, are accurate). We’ve had our Birth Certificates, Drivers’ Licenses, Vehicle Titles, Veterans’ paperwork and other items pre-“certified” in just that way.

  4. My wife and I are planning to buy a property in France and retire permanently. We will both be below UK state pension age. But will be mortgage free and I will have a Civil Service pension.
    I am confused about the minimum income requirements for applying for a visa.
    Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.
    Doug

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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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