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Tax warning for second-home owners with French carte de séjour

British second-home owners in France who have acquired a post-Brexit carte de séjour are being warned of potential tax problems.

Tax warning for second-home owners with French carte de séjour
Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

The post-Brexit carte de séjour was intended for Brits already living in France before the end of 2020 as a relatively easy way to regularise their status. However in the case of some second-home owners, this could lead to trouble with the French tax man.

Who’s affected?

We’re mainly talking second-home owners here, but it covers anyone who spends a significant amount of time in France without actually living here.

Brits who are not full-time residents in France but who visit regularly must now either get a visa or limit their visits to 90 days in every 180. 

EXPLAINED How does the 90-day rule in France work?

The post-Brexit carte de séjour is intended for people who have France as their full-time address. However it seems that some second-home owners – perhaps after receiving misleading advice or through a misunderstanding of the system or even the belief that they have found a loophole – have acquired a post-Brexit residency card.

Those who live full-time in France are perfectly entitled to get a carte de séjour – indeed it is now a legal requirement to have one.

Slightly confusingly, there is also a different card known as a carte de séjour visiteur which is open to second-home owners – find out more about this here.

But the post-Brexit card, sometimes referred to as a WARP (withdrawal agreement residency permit) or referred to by the French authorities as an Article 50 TUE (referring to article 50 of the Traité sur l’Union européen or EU treaty) is only for people who have had their full-time residence in France since at least December 31st 2020.

There’s no official data on this, but various Brexit-focused Facebook groups have reported that some second-home owners have been able to get a post-Brexit card and The Local has also been contacted by people who have either done this or know someone who has.

How has this happened?

When the time came to regularise the situation of the roughly 200,000 Brits living in France before Brexit, France opted for a fast-track system that made the process as straightforward as possible.

Many long-term residents were surprised at how simple the process was and how few supporting documents were needed – but this was a deliberate choice by French authorities, intended both to make the process simple for their own administrators but also to ensure that vulnerable residents – such as pensioners on low incomes – were not incorrectly denied the right to stay in a country that had become home.

Very few residency applications were turned down. Those that were denied were almost all on the grounds of serious criminality.

But while the system came as a great relief to many who had been desperately worried about being able to remain, it did also mean that people who owned property in France – and therefore had documentation like French utility bills and bank accounts – were also able to register for residency.

Is this a problem?

It could eventually become a problem. The post-Brexit carte de séjour, is a residency card so by requesting it the person in question is telling French authorities that they are resident in France – which is why they are no longer constrained by the 90-day rule.

But if that person is in fact a second-home owner, then they are in reality a resident of the UK.

So what could happen?

Ultimately, Brits who own second homes in France and own a carte de séjour are telling different governments different things. They are telling the French that they live in France and the British that they live in the UK. This is likely to cause some problems in the future.

It’s not a question of French authorities breaking down doors and snatching back the carte de séjour, but interactions with officialdom will likely eventually become a problem if you’re telling different stories.

And the first issue could be with the French taxman.

Taxes

All residents in France are legally required to file an annual tax declaration – even if you do not earn any money in France. 

READ ALSO Who has to make a tax declaration in France?

By acquiring the carte de séjour, you have told France that you live here, so by not filing the annual return you are breaking the law.

People who realise they have made a genuine mistake and go to the tax authorities are generally treated pretty leniently, but if you continue to not do the declaration despite declaring yourself as a resident you could be facing fines and a lengthy investigation by the tax office.

When making the tax declaration you also make a sworn declaration that your main address is in France (non-residents who have income in France use a different form). Making a false declaration is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a €15,000 fine. This penalty can increase up to three years in jail if the false declaration is made to a public official.

It’s perfectly legal to file tax declarations in both France and the UK – indeed it’s required for many people who have economic activity in both countries – but remember that providing false information on a tax return is a criminal offence in both France and the UK.

Find full details on the French tax declaration HERE.

It’s important to note that being ‘tax resident’ of a country is not the same as having residency for immigration purposes.

Other issues

Car registration – plenty of Brits who move here from the UK bring a car with them, but once you are resident in France you need to change your registration for a French one. If you are presenting a carte de séjour at the border and yet driving a UK-registered car, you can be fined for not registering your car properly. This type of check doesn’t happen often but there are already some reports of fines being issued

Time out of France – you can lose your residency status if you spend too much time out of France. This is not generally an issue for full-time residents, but if you don’t really live here then your time in the UK could end up disqualifying you. Different cards have different limits – full details here.

Healthcare –  If you are, according to French authorities, living in France then you should apply for a carte vitale in order to register in the French health system. This requires another sworn declaration that you live in France in a “stable and regular manner” or work in France. 

All in all, if you own property in France and want to spend time here, it’s better to either stick to the 90-day limit, get a visa for longer visits or make the move to France so that you are genuinely resident here.

People concerned about their situation would be advised to seek independent advice.

Member comments

  1. I question if it’s necessary to be “full-time” resident, as stated above, to qualify for a CDS. For the “50-50” people, making the French home the primary residence, getting the CDS and spending 183+ days a year in France seems a valid way to go. But yes, logically it would also mean paying taxes in France instead of the UK.

  2. The article above is helpful but when you write 10 months max time outside France in the link I presume that doesn’t mean 10 months total in 5 years?! It is consecutive? The 183+ rule was what I was aware of but I have not seen this anywhere in black and white and in French relating to withdrawal agreement residency. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Thank you.

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MONEY

Cutting back and applying for benefits: How the weak pound has impacted Brits living in France

In recent weeks, the pound has become weaker when compared to other currencies, namely the euro. This has made life more complicated for Brits living in France. The Local asked readers to share their experiences - and advice - for others who find themselves in the same situation.

Cutting back and applying for benefits: How the weak pound has impacted Brits living in France

While the pound is still low when compared to other currencies, it has recovered somewhat since its drop after the British Chancellor’s mini-budget.

As of October 5th, the exchange rate was £1 to €1.14. For British people living in France who receive income in pounds sterling – whether they be pensioners or others with financial interests still in the UK – the drop in the pound’s value has had negative impacts.

The Local reached out to readers to hear how they have been affected by the exchange rate. Many offered their tips for navigating the current economic landscape.

Many readers found life still affordable, but expected to be more severely impacted in the future. Retiree A. Wood, who lives in Haute Vienne, said that “The recent drop in the value of the pound will not immediately affect me. If it remains low for more than a year then maybe I will have to do some calculating.”

Pensioners especially said that life in France had become “more expensive” and “costlier” for them, but being aware of price rises and managing the changes “with care” were plausible solutions for the time-being.

In general residents of France are better protected from inflation than many other European nations, thanks to government initiatives such as energy price caps and fuel rebates, but prices for many everyday items such as food have been rising steadily.

One respondent, Nigel Harrison, a retired former business consultant, said that weak pound has “not made life unaffordable, but worrying.” 

Meanwhile, some readers, all of whom are also retired, said that they were starting to feel more serious impacts of the exchange rate.

Retired librarian and micro entrepreneur, Pat Hallam, who has been living in Paris for the last two years, said that she receives her career pension in pounds, which she later transfers into euros by way of her French bank account.

She explained that she already works to supplement the cost of life in Paris, but now she expects to have to take on extra work.

She expects to also “cut back on things like socialising, eating out and culture.”

“Explaining this to friends will be hard, and it is what makes living in Paris a pleasure. I know the cost of living would be cheaper in other parts of France, but I’ve spent the last 2 years building a life in Paris, my dream destination. I would be very disappointed if events across the Channel forced me to move away, or even back to the UK,” she said.

READ MORE: The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Pat is not alone – Tom Baker, who is retired and lives in south-west France – said, “All my pensions are from the UK and the drop in exchange is definitely felt, coupled with the loss on transferring the money to France as I have five pensions.”

Baker explained that having his income drop has been particularly difficult “as a 74 year old with two young sons aged seven and 10” and amid “the present financial climate the cost of everything is spiralling.” 

Many readers said they would try to live on savings while waiting for the value of the pound to rise again, which has also posed its own problems, as many British bank accounts have begun closing the accounts of non-UK residents. 

John Stanley Mumford found himself in this situation, he said: “I have a pension in pounds. I will live on savings until the value of pound goes up! But, Barclays bank is to close my account as I am a French resident, so basically I’m stuffed!”

READ MORE: Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in France

Non-pensioners have also felt the impacts of a weak pound. One respondent discussed the dilemma of attempting to sell their UK home, and worrying about whether they should leave the money in pounds or transfer it to Euros afterwards. Others worried about their UK savings accounts.

Respondents did offer helpful advice for others in similar positions – ranging from tips to try to hold out for a better exchange rate to recommendations for how to become thriftier – like getting rid of unused streaming services and cutting back generally. 

Tom Baker said he recommends transferring funds “perhaps every three months to reduce the cost of transfer fees, which since Brexit have really increased.”

He also said that he checks the daily rate “for a week or 10 days before the transfer is needed to try and get a better each rate.” Others said if possible – wait until the pound recovers.

However, for those unable to hold out until the pound is stronger, several readers recommended apps and international banking services, such as Wise and Revolut as handy ways to find better exchange rates and avoid high fees when transferring between a UK bank and a French one. 

Finally, Pat Hallam counselled Brits living in France to consider applying for welfare benefits if necessary. She said even if you’ve never considered it, “either out of pride or because you didn’t think you were eligible, maybe now’s the time to look again.”

She also recommended tracking energy use more carefully via a smart metre: it “takes three months’ use before you can start comparing consumption but it helps keep track of your energy use.”

READ MORE: Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter

Many thanks to everyone who took part in our survey and shared their experiences and tips.

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