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Taxes For Members

The vocab you need to understand French taxes

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
The vocab you need to understand French taxes
(Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

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.

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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. 

The Local has picked out the key terms you might come across while filling out your annual tax declaration, 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 vocabulary guide issued by the French government (in French), which can be found here.

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

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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 income in the UK, you won't have to pay it again in France. However, you may have to pay social contributions - and here we see a Brexit-related change.

There are two types of deductions on income in France - taxes (impots) and social charges (prélèvements sociaux), these social charges cover things like healthcare and unemployment benefits (so are roughly similar to National Insurance) but also pension contributions. Prior to Brexit, social charges for Brits were set at 7.5 percent (the rate for income coming from an EU country), but post-Brexit, Brits must pay the non-EU rate which is 17.2 percent - which explains why many people saw a jump in their bill last year.

READ MORE: Brits in France: What you need to know about 2023 French tax declarations

Déclaration des revenues – this is the French term for "income tax declaration"

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.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about your 2023 French tax declaration

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.

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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 MORE: 5 top tips for dealing with the French tax office

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.

Centre des finances publiques – the tax office. To find your local tax office, Google ‘centre des finances publiques’ plus the name of your commune.

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".

Numéro fiscale – this is your individual tax number. This is not the same as your social security number. You can learn more about how to request one if you do not already have one HERE.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to get a 'numéro fiscal' and create a French tax account

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).

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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.

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.

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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 (maison sécondaire) are excluded from the phasing out and still have to pay it. This is separate to the annual tax declaration and bills are sent out in the autumn.

Local councils set the rate for this tax, and in some areas with housing shortages, this can include an additional surcharge on taxe d’habitation on second homes.

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?

Base d’imposition - tax rate

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. More information HERE.

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. More information HERE.

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.

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Indemnités - allowances.

Retraites - pensions.

Rentes - annuities. 

Prime - bonus.

Revenu brut - gross revenue.

Revenut net - net revenue.

Impôt sur les revenues – income tax

Prélèvements sociaux – social charges 

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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b-beckaroo 2021/04/14 22:54
The translation of "prélèvement à la source" as “withholding tax” matches the term used the Internal Revenue System (IRS) in America. Almost everyone with a job in the States knows this term.

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