Beyond the scams: How to use France’s €500 training budget

Free training schemes for workers in France have been beset by scammers, seeking to harvest personal data and steal public money. But this doesn't mean you should pass up on the opportunity to learn for free.

Driving school vehicles sat in a car park in Bordeaux, France. Driving lessons can be paid for, for free, via CPF.
Driving lessons are particularly useful for foreigners struggling to exchange their licences for a French one. They can be paid for via CPF - which is a useful scheme once you ignore the scammers. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

France created the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) system back in 2015. 

The idea is simple. All employees in France are able to access money each year for free professional training (€800 for unskilled workers, €500 for full-time, skilled workers).

The money can be for all sorts of professional development or entrepreneurship courses, but of particular use to foreigners it can also be used for driving lessons or French-language lessons.

All you need is a social security number to claim your allowance. 

READ ALSO How to claim the cost of language or driving lessons from the French government

Since the creation of a highly accessible app in 2019, more than 3 million people have accessed their allowance to participate in free training of one kind or another. A total of around 35 million people have accounts waiting to be tapped into. There is more than €53 billion worth of training credit sitting dormant in the system – a figure that will only increase with time. 

The scammers

Scammers and marketing companies have caught wind of this. In recent weeks, SMS messages warning people that they would lose their allowance and urging them to sign up to training courses have become increasingly frequent. These messages often contain fraudulent links asking recipients to enter their personal details onto dodgy websites.

Recipients are also often bombarded by phone calls and emails – largely from call centres in sub-Saharan Africa and Israel, subcontracted by the private training scheme providers, according to an investigation by Le Parisien

Other messages are more malicious, sent by scammers to harvest personal data – or to draw money from CPF accounts, by having them pay into fake training schemes.

39 official accusations have been levelled against training organisations over the past two years – a tiny proportion of the  25,000 organisations in total. A financial crime unit within the police is now monitoring CPF closely and the government has promised to pass a law to stop this kind of aggressive marketing around the scheme, which has had its reputation tainted. 

What to do if you are targeted 

There are some important steps to take if you receive SMS messages, calls and emails urging you to take action.

For more information on how to sign up and what to use the training budget for, click here.

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What second-home owners need to know about 2023 French 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 need to know about 2023 French 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.