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Reader question: Where can I find professional help with the French tax declaration?

Reader question: Where can I find professional help with the French tax declaration?
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There are lots of people advertising their services to help with the annual French tax declaration but you need to make sure that anyone you hire has the right qualifications - here is how to check.

Question: I need some help with the annual French tax declaration and I’ve seen all sorts of different self-proclaimed experts offering their services, but what should I be looking for when I instruct someone in this area?

Unlike in the UK where swathes of the population including salaried employees and pensioners are generally exempt from filing a tax return, in France almost everyone has to complete the annual tax declaration – even if they don’t owe any tax.

READ ALSO Who has to fill in a tax declaration in France?

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And the combination of complicated tax jargon and French bureaucracy is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many. So where can you get help?

Online

There are lots of English-language guides to French tax forms and the French tax website even has a section in English to help out foreigners.

You can head to The Local’s Tax Declaration section where we’ve put together series of guides and Q&As with experts including on the 2021 deadlines, who has to declare, what you need to tell the French taxman about and some handy vocab for the form.

The tax declarations have now moved online and once you have registered and filed for the first year, the process is relatively straightforward.

Professional help

But if you feel that your French is not up to the task, or your financial affairs are very complicated or you’d just rather hack off your own foot than spend an afternoon filling in French tax forms, you might prefer to pay someone to help you.

There are lots of people who advertise their services in this area, particularly in forums or online groups for foreigners, but be careful that you hire someone with the correct qualifications.

We asked chartered accountant Faten Amamou for her tips.

She said: “French tax returns can seem complicated, but if your financial affairs are straightforward, you can probably file your own. The calculations will be worked out for you, so you don’t need to do any complicated mathematics.”

But if you’re looking for professional help you have two main options – an expert comptable or a fiscaliste.

Faten said: “Tax authorities recommend that you fill your individual and household tax returns with an expert comptable.

“This assures them your tax return will be accurate, and they have a knowledgeable point of contact for any questions.

“You can also use a fiscaliste – or a tax-specialist lawyer (avocat). But note that for business tax returns (liasse fiscale) based on bookkeeping, only expert comptables can advise you, not tax lawyers.

“If your French is very good, you can call the tax helpline on 0809 401 401.

“Or if you have a fluent friend who can go with you, you can also make an appointment at your local tax office (centre des impôts) with an adviser who can explain how to fill in the form and answer any questions about it.

“But in both cases, they cannot give financial advice and can only answer questions about the form.

“There are some translators and other non-registered professionals who will offer to help you fill in your tax return, and I have seen people landed with some hefty tax bills, fines and even jail because of poor advice. If anyone offers to help you with your tax return, check that they are either a lawyer or an accountant registered HERE

“You can also use that form to find a qualified local accountant, or Google ‘Expert-comptables English-speaking’ to find bilingual accountants. But do double-check they are registered at the website above before using them.

“If someone is offering you accounting services and they aren’t registered on that site, then there’s also a link to report them to the authorities.”

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.


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