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What you should know about France’s two tax deadlines on Wednesday

December 15th marks two important tax deadlines in France. Here's what you need to know.

A man counts his money. Important tax deadlines are coming up in France.
Important tax deadlines are coming up in France. (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)

Deadline for correcting income tax declaration

The deadline to declare your 2020 earnings has now passed. But if you made a mistake in filing your tax return online, you have up until December 15th to change the following details: the number of people in your care; whether you have paid a TV license fee; your revenue; your expenses; your tax credits; and the tax paid on property fortunes (IFI) worth more than €1.3 million. 

You can make these changes via your personal account on the impots.gouv.fr website. 

If you sent your tax return by post and made a mistake, you will have to amend any of these details in writing. Further details can be found here.  

If there is a minor error in your tax declaration, you will likely receive a letter asking you to repay the outstanding sum – without a penalty.

Significant errors on the other hand, you will be asked to repay the outstanding amount with a monthly rate of interest, meaning that the amount you have to pay increases more the longer you fail to do so. For blatant tax fraud, there are significant financial penalties and possible imprisonment.  

Deadline for paying vacant property tax

In certain communes, you must pay a tax if you own a property that has been unoccupied for an extended period of time. The deadline to pay this tax is December 15th.  

If your property is in a zone tendue (a commune with more than 50,000 residents that has a housing shortage), you must pay the taxe sur logements vacants (TLV). You can find a list of the relevant communes HERE. The tax applies if the property has been unoccupied for a year or more. 

The TLV to be paid is fixed 12.5 percent of the value of the property during the first year that remains unoccupied. It rises to 25 percent in the following years that the property remains vacant. A further 9 percent of the TLV must be paid as a “management fee” to the French tax authorities. 

If your property is not in a zone tendue, you might have to pay the taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV). This only applies to you if your commune has voted to enact this tax. It concerns properties that have been vacant for two years or more.

As with the TLV, you do not need to pay this tax if you have stayed in the accommodation for more than 90 consecutive days in a year; have put it on the rental market; or are doing building work worth at least 25 percent of the property value. If you are already paying the taxe d’habitation, you do not need to pay the THLV

There is an online simulator that tells you whether or not your property is situated in a zone tendue. There are various exemptions to these taxes available on the service-public.fr website

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MONEY

The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Many foreigners in France - particularly pensioners - need to keep a bank account in their home country, but not all banks will offer accounts to people living abroad.

The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Most people who move to France get a French bank account – but many also maintain accounts with banks in their home countries to receive income in the form of pensions, property rentals, salary, or to hold savings and pay bills.

This is particularly key for pensioners, as some pension providers will not pay into a bank account in another country, but others just prefer the convenience of having a bank account and debit card to use on visits home in order to avoid extra transaction fees.

Banks within the EU benefit from ‘passporting’ arrangements that allow them to operate throughout the Bloc, but for those outside the EU it’s a little more complicated.

Here are the options.

International accounts

Many banks offer ‘international accounts’ aimed at those who have moved to other countries.

The major drawback is the cost; many accounts have a minimum deposit level or stipulate a minimum annual income, so they may not be suitable for pensioners, people on a low income, or those who just want to use their account for a few basic functions while keeping most of their income/assets in their French account.

Most expat/international accounts also charge a monthly fee and some charge transfer fees on top of that. 

They’re really aimed at ‘high net worth’ customers (ie rich) so they’re often not suitable for people who have lower means or have retired to France.

Internet banks 

The last few years has seen a proliferation of new internet banks, which offer online-only services and operate across Europe.

The advantage of these is that you can sign up with a French address and then carry out transactions in another country.

Many people use internet bank accounts – Wise (formerly the money-transfer service Transferwise, now set up as a bank), Revolut or Starling are notable examples – when they first move to France before they set up French accounts.

The disadvantage for some people is their lack of a physical presence so in case of a question or a problem contact can only be made by phone or – more usually – via email or chatbot. Many internet banks also do not issue cheque books or accept queues, which can be a problem for some customers.

Customers can set up accounts in different currencies and depending on the bank and its licencing you may also be account to get an account number and IBAN for your home country as well as a European IBAN.

READ ALSO The best UK banks for Brits in France

It means you can use the account for business back home, but also transfer money quickly and easily to/from France. It might give a better deal on exchange rates than receiving a pension in one currency and then spending in euros in France.

There’s a tendency to assume that internet-only banks are less secure, which isn’t necessarily the case, but if there are problems it can be harder to get redress. Make sure the bank you are using has a banking licence in your home country and France for peace of mind.

French banks

Most people living in France already have a French account for daily life, but can you use this for all your financial affairs?

It depends on your situation. Pension providers may only pay into a home account, while if you still have financial liabilities in another country, such as a mortgage, you may need to keep an account in that country. 

Keeping a home address

Many non-EU residents in France get around the problem by using a ‘care of’ address back home in order to retain their bank account – usually either the address of a property that they own or the home of a relative.

Whether this is allowed is a bit of a grey area. Opening a new account may be difficult, but existing accounts may be kept open. Some banks – especially British ones – seem to be keen on checking whether their customers are permanent residents while others don’t seem to care as much.

Basically you can’t lie to your bank if they ask you outright where your full-time residence or tax residence is, but not all banks ask this. 

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