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TAXES

Ask the expert: How to fill out the 2022 French tax declaration

Tax declarations in France are now open and almost everyone who lives here, as well as some who live outside France, have to fill in the declaration form. The process itself can be complicated if you're not used to it, so Jill Starley-Grainger asked chartered accountant Faten Amamou for her tips.

Ask the expert: How to fill out the 2022 French tax declaration
Photo: Etienne Laurent/AFP

Declarations are open now and the deadline to have the form filled in is late May or June, depending on where you live – full details HERE.

If you’re unsure whether you have to complete a declaration or not, then you probably do. If you live in France you almost certainly will, even if all your income comes from another country (for example pensioners) or if you’re an employee and your income is already taxed at source. If you live outside France but earn income here, including from renting out property, then you will need to make a declaration.

READ ALSO Who needs to make an annual tax declaration in France

So assuming you have to make the declaration, here’s how to go about it.

Once you have filed online once, the form remembers your details making the following years a lot more straightforward, but making the first declaration can be complicated.

READ ALSO Where can I find professional help with the French tax declaration

Getting started

Unlike previous years when the first declaration had to be made on paper, now first-timers can go straight to filing online.

The first step is requesting a numéro fiscale (tax number) and you can find out how to do that here.

Faten says: “Once you have your 13-digit tax number, you can file your return online. If you can’t file online, there are still some exceptions to allow people who are unable to file online to use the paper method, so speak to your local tax office or call 0809 401 401 (in French only) for assistance.”

Once you have the tax number, head to impots.gouv.fr and set up an espace particulier (online account) with your personal details and email address. Once your account is set up, click on the blue button Accéder à la déclaration en ligne to get to the form.

Overview

Faten says: “Before you start to fill out your return, if you have any income that isn’t in euros, you’ll need to convert it to euros. There is no set method for doing this, but keep a note of the method, logic and currency conversion you have used in case you are questioned about it.

“In France, you file in spring for the previous calendar year (January to December). That means that if you were tax resident in France at all in 2021 – even for just a day – you must file a French tax return in spring 2022.”

“Under French law, most households file a single tax return. This applies to couples who are married or in legally recognised civil partnerships, plus any dependent family members, including children or parents who live with you free of charge. However, couples who live together but are not married or in civil partnership file separately.”

Most people give their bank details to the tax office so that the money can be taken automatically (or refunded if you have tax credits, which is quite common. People whose income is taxed at source often end up getting money back at tax time) but this can only be done if you have a French bank account.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about opening a bank account in France

Faten says: “If you don’t have a bank account in France, it will make life simpler if you open one, but it is possible to pay at your local tax office in cash or cheque if it is below €300.”

First section

The first section of the form asks for your personal details – name, address and domestic situation including whether you are married or in a civil partnership and whether you have children.

READ ALSO What’s in a name – understanding how to fill out forms in France

The form has options for two déclarants, as married couples file together, and personnes à charge (dependants) but if you are filing as a single person with no dependants just ignore the extra boxes and fill in ‘déclarant 1‘.

Earnings – French and foreign

The next section concerns earnings and here you must tell the taxman about everything you have earned in the last year.

For employees in France this can be confusing because your salary has likely already been taxed at source, but you still need to declare it on the form (the reason for this duplication is that France is in the process of changing its tax system). Likewise any income earned in another country must be declared, even if you have already paid tax on it in the country where you earned it.

Faten said: “Then you’ll be asked your salary, which you must declare here, regardless of whether you’re employed by a French or foreign company. For foreign salaries, you must list it here and also again later, in the foreign revenue section (form 2047).

“Note that even if you pay your taxes on your salary in another country, such as if you are a cross-border worker on the PAYE system in the UK, you must still include this income on your French tax return. If it is covered by a double-tax treaty, you will not pay taxes on it in France, but it still must be declared.”

Other French income

The next section covers other types of income and includes any money you make from renting out property in France.

Faten says: “Next, you’ll be asked about other assets, revenue and credits in France. If you earn dividends on a French business or investments, rental income from a French property, if you are an auto-entrepreneur or micro-entrepreneur, you declare it here. In this area, you’ll then note any relevant tax credits, such as if you’ve invested in certain types of real estate, forests or pension funds.”

Other foreign income

Faten says: “The next section deals with much the same the last one, but is for all income from outside France.

“Again, as with foreign salary, all of your foreign income must be declared [including income from renting out a property in another country] regardless of whether you’ve already paid taxes on it elsewhere or if it’s covered by a double tax treaty.

“All foreign income needs to be reported in a special form called 2047. This needs to be filled in accordance with the treaty of non-double taxation. Each type of revenue has its own calculation of credit tax to delete the double taxation. In this specific matter relating to the double-tax treaty, it is highly advised to work with a real professional: an expert-comptable or tax lawyer (fiscaliste).

“Also be aware that in France, in addition to tax, we have social contributions called CSG, CRDS that must be paid on income and revenue. Some double-tax treaties cover this and some don’t, so it will depend on your home country’s double-tax treaty as to whether you need to pay all or some of this.”

Foreign bank accounts, investment schemes and cryptocurrency

This one frequently catches out foreigners, but you need to tell the French taxman about all bank accounts you hold outside France.

Faten said: “You’ll need to declare all your foreign bank accounts and investment schemes, such as foreign life insurance policies. You don’t declare the amount in each account, but you must tell them of the existence of each one, including the account number and when you opened the account – even if the account is dormant or no longer used.

“PayPal accounts must be declared unless the purpose of the PayPal account is to make online payments for purchases or receipts for sales of goods; the PayPal account is backed by another account opened in France or the sum of the receipts carried out by its holder does not exceed €10,000 per year.

“And if you have a cryptocurrency account, this must be declared, but there’s a special section just for this.

“The fines for failure to declare a single bank account or investment scheme are hefty – from €1,500 to €10,000, with €3,000 being a fairly common penalty. And those amounts are applied to each account you fail to declare.”

Deductions

Finally you get to deduct some costs, while certain professions, including journalists, have historic agreements that allow them to deduct a certain portion of their salary from their taxable income.

Faten said: “You can deduct the cost of some personal services, but only if the provider is registered and provides you with official invoices. These might include the cost of childcare – such as creches and nannies – as well as cleaners, gardeners and similar personal services. 

“Donations to certain associations, such as charities, are eligible for an income tax reduction of 66 percent to 75 percent of the amount paid, depending on the association chosen, up to a limit of 20 percent of taxable income. The association must be recognised as being of public utility or of general non-profit interest, and will be listed as ‘association d’utilité publique’.”

UK nationals

Faten said: “A lot of people are concerned that Brexit has affected the double-tax treaty between the UK and France, but it has not. The treaty was negotiated completely separately from Brexit, so is unrelated.”

In short, nothing has changed for Brits living in France when it comes to tax declarations.

Errors

Faten said: “One area that catches a lot of people out is the non-salary foreign income section. It’s very easy to put the wrong numbers in a box here, which could see you paying much higher taxes than you should. If you make a mistake and you realise it in time, you can correct it online until November, but after that, it would be very difficult to resolve. If you have foreign-earned income for anything other than a straightforward salary, I would suggest using a French chartered accountant to help you file.

“If you think you made an error, you can amend your tax returns up to three years in the past. But this needs to be done with the tax agent. You must explain the situation to them and send all forms amended. You can also request that you not be fined because you came to them spontaneously to fix the situation.

“After filing your return, you need to keep it and the relevant documents, such as annual income statements, P60s in the UK or W-2s in the US, for 10 years.” 

Faten Amamou is a Chartered Accountant in France at ESCEC International and member of the Institute of chartered accountants in France (ordre des experts-comptables). Fluent in English, French and Arabic she provides accounting services to both individuals and businesses, and specialises in helping foreign entrepreneurs set up their business and careers in France. Find out more here.

Member comments

  1. Does anyone yet know the exchange rate the administration fiscale wants used to convert sterling into Euro for declaration purposes, 2021?

  2. Not true that first time declarations can now be done online – just got this message:
    Attention

    Selon nos informations, vous déclarez pour la première fois. Pour cette raison, vous ne pouvez pas déclarer en ligne cette année. Vous devez déposer une déclaration de revenus au format papier auprès de votre Centre des Finances Publiques.

    Vous pourrez déclarer vos revenus en ligne à compter de l’année prochaine.

    La direction générale des finances publiques

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BANKING

EXPLAINED: The best money saving options for foreigners in France

Are you feeling lost with all the different 'livrets' in France? Here is your guide for the best saving options.

EXPLAINED: The best money saving options for foreigners in France

This article contains information on:

  • Livret A
  • Livret B or Compte sur livret 
  • Le livret de développement durable et solidaire (LDDS)
  • Livret Epargne Populaire (LEP)
  • Compte à terme (CAT)
  • A CEL or PEL
  • Livret Jeune
  • PEA (stock savings plan)
  • Private pension plans
  • Assurance Vie
  • Individual securities

Before starting a French savings plan, consider your situation and residence. If you are living in France for a short period of time, you might be able to make due with a simple current account (compte cheque in French). This is a basic bank account that will allow you to withdraw money from the ATM, pay your bills and make purchases using a debit card.

You can consult The Local’s guide to setting up a bank account in France HERE.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about setting up a bank account in France

But if you’re here for the longer term, you might be looking to save – either saving for a specific project like buying a house or just creating some savings in case of a rainy day. 

The savings options

Before opening a savings account, consider scheduling a meeting with your bank for advice. They will be able to offer you information on the different savings plans available, with specific and up-to-date information regarding conditions and interest rates. 

Livret A

The first option is the Livret A – this is a standard savings account that is quite popular across France, it is tax-free but has a maximum amount that you can keep in it. It’s quite similar to a cash ISA in the United Kingdom or a standard savings account in the United States.

A Livret A can only be opened under one name, and you are only eligible to have one Livret A. 

Regarding residency requirements, both non-French residents and French residents alike can hold Livret A accounts. Depending on your bank, the typical minimum deposit amount is €10. You will not have a cheque book or card issued to this account, but transferring sums to and from your current account is a simple process. 

Livret A accounts have a maximum amount – as of December 2022, the ceiling was set at €22,950 for individuals and €76,500 for associations, excluding the calculation of capitalised interest.

While you can hold a Livret A and a Livret de Développement Durable et Solidaire (see below), you cannot hold more than one of both accounts, and you cannot a Livret A in tandem with a Livret Bleu (Livret B). If you are eligible for a Livret d’Epargne Populaire (LEP), which is means-tested, then you can hold this account at the same time as a Livret A.

You can set up a Livret A fairly easily by simply contacting your bank and scheduling an appointment. Some banks might allow you to set up the account online, if you are already banked there.

Livret B or Compte sur livret 

The Livret B is a taxable savings account, and it can be issued by Caisse d’Epargne, the Banque Postale and Crédit Mutuel. The interest rate offered by the Livret B is decided by the individual regional bank, meaning it is not regulated by public authorities. Typically, this rate is lower than the Livret A rate. As of December 2022, the Livret B gross interest rates ranged from 0.05 percent to 0.10 percent. 

Typically the Livret B is used when clients have reached the maximum amount they can save using both the Livret A and Livret de développement durable et solidaire (LDDS). There is no ceiling with a Livret B, and typically the initial deposit amount required is just €10.

At other banks, you can open a “compte sur livret” which functions similarly to a livret B. Using this savings account, you can also build up your savings without risk and accessible to you at any time (liquid). As with the Livret B, interest earned is determined by the banking institution and subject to taxes and social security deductions.

The account can remain open for an unlimited amount of time and in most cases without a maximum deposit.

Livret de développement durable et solidaire (LDDS)

Previously called the “Codevi,” the LDDS (sustainable development and solidarity savings account) is offered by all banking establishments in France. You can hold up to a maximum of €12,000 in this tax-free account. 

The interest rate as of August 2022 was two percent. 

Livret Epargne Populaire (LEP)

The LEP is available for low-taxpayers – families who meet certain maximum income thresholds: €20,296 for a single person, and €31,125 for a couple with no dependents.

In order to open this account, you must be a resident in France, and you must be able to prove that you earn lower than the maximum amount stated above. 

The benefit to this savings account is that the interest rate is 4.60 percent, but eligible account holders can only keep a maximum of €7,700 worth of savings in an LEP account.

If you change your tax residence, you should be advised to close this account. 

Compte à terme (CAT)

The CAT offers a savings account with a higher rate of interest than a generic saving’s account, like a Livret A. However, it is only available for a specific amount of time. According to Maeve Hoffman, qualified financial advisor and partner at Spectrum IFA Group (International Financial Planning Advisers in Europe), the CAT is advantageous for those who have a clear timeline for when they would be using a lump-sum of money. For instance, if one is looking to buy a home and they are aware that the process will take three to six months, they could put the funds into a CAT so that they earn more interest than they would in a regular current or saving’s account.

This must be done by signing a contract with a bank, and by specifying the term of the investment (meaning you as the investor would not have access to those funds during the set-time). The contract will also specify the type of interest rate. Keep in mind that interest accrued would be subject to income tax and social security deductions.

A CEL or PEL

If you are looking to invest in a property in the future, whether that is buying a home or refurbishing one, you might consider creating a Compte d’épargne Logement or a Plan Epargne Logement. There are some differences between these two options, but essentially both plans provide short-term savings plans for investing in property. 

The first is the PEL – the accumulated savings can be used to obtain a mortgage or loan on more advantageous terms. The maximum amount you can pay into the PEL is €61,200.

PELs have a minimum (four years) and maximum (ten years) contractual duration. After 10 years, you can no longer make payments, but your PEL can continue to earn interest for up to five additional years. The minimum initial deposit is €225, and you must continue to deposit money into the account in accordance with the terms of your individual contract. If you fail to do so, the account will be automatically closed. You can choose between an option to pay into the account on a monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually basis, though on a yearly basis you should deposit at least €540.

Depending on whether you opened your account prior to or after 2018, you may benefit from a government bonus when purchasing the property you were saving up for. Additionally, the timeline of when you opened your account determines whether interest earned on your savings are taxable. 

Interest earned on a PEL account opened after 2018 is subject to income tax and social security deductions. Every year, your bank should provide you with a statement showing the amount of interest earned on your PEL and the amount of the single flat-rate levy.

As of December 2022, the interest rate was one percent.

The second option is the CEL. You need to start the account with a deposit of €300, and you can save up to €15,300 in the account. With a slightly higher interest rate of 1.25 percent, the minimum yearly deposit for a CEL is €75. 

Interest accrued for a CEL opened after 2018 is also subject to French income tax and social security contributions. 

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The biggest difference between the two is how easy it is to access the funds inside the account – releasing funds from a CEL is hypothetically easier than from a PEL, where the money is meant to be blocked away for at least four years and early withdrawals can lead to penalties.

Looking to set up a saving’s account for your child?

You might consider the “Livret Jeune.” In order to set this up, you will need to have your tax residence in France. The account is reserved for young people aged 12 to 25 years old. While banks are free to set their own interest rates on these accounts, the rate as of August 2022 was two percent. 

Keep in mind that the maximum amount that can be held in this account is  €1,600, excluding interest. The holder of the account can have access to the amount held inside and to an ATM card.

Investment options

PEA (stock savings plan)

The PEA (Plan d’Epargne en Action) is a regulated savings plan, or share account. When you sign up for one, you are given a portfolio of European company shares, and if you leave the investment for at least five years then you are not obligated to pay income tax on it. However, you should keep in mind that you will still have to pay social security contributions on any earnings accrued in the PEA. 

Any adult whose tax residence is in France can open a PEA and save up to €150,000. They are limited to one per person, or one per married couple.

However, Americans should be wary of signing up for PEAs or other plans that offer portfolios of European shares for taxation reasons. For other foreigners living in France, however, options like PEAs are available.

Private pension plans

While private pension plans are available in France, many people continue to rely on state-provided pensions. According to financial advisor Maeve Hoffman, private pension plans in France are a relatively new phenomenon. “They would resemble a ‘money purchase program’ in the UK,” Hoffman told The Local, or an employer-sponsored retirement plan in the US.

When discussing private pension plans in France, you will likely hear about “Plan d’épargne retraite” (PER). These are new retirement savings plans intended to replace previous options. The PER comes in three forms: one as an individual PER, and two as company PERs.

The individual PER will be replacing the “Perp” (Plan d’épargne retraite populaire) and the Madelin (Contrat d’épargne retraite pour les travailleurs non salariés).

As for the two company PERs, they consist of the “mandatory company pension plan” (Le PER d’entreprise obligatoire) and the “collective company pension plan” (Le PER d’entreprise collectif). The former is typically formatted as a plan open to all employees of a company or reserved for certain categories of employees. The employees concerned are required to subscribe. You can learn more HERE.

The collective company PER is a plan open to all employees with no obligation to subscribe. This is the replacement of the “PERCO” (Plan d’épargne pour la retraite collectif), which was a group supplemental retirement plan offered as a company benefit for some employees. If you are concerned by that change, then your company can transform the previous Perco into a collective company PER. 

The return for a private pension plan in France would either be via capital or in annuity, which you would sell “for income for life,” Hoffman said.

Once again, Americans would be advised consult a cross-border financial and/or tax expert before subscribing to any private pension plans in France. 

Assurance Vie

The “Assurance Vie” might sound like it should translate directly as a “life insurance policy” – one anglophones might recognise as the premium paid out to dependent family members after one’s death. In French, the latter is actually called “assurance décès” and it is available through most banks.

Assurance Vie on the other hand is a life insurance wrapper that holds investments. The minimum deposit amount will depend on the plan, and these can vary widely, with some requiring higher initial fees than others. The primary benefit to an Assurance Vie is that it is a great tool for being tax efficient – you can grow investments tax free and you can choose who inherits them, rather than going through the traditional French inheritance process.

READ MORE: Money talk: The advantages of getting an Assurance Vie in France

Assurance Vie is available to all French tax residents, but you should be aware that if you become a tax resident elsewhere (perhaps you leave France and move back to the United Kingdom) you will likely have to begin paying tax on the earnings made via Assurance Vie. 

This poses a particular issue for Americans, as they are required to file taxes even when living outside of the United States. Starting an Assurance Vie plan can make filing American taxes much more complicated, primarily because the IRS often views Assurance Vie plans as passive foreign investment companies (PFICs), making them subject to complicated tax requirements.

Only French tax residents can have an Assurance Vie.

Individual securities

Individual securities, or stocks and bonds, are another option for foreigners living in France, especially Americans.

For Americans looking to keep investments in euros, it is build a portfolio using stocks and bonds rather than diversifying with an ETF (exchange-traded fund) or a mutual fund, both of which could be taxed by the IRS as “passive investments.”

For those looking to buy bonds in France France, the best known government bonds are the obligations assimilables du Trésor (OAT), which have an average life of between five and ten years.

Vocabulary

Épargne – saving/s

Fiscalité – taxation

Livret – bank book

Action – share

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