Tipping in France is optional and the French themselves have a bit of a reputation of being particularly stingy when it comes to paying extra for good service.
Waiters and waitresses are not particularly badly paid in France, and it is a job that has a higher status than is some countries like the US and the UK, where it’s often seen as a low skill job done by students or temporary workers.
Despite this, leaving a bit extra – une pourboire, literally ‘for a drink’ – for the waiter or waitress is still considered a friendly, if optional, gesture.
A new law brought in on January 1st decreed that tips issued to service staff in cafes, restaurants and hotels are now exempt from tax.
Previously, all tips were taxed – but in practice, many waiters did not declare bank notes or coins gifted to them by customers. Card payments were harder to avoid declaring.
The new law states that whatever the mode of payment, tips are no longer considered taxable income.
The rule is set to last until the end of 2023 and is aimed at “reinforcing the attractiveness of restaurant jobs particularly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic,” according to the official service-public website.
According to a report from the statistical service of the labour ministry, the hotel and restaurant sector lost 237,000 staff in the twelve month period leading up to February 2021. Successive waves of Covid an accompanying restrictions have hurt the sector badly.
But there is hope that the restaurant sector will bounce back. Figures released today show that the French economy grew by 7 percent in 2021, which means most people will have more money to spend on eating out – and perhaps on tipping waiters.
Service staff earning more than €2,565 pre-tax per month will not benefit from the new tax exemption – although only a tiny minority will fall into this category.
In France, a waiter’s service charge is typically included in the bill, which is partly why most French people don’t leave tips.
If you do want to leave a little extra, many French people say that five percent of the original bill is considered an appropriate amount.