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LIVING IN FRANCE

How to write a French ‘attestation sur l’honneur’

At some point during your time in France, you will likely have to write an 'attestation sur l'honneur' - here's what this document is for and how to write one properly.

The French attestation sur l'honneur is a classic piece of French paperwork that you need to understand.
The attestation sur l'honneur is a classic piece of French paperwork that you need to understand. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)

An attestation sur l’honneur is a written document that’s best translated into English as a ‘sworn statement’ – they’re widely used in France from simple matters like picking up a parcel for a friend to more complex issues like setting up a business.

Some types of official documents – such as tax declarations – are a declaration sur l’honneur, where you have to swear that the information you have provided is true, but you can also create your own attestation.

This document can either be handwritten or typed, but will need to be signed. Deliberately signing a false declaration can land you in trouble – in the most severe cases leading to three years imprisonment and a €45,000 fine. 

The documents are particularly handy for foreigners in France as they can be used in situations where you don’t have the necessary paperwork for an official function.

When do I need to write an attestation sur l’honneur

There are many contexts in which you might be asked to write an attestation sur l’honneur in France. 

If you’re required to provide proof of address for an official function and you don’t have the necessary utility bills or rental contract, you can ask your landlord to write an attestation for you. 

Likewise if you’re trying to complete an administration task and the fonctionnaire is demanding a document that you simply don’t possess (because it doesn’t exist in your home country) it’s sometimes possible to get around this by providing the documents you do have, plus an attestation sur l’honneur swearing to the necessary fact. This doesn’t always work though.

Under current Covid rules people entering France from an orange list country, which includes most countries outside the European Union, need to sign an attestation sur l’honneur declaring that they are symptom-free, haven’t come into contact with an infected person and accepting that you will submit to a test upon arrival in France (if requested). There’s no need to write your own in this case though, there is a document available in English here

For marriages, each partner will need to sign an attestation sur l’honneur declaring their address and that they are not already married.

For PACS ceremonies, each partner will need to sign an attestation sur l’honneur listing their shared address and declaring that they are not related by blood. 

Other situations in which you could be asked to provide an attestation sur l’honneur include if you want to create a business; open some kinds of bank account; retire from work; access certain types of certain security payments; or even authorise someone to pick up a package on your behalf.

How do I write an attestation sur l’honneur? 

Each attestation sur l’honneur looks a little different as the format varies a little depending on what you are using it for, but there are certain things that must be there for it to be a valid document. 

In general they begin Je soussigné(e) (I, the undersigned) followed by your name, address and date of birth, atteste sur l’honneur que (swear on my honour that) followed by the fact you are attesting to. The document is then signed with the date and place of signature added.

Most people use a template for the document and you can find examples for most administrative procedures online. 

However, the generic template looks something like this:

A French attestation sur l'honneur

This is a template of what a French attestation sur l’honneur might look like. Source: service-public.fr

The areas in squared brackets are details you will need to fill out yourself. 

[Prénom] [Nom] – Your first name and surname

[Adresse] – Your address

[Code postal] [Commune] – Your postcode and commune

[Faits ou circonstances à attester] – This is where you actually provide a statement or declaration

[Commune] – When this appears for a second time, you should name the commune where you are actually writing the attestation

[Signez ici] – This is where you sign

In some templates that you find online, you sometimes see the following:

À _________ and le _________ 

In the first place, you should name the town or village where you are signing the document and in the second you should give the date at which you are signing. 

In France a signature is not considered official unless it has both the date and place where it was signed.

Authorising a third party to pick up a letter or parcel

One of the most common uses of an attestation sur l’honneur is giving someone authorisation to pick up a parcel from the post office on your behalf. 

In this instance, you would follow the formula below:

The French attestation sur l'honneur for authorising postal collections in your name.

The French attestation sur l’honneur for authorising postal collections in your name. (Source: La Poste)

You will need to fill in the green text with details relevant to you.

[lieu] – place where you are signing the letter

[date] – date at which you sign the letter

[prénom et NOM de la personne qui donne procuration] – your first name and surname (surname should be written all in capitals)

[date de naissance de la personne qui donne procuration] – your birth date 

[lieu de naissance de la personne qui donne procuration] – your place of birth

[Madame/Monsieur] – the title of the person who you are giving authorisation to

[Prénom et NOM de la personne qui reçoit la procuration] – first name and SURNAME of the person who you are giving authorisation to

[Date de naissance de la personne qui reçoit procuration] – date of birth of the person who you are giving authorisation to

[Lieu de naissance de la personne qui reçoit procuration] – place of birth of the person who you are giving authorisation to

[Adresse de la personne qui reçoit procuration] – address of the person who you are giving authorisation to

Ou celui de mon enterprise [Nom de la society] – You only need this line if someone is picking up packages on behalf of your business. If this is the case, you can give the name of your business in the squared brackets space. 

Will I need supporting documentation?

In some circumstances where you need an attestation sur l’honneur, you may need some additional documents. 

For example, if you are using an attestation sur l’honneur to give someone permission to pick up post for you, you will need to provide them with a copy of your ID or your actual ID document. They will need to take a copy of their own ID. 

The same goes for if you have signed an attestation d’hébergement, which is a document you can use to indicate that someone is living at your property (if there is no rental contract for example). 
 

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For members

TAX DECLARATION

Late fees, fines and charges: What you risk by missing French tax deadlines

The deadlines for the annual French tax declaration are upon us, but what are the penalties if you either miss the deadline or fail to file your return at all? We take a look at the sanctions.

Late fees, fines and charges: What you risk by missing French tax deadlines

The annual Déclaration des revenues – income tax declaration – involves virtually everyone in France filling out a form giving detailed information on their income to French tax authorities.

If you live in France, it’s almost certain that you will have to complete this – even if you’re a salaried employee and your tax has already been deducted at source, or if all your income comes from outside France (eg a pension received from the UK or USA).

There are only a very few exemptions to the requirement to fill out the tax declaration and they are listed here

Declarations for the 2021 tax year opened in April 2022 and the deadline is either late May or early June, depending on where you live – find the full calendar here

But what happens if you miss the deadline?

For most people there is a staggered system of late charges.

If you are less than 30 days late your overall tax bill can be increased by up to a maximum of 10 percent.

Once you receive a notice of late payment, the overall bill can increase by up to 20 percent, or 40 percent if you have still not filed within 30 days of receiving the later payment notice.

You will also be charged interest on late payments.

What if I don’t pay income tax in France?

If you have no taxable income in France – for example your only income is a pension from another country – then you still have to fill in the declaration.

If you file late the increases cannot be applied, since your tax bill is €0, but you can instead be liable for a late fee of €150.

What if I have exceptional circumstances?

If you know that you will not be able to file in time, you can ask the tax office for a remise gracieuse (remission) in order to avoid late fees and penalties.

You will need to outline your reasons for not being able to file in time and while there isn’t a list of accepted excuses, the reason must be exceptional circumstances such as serious illness or the death or a loved one.

If you have previously missed deadlines, the tax office will be less likely to accept your request.

The request should be made by June 29th either in person at the tax office or through the messaging system in your online tax page.

What if you don’t declare everything?

If you have not declared income which is subsequently discovered by authorities, the increase in your overall tax bill can be up to 80 percent – the maximum penalty is usually reserved for people who have deliberately tried to hide parts of their income.

We have a full guide to what you need to declare HERE, but the basic rule of thumb is that you need to declare everything, even if it is not taxable in France, eg income from a rental property in another country.

France has dual taxation agreements with countries including the UK and USA so if you have already paid tax on income in another country you won’t need to pay more tax in France – but you still need to declare it.

What about foreign bank accounts?

Another item that frequently catches out foreigners in France is overseas bank accounts.

If you have any non-French bank accounts, you need to list them on your tax declaration, even if they are dormant or only have a very small amount of money in them.

This also applies to any foreign investment schemes you have, such as life insurance policies. 

The penalty for not listing accounts is between €1,500 and €10,000 and that applies for each account you fail to declare. 

What if I made a mistake on my declaration?

In 2018 France formally enshrined the ‘right to make mistakes’, giving people the right to go back and correct their declarations without attracting a penalty.

So if you realise you have missed something off or added the wrong info you can either go back into your online declaration and correct it or, if you file on paper, visit your local tax office.

However the ‘right to make a mistake’ does not extend to late filing.

What if I didn’t make a declaration?

The French tax system is often confusing for foreigners, with many people wrongly assuming that if they are not liable for tax in France then they don’t need to fill in the declaration.

For people who persist in not making the declaration, even after the arrival of the notice of default, tax authorities can make an estimate, based on earnings and lifestyle, and present the bill.

However for new arrivals in France it’s likely that they will not be registered with the tax office and will therefore never receive a notice. 

In this instance it’s always better to come clean – if you have made a genuine mistake and you approach the tax office  (rather than waiting for them to watch up with you) you will usually be dealt with quite leniently. 

How can I get help?

If you’re struggling with the system, there are ways to get help.

The tax office has an English language information page here, and a dedicated helpline for internationals on + 33 1 72 95 20 42.

You can also visit your local tax office, every town has one and you can simply turn up without appointment and ask for help (although if the office is small and your query is complicated you may need to make an appointment for the full discussion). Surprising as it may sound, employees at the tax office are generally pretty friendly and helpful and can guide you through the forms you need to fill in.

If your tax affairs are complicated and/or your French is at beginner level, it may be better to hire an accountant to ensure that everything is in order. You can find some tips on getting professional help HERE.

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