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Does it make financial sense to get married in France?

A young married couple pose on Alexandre III bridge at sunset in Paris
Photo: Ludovic Marin / AFP
Yeah yeah, love, companionship, someone to take the bins out . . . But there are also some sound financial reasons to get married or enter into a civil partnership in France.

Most people, it’s probably safe to say, don’t immediately think about the financial pros and cons of marriage when saying ‘Yes!’ at the romantic ring moment.

But there are income tax and inheritance implications that it’s useful to at least be aware of.

Relationship regimes

This is France. Marriage is not simply a question of ‘Yes’ or not. There are several different ‘regimes’ to marriage, which dictate how property is divided up in the case of divorce, as well as inheritance issues and the like. 

A full explanation of the different regimes is available, via Notaires de France, here.

The default regime for a French marriage is communauté réduite aux acquêts. This means that property acquired during the marriage is jointly owned; property owned by one or the other before marriage and brought into the relationship is owned separately. A couple can change marriage regimes by consulting with a notaire.

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See also on The Local:

A Pacs (like a civil partnership) falls under the séparation des biens regime – property bought by one or the other half is owned by them outright.

READ ALSO Compared: Marriage and civil partnership in France

People married abroad before moving to France, are deemed to fall under séparation des biens until 10 years’ residence has passed – after which future acquisitions fall under the French regime.

READ ALSO The divorce law pitfalls that foreigners in France need to be aware of

Income tax

Married couples and those in formal civil partnerships (pacsé) only complete a single income tax return form. Unmarried couples who live together and have children may declare this way, but do not have to.

This joint declaration of both incomes – beyond the hours of form-filling time saved every year – has other benefits. 

The total income declared on that joint form is reduced by a mechanism called the quotient familial. That figure is multiplied by the number of ‘parts’ that make up the family to decide the amount of income tax payable.

The larger the family, for tax purposes a single unit, the greater the quotient, or ‘parts’. Basically, a single, unmarried, taxpayer is ‘one part’. A married couple, ‘two parts’; a couple with a child under 18 ‘three parts’, and so on. 

This calculation decides the amount of income tax payable.

You can inform the tax office of any changes in your personal situation, such as getting married, entering a Pacs, or getting divorced here.

Inheritance

In inheritance terms, the surviving spouse is exempt from inheritance tax. They may also, depending on the family situation, be automatically entitled to either a portion of the estate or to remain living in the family home.

Pacs partners enjoy the same right – as long as they are listed in the deceased’s will.

An unmarried or registered partner, on the other hand, pays inheritance tax at at rate of 60 percent on any inheritance after a token allowance, currently €1,594. They have no automatic rights to property or estate.

Gift

For gifting purposes – for significant gifts, such as property – married couples, or those in a Pacs relationship, get an allowance currently worth €80,724 before taxation which rises at banded rates. Those in informal relationships get no allowance and will be taxed at 60 percent.

Of course, none of these are reasons for getting married.

We at The Local are still romantic enough to believe in the whole L-word thing. But it’s nice to know there are plenty of financial pros to go with the real reason – the only reason – for tying the knot.


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