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EXPLAINED: Do you have to pay duty if you bring furniture from the UK to France?

Brexit has ushered in a host of extra rules and restrictions on imports to France from the UK, but what is the rule for people bringing household items - either if you're moving to France or just want to bring a few items to your second home in France?

EXPLAINED: Do you have to pay duty if you bring furniture from the UK to France?
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Moving house within the EU is pretty simple – load up a van with stuff and cross the border. But since the UK left the EU, bringing any goods from the UK to France has become a lot more complicated.

So what’s the deal if either you want to move and bring all your possessions over, or you just want to shift some furniture or household items to a second home in France?

Well, there are quite a few things to consider.

Banned items 

Firstly certain items are banned altogether. These are mostly explosives and certain types of weapon, which hopefully won’t feature in many people’s removal vans, but there are some breeds of dog that are illegal in France. Find the full banned list HERE.

Restricted items

Then there are certain items that cannot be imported without extra paperwork such as veterinary certificates.

This includes a lot of different food products so if you’re planning on emptying your kitchen cupboards to bring, check very carefully that none of the foodstuffs are on the restricted list. It also covers flowers and plants, if you were planning on bringing garden supplies.

READ ALSO Bovril, tea and ham sandwiches . . . what can you bring from the UK to France?

Alcohol and tobacco

There are limits on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can bring in to France from a non-EU country – check HERE.

Cash

If you’re carrying more than €10,000 in cash you need to declare this to customs officers when you cross the border.

Pets

The EU Pet Passport no longer covers any trips from the UK for dogs, cats or ferrets – find out the new protocol HERE.

Household goods

As well as limits on certain types of items there is also a rule on the overall value of the items you are bringing with you – specifically you need to declare and pay duty on items whose total value is more than €430.

Obviously most people’s worldly goods will be worth more than that in total, but there is an exception for people moving to France.

The rules say that you are exempt from paying duty if you are moving to France and bringing your household goods which you have owned for more than six months, and you have been living in the UK or another non-EU country for at least the preceding 12 months.

There are some conditions on this, however.

The rules as published apply to all arrivals from outside the EU, many of which (such as Americans moving to France) are handled by commercial shipping companies by air or sea.

If you’re using a commercial moving company they will likely ask you for the paperwork whereas if you’re loading your stuff into a van and driving yourself things could be less strict. As this is a new area it’s difficult to say exactly how stringent checks will be. As ever with items connected to French bureaucracy, we advise having as much paperwork with you as possible to avoid problems.

You should have:

  • Two copies of a detailed inventory of your items with their value in euros
  • Receipts for any items published in the last six months 
  • Documentation showing your right to residency in France, such as a visa, carte de séjour or the passport of an EU country and documentation showing your new address (eg house purchase deeds or paperwork)
  • If you’re importing high value items you may also need the Cerfa 10070 form, these are generally defined as objects listed separately on your household insurance. 

You need to transport goods within 12 months of the date of your change of residence – so if you want to make several trips to bring items over then that’s fine, but the inventory you present on your first trip must include all the items you intend to import. 

You are not allowed to sell any items that you have imported duty-free for the first 12 months of your stay in France.

Full details on the French customs website.

Second home owners

So what about if you’re not moving, but you want to bring over items for your second home in France?

Bad news here, French customs states that: “Goods intended to furnish a secondary residence are no longer admitted free of customs duty and VAT.”

So you can still bring items over, but if they are worth more than €430 you will have to pay customs duty on them.

You will need a detailed inventory of the items you are bringing and their value, so that customs agents can calculate the duty that you owe. 

Member comments

  1. We have lived in France for 16 years but expect to return to UK soon where we have a small flat. We will need to take several van loads of house furnitire etc back.
    It is all at least a year old and mostly much older. What are implications when crossing border France/UK?

    1. Sorry this is not an answer only an addition to your question. I need to bring back to London about 40 pieces of my own art work, mainly flat picture objects, no value that I’m aware of, and wonder if there are any limits, rules or problems relevant to this? I’m also looking for someone to do the transport as I don’t have a car…!!!

  2. We bought some outdoor furniture last summer in the uk for our apartment in France (2nd home) and obviously have not been able to go due to COVID. Will we still have to pay duty even though it was purchased over 6 months ago

  3. im taking some furniture to France and know i will have to pay the import duty, but i arrive in Spain and drive into France.
    So do i fill in French documents even though i will dock in Spain?
    Any ideas of where to find out?

  4. Just wondering if anyone reading this can share their experience?

    I have had the bulk of my possessions in storage for about 3 years. I was making plans to haul it all across in 2020 (ie before Brexit) but then the pandemic happened.

    I’m not worried about paying any customs fees as I’ve owned everything for a long time. What I am wondering is how “detailed” they expect the inventory to be. Will “a box of cutlery” be sufficient? Or will I have to itemise everything ie 12 spoons, 12 forks and 12 knives?

  5. So first visit back to our second home in NOrmandy since pre covid and pre-brexit implemented. Confused to say the least! Can we still take things like our carpet washer over and diy gear which we will be bringing back with us……

    Would love to hear any recent similar experiences please??

    1. Hi Joandy123, we are in I believe the same situation as yourselves, we recently travelled over and took some kitchen units and were threatened with a 1000 euro fine, but they eventually let us off. Whilst we appreciate that maybe we will have to purchase materials in France, we would prefer to bring over tools etc that we need and then bring them back. However, we are finding it quite difficult to find out if we will be able to do so – have you had any luck finding out what you can do? Heather

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PROPERTY

What second-home owners in France need to know about 2023 property taxes

Autumn in France is property tax season - and for second-home owners there are some important changes to know about this year.

What second-home owners in France need to know about 2023 property taxes

Every year in September and October, households in France receive their property tax bills – which have historically included three things; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle (TV licence).

For main properties, two of these taxes have all-but disappeared, but for second home-owners the situation is a little different.

Taxe d’habitation

This is the tax paid by the householder and it is being gradually phased out in France and most households no longer need to pay it – the exception to this, however, is maisons sécondaire (second homes).

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

This usually applies in areas that have a housing shortage, and although the surcharge has existed for several years it has recently been expanded to include new areas.

Taxe foncière

This is the tax paid by the property owner and this remains in place, and in some areas has increased. Some local authorities, faced with the shortfall in overall taxe d’hab funds, have increased surcharges on the tax for second homes, while most local authorities are also increasing taxe foncière charges to offset the drop in revenues.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

Redevance audiovisuelle

This is the TV licence and this has been scrapped this year – including for second homes – so your bill will no longer have the €138 per household TV charge. 

Waste collection taxes

Some communes, especially in rural areas, also charge a taxe d’enlèvement des ordures ménagères (TEOM) or la redevance d’enlèvement des ordures ménagères (REOM) to cover rubbish collection. These are also payable in the autumn, although dates and amounts vary from commune to commune.

Renovation projects

If your property is what real estate agents refer to as an ‘opportunity for renovation’ you may be exempt from taxe d’habitation if your property is uninhabitable.

This is this is strictly defined in France as meaning a property is unfurnished, is not connected to utility services, and/or needs work costing at least 25 percent of the value of the property to make it habitable.

Other information

The amount of both taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation varies across France, but you should be informed in the sale details of the amount of the taxe foncière, and you can also request to know the amount of the taxe d’habitation when you buy a property. 

READ ALSO Why French homeowners face higher property taxes in 2023

Second homeowners are not eligible for most reductions or exemptions available on taxe foncière, with the exception of over 75s who are on low incomes. Be aware this is not automatic for second homeowners and must be specifically requested by those who are eligible.

Be aware, too, that authorities can charge an additional 10 percent for late payment without good reason – though you may get this removed if you write a polite formal letter asking for a remise gracieuse de la majoration. You can search for model letters on the internet.

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