Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners
Marseille is the latest city to increase taxes on second home owners. Photo: GERARD JULIEN / AFP.
French cities with a shortage of housing are able to increase the residence tax by up to 60 percent on second homes. Marseille is set to become the latest city to implement the measure.

The taxe d’habitation (residence tax) is in the process of being abolished for most French residents, with 80 percent of households exempt this year. The exemption only applies to primary residences, however, and many towns have voted to increase the tax applied to second home owners.

Who?

That power is given to towns in zones tendues (troubled zones), urban areas of more than 50,000 inhabitants where housing supply is largely inferior to demand. In those areas, local authorities can choose to increase residence taxes for furnished properties not being used as primary residences. The aim is to encourage second home owners to either sell the property, or rent it out long term.

Local councils can increase the share of the tax which is owed to them by between 5 and 60 percent. Until 2017, they could not exceed 20 percent.

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Owners of holiday rentals which earn more than €5,000 per year are not covered by the residence tax, however. If you fall into this category, you will have to pay the cotisation foncière des entreprises (business property tax) instead.

Where?

On Friday, France’s second largest city, Marseille, will vote to increase its taxe d’habitation on second homes from 20 percent to 60 percent, joining a number of other towns in applying the maximum rate, according to La Provence.

Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Nice have all decided to increase the tax by 60 percent.

READ ALSO Can second-home owners in France get a carte de séjour?

More than 1,130 towns and villages are covered by the legislation, according to Les Echos, who add that the majority have not yet taken a decision, or have limited the increase to 20 or 30 percent.

You can check whether your town is in a zone tendue here.

Why?

In a property market where many local residents are being priced out of cities like Paris and Bordeaux, authorities have been trying to tackle the number of holiday lets rented out on sites such as Airbnb, as well as those sitting vacant most of the year.

France has one of the highest numbers of secondary residences in Europe, at 3.2 million, occupying 10 percent of the country’s housing stock according to national statistics agency INSEE. There were 126,000 secondary residences in Paris in 2017, and the phenomenon is even more marked in smaller towns on the south and west coasts.

In this context, increasing the tax burden on second home owners is seen by many local authorities as a win-win – either the owners decide to sell and free up the property for renters or local residents looking to buy, or it means more income for the council.

“We’re expecting this surcharge to mean properties in Marseille which are rarely or not at all used return to the regular rental market,” deputy mayor Joël Canicave said on Tuesday, partly in reference to properties reserved for Airbnb rentals during the summer, as reported by France 3.

“While the measure will only be applied in most towns from 2022, we know that Paris, which had anticipated the passing of the law, has been able to put 5 percent of secondary residences in the capital back into circulation,” Canicave added. He said the tax would affect 15,000 out of 450,000 properties in Marseille.

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When announcing the increase from 20 percent to 60 percent in July, deputy mayor of Lyon, Audrey Hénocque, called it a “social justice measure” with the goal of increasing affordable housing. But it will also boost city hall’s coffers at a time when local councils are losing out on funds due to the abolition of the residence tax for most households. With the average second home owner paying €210 more per year, Hénocque estimated it would bring in €3.3 million more annually.

Exceptions

If your commune has voted to increase the residence tax, you could still qualify for an exemption if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You work close to your second home meaning you are mostly living there instead of in your primary residence
  • Your primary residence is a long-term care facility, meaning your former primary residence is now your second home
  • The property is uninhabitable for a reason outside of your control. For example, if work is needed to make it habitable

You can request an exemption at the local tax office where your second home is located.

The taxe d’habitation isn’t the only tax second home owners have to pay, though. All home owners have to pay the separate taxe foncière property tax.

The residence tax this year is due on November 15th, although if you have chosen to pay online or in monthly installments you have until November 20th.


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