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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

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at societe.com. If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.

Vocab

Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In Ebglish it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.

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