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Brexit: France delays relaunch of residency permit website for British citizens

The French government has announced that the relaunch of a website to allow Brits to apply for a post-Brexit residency permit will now be delayed because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The website was originally intended to go live again on July 1st.

Brexit: France delays relaunch of residency permit website for British citizens
Photo: AFP

The British Embassy in Paris confirmed late on Saturday evening that the website will now not be launched until October 1st.

That's just three months before the end of the current transition period although Brits in France will have until June 30th 2021 to apply for a permit.

The Embassy said: “The French Ministry of the Interior has announced that it is postponing the re-launching of their residency permit portal from July to 1 October because of the impact of Covid-19.”

The French Interior had earlier announced the delay on its Brexit portal for British residents.

According to Citizens' Rights group France Rights, the decision to delay the relaunch of the website was taken on Friday evening.

“The reason for the delay is simple, prefectures now have a 3-month backlog of permits to process and would not be able to give the necessary focus and care to processing ours as well,” France Rights said on its Facebook page.

“While we understand the impact of Covid on all areas of our lives, this decision has come very late in the day, was poorly communicated and missed key print deadlines which matter for the many British citizens who do not use social media. 

“We will be continuing our discussions with the Embassy and the Ministry and keep you updated.”

READ ALSO: What we know about France's new online system for residency permits

Under the terms of the Brexit deal, Britons will have to apply for special residency permits that will specifically state they are protected by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Brits have until December 31st, 2020 to become legally resident in France and then will have until at least the end of June 2021 to make the application.

France announced back in January that it would be creating a new online process, and despite the widespread chaos caused by the coronavirus epidemic and following lockdown, it had seemed that the site was still on course to open in July as planned.

“A new website adapted to the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will be opened in anticipation early July 2020,” reads the message from the French government.

“British citizens residing in France will be issued specific residence permits 'United Kingdom's withdrawal agreement from the EU' for which they will have to apply before July 1st, 2021,” reads the message from the French government.

The applications will still be processed by individual préfectures, but the application must first be made online (although there are expected to be exemptions for people who do not have internet access).

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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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