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TAX

The French tax calendar for 2020 – what taxes are due and when?

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. There's not much anyone can do about the first, but we can at least help you make sure you don't get caught out by the second - here's the 2020 schedule of tax payment dates in France.

The French tax calendar for 2020 - what taxes are due and when?
Photo: AFP

France is the most highly taxed country in Europe (although with the country's high quality public services and strong social protections it could also be argued that you get a lot for your money) so if you live here you'll certainly need to pay some tax.

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


Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

To help ensure that you don't get on the wrong side of the French taxman here is the schedule of what is due and when:

April 20th – opening of the tax declaration period (pushed back by 11 days due to the coronavirus epidemic). This relates to taxes owed for 2019 and anyone resident in France from April 2019 and onwards needs to fill in a return.

June 12th – closing date for tax declarations done on paper. 

June 4th – closing date for online tax declarations if you live in départements 1 to 19

June 8th – closing date for online tax declarations if you live in départements 20 to 54

June 11th – closing date for online tax declarations if you live in départements 55 to 976

Over the summer you will then receive by mail or email (depending on how you filed the return) a bill telling you how much tax you owe. This bill could be €0.

June 30th – deadline to declare you wish to pay your taxes in installments.

July 31st – by the end of July you will receive information on any tax credits and deductions you are entitled to (for example for childcare costs) plus the payment of the second half of any tax credits you received in 2019. The first half was paid on January 15th.

August 24th – charges are set for the year's taxe foncière

September 30th – payments open for taxe foncière

October 1st – bills calculated for the taxe d'habitation

October 15th – deadline to pay taxe foncière by mail

October 21st – deadline to pay taxe foncière online

October 31st – deadline to register to pay taxe d'habitation and redevance audiovisuelle (the French TV licence) by monthly installments

November 16th – deadline to pay taxe d'habitation by mail

November 20th – deadline to pay taxe d'habitation online

Mid December – the cutoff point to correct errors in your online tax declaration. French taxpayer's recently won the 'right to make mistakes' so if you have forgotten to add something or made a mistake in your calculations in your declaration you can go online and correct it without attracting a penalty.

So what are all these taxes?

Taxe d'habitation – this one is in the process of being phased out for most people, so it may no longer apply to you. The tax was paid by the person who lived in the property, rather than the person who owned it. Emmanuel Macron decided to phase out the tax for everyone apart from high earners and only around 20 percent of people are still paying it this year. Bad news for second home owners though – the tax is still due on second homes regardless of whether you are a high earner or not.

Taxe foncière – this is the tax paid by the owner of a property, so if you live in a home you own you would – if applicable – pay both the taxe d'habitation and the taxe foncière. This one is not being phased out and in fact for many people has been rising quite steeply.

READ ALSO What is taxe foncière and do I have to pay it?

Redevance audiovisuelle – this is the French equivalent of a TV licence and is paid by almost everyone, even if you don't watch French TV.

Avis d'impot – this is your yearly tax return and is the cause of quite a lot of confusion among foreign residents but in fact the rule is simple – if your main residence is in France you must fill in a tax return.

Many people assume that if their income all comes from another country then they don't need to file a tax return but this is not the case. France has double taxation agreements with most countries, so if you have already paid tax on – for example – income from a rental property in the UK you will not be liable for more tax in France on the same income, but you must still tell the French taxman about it.

READ ALSO What exactly do I need to tell the French taxman about?

All income must be declared, as well as all bank accounts in other countries even if they are dormant.

The French tax system has been undergoing some big changes and from January 2019 employees had their income tax deducted at source for the first time. This would seem to make the annual declaration irrelevant for a lot of people, but for the moment at least it is still a legal requirement.

There are actually quite a lot of tax deductions available, especially for families, so filling in the return could see you getting money back instead of a bill.

READ ALSO These are the French tax breaks you don't want to miss out on

 

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TAX

The vocab you need to understand French taxes

Declaring and paying taxes in France can be a complicated affair, especially for first-timers, and the intricate French vocabulary does not exactly simplify the process. This language guide might help.

The vocab you need to understand French taxes
Illustration photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

If you are encountering the French tax system for the first time, just looking at the various forms can make you dizzy, as the vocab isn’t exactly everyday-French.

Even French natives sometimes struggle to understand what they are being asked about, which is why the government has created a tax lexicon (available HERE).

It is 23 pages long, but we have picked out the key terms and added a few that might be unfamiliar to foreigners.

If, however, you are looking for a specific term that doesn’t appear in the list below, we recommend you check the official guide. 

We have also explained in detail how to fill out the annual tax declaration HERE.

Nom – as with all French forms, nom refers specifically to your surname or family name. Your prénom (first name) comes later. Tax forms generally ask for your nom de naissance which is the family name you were born with (even if you have changed your name through marriage) and will then ask for nom auquel vos courriers seront adressés or name for correspondence to be addressed to.

EXPLAINED: What’s in a name? Understanding how to fill out forms in France

Avis d’imposition – tax notice. This is for your annual tax return. If your main residence is in France you must fill in a tax return – even if all your income comes from another country. France has double taxation agreements with most countries, so if you have already paid tax on, say, income from a rental property in the UK you will not be liable for more tax in France on the same income. But you must still tell the French tax man about it.

EXPLAINED: Who has to make a tax declaration in France in 2021?

Déclarant – refers to the person declaring the taxes. The verb is déclarer and un déclarant is la personne qui déclare – the person who declares. The form has spaces for two déclarants because married couples and those in a civil partnership file a joint return. If you are declaring as a single person just ignore the column for déclarant 2.

Foyer fiscal – tax household. France bases taxes on the household and you will be asked about it in detail when filling out your declaration. Couples who are married or in a civil union (Pacs) 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.

Etat civil – civil status. Choose between célibataire (single), marié (married) or Pacsé (in a civil partnership). 

Parent isolé – single parent. This only goes for those who were not living with a partner on December 31st the year before declaring the taxes. If you got divorced, separated or lost your partner after that date, you have to wait until next year to declare it. In addition to parents, this category also includes singles who are taking care of a disabled person.

Enfant mineur – child under 18 years old.

Enfant majeur – a child over 18 years old. Parents in France may attach their adult child to their tax declaration until the age of 25, under certain conditions.

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

Personne à charge – means ‘person to take care of’, and means that you have a person in your household that you are financially responsible for, usually referred to in English as a dependant. 

Concubinage – a couple who live together but aren’t married or in a civil partnership. If that’s you, you’re not allowed to tick the box of parent isolé if you have children.

Numéro de sécurité sociale – social security number. If you’re registered with French social security this number (15 figures) appears on your Carte Vitale health card and if you’re an employee it should appear on your payslips. If you don’t have a social security number in France, tick the box “pas de numéro de sécurité sociale“.

Prélèvement à la source – This sounds confusing, because it’s sometimes translated as “withholding tax”. However it just means the tax that is automatically deducted from your salary each month if you are an employee. Usually referred to in English as ‘taxation at source’ or PAYE (pay as you earn), it’s a relatively recent innovation in France.

READ ALSO: The French tax calendar for 2021 – which taxes are due when?

Revenus des indépendants – income for the self-employed. Whereas employees get their taxes deducted automatically from their payslip, self-employed people, contractors or freelancers have to declare all their income and social benefits, if any, on their tax declarations. 

Micro-entrepreneur – this is a specific professional status that self-employed people may opt for if their income is below a certain threshold. It used to be known an auto-entrepreneur.

Comptes à l’étranger – foreign bank accounts. If you have a bank account in a country other than France, you have to declare that to the tax man, or risk a €1,500 fine (€10,000 for those with an account in a country that doesn’t have a tax evasion deal with France) per account. New international banking rules aimed at money-launderers mean it is increasingly easy for countries to find out this information.

Contribution à l’audiovisuel public – this means ‘contribution to the public audiovisual’. It is the French equivalent of a TV licence and is paid by almost everyone. You pay it if you have a TV in your property, even if you don’t watch French TV.

Abattement – rebates. France has a long list of specific tax rebates, some of which are directed professional groups while others go to parents for costs like childcare and domestic help. Find out more about the deductions available here.

Paiement en ligne – online payment.

Coordonnées bancaires – bank information (such as the account holder’s name, account number, BIC and IBAN) you are given the option to add this to your tax declaration so that payments can be taken – or refunds credited – directly.

Taxe d’habitation – the housing tax paid by those living in a property, not the owner, is in the process of being phased out and most people won’t have to pay it this year. However second home owners are excluded from the phasing out and still have to pay it, bar a few exceptions. This is separate to the annual tax declaration and bills are sent out in the autumn.

Taxe foncière – this is the tax for property owners, second home owners pay both this and the taxe d’habitation. The tax on property owners has risen in many areas over the past couple of years.

READ ALSO What is taxe foncière and do I have to pay it?

Revenus fonciers – this means ‘property income’, but it only refers to income coming from properties that are rented out unfurnished. If you rent out a furnished property that also has to be declared, but under the box called bénéfices industriels et commerciaux (BIC).

READ ALSO: Five things to know about renting out your holiday home in France

Micro foncier – the box to tick if the revenus fonciers are up to €15,000 annually, which allows for a 30 percent tax rebate on the gross income.

Régime réel – the box to tick if the revenus fonciers exceed €15,000 annually, in which case there won’t be any tax rebate available.

Pensions – pensions. You have to declare any pensions you receive, whichever type it may be, even if they are paid by another country. There are several other similar terms that belong to the same category as pensions.

Allocations – economic help schemes.

Indemnités – allowances.

Retraites – pensions.

Rentes – annuities. 

Prime – bonus.

Revenu brut – gross revenue.

Revenut net – net revenue.

Demande gracieuse – means ‘gracious request’ and is what you may do if, upon receiving your tax notice, you realise you could have paid less tax if you had ticked a different box somewhere or given additional information. The term ‘gracious’ is there to signify that the tax man can choose to accommodate your request if he so pleases, but there’s no rule saying he has to. As a general policy we would recommend always being very polite to tax authorities.

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