Baby names and republican rule: 6 Essential articles for life in France

From banned baby names, to writing the perfect CV, via an explanation of the Fifth Republic, here are six essential articles for life in France.

Brexit means it is no longer possible to bring animal products from the UK to France.
Brexit means it is no longer possible to bring animal products from the UK to France. Read on to learn more about this and other essential information. (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

Have you got a baby on the way? If so, you better think twice about naming them Nutella, Mini-Cooper or Griezmann-Mbappé – because French courts are likely to order you to choose something more appropriate. 

Up until 1993 parents in France had to choose a name for their baby from a long list of acceptable prénoms laid out by authorities. And a far-right candidate in the 2022 presidential race wants to bring this rule back.

But the law currently states that a parent can give any name to their child – as long as this name does not go “against the interests of the child”. 

You can read our guide on names to avoid below:

The French baby names banned by law

If you’re looking for work in France, you can maximise your chances of success by writing a CV in correct French, taking both language and format into account. 

After that comes the cover letter and, if you nail it, the job interview.

We spoke with a French recruitment expert about what you need to do to get that dream job. 

Ask the expert: How to write the perfect French CV

France is, of course, a republic but the current one is actually la Cinquième République – the Fifth Republic.

And the phrase Fifth Republic is often used in general language in France, especially around politics. 

Here’s what people mean when they talk about the Fifth Republic, and what happened to the previous four.

Explained: What is the French Fifth Republic?

If you’re a Brit living in France, you may miss certain creature comforts. 

Yes, the French have among the finest gastronomie in the world, but do they have Marmite, decent tea bags and pork pies? 

Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works for Brits who want to transport various foodstuffs and other items into France in their suitcase, following a visit to the UK.

Import-export businesses have been particularly hit, but how do the rules impact individual travellers? We’ve written a guide to help you get your head around this question:

Marmite, tea bags and pork pies: What can you bring into France from the UK

‘Yes’ is one of the most commonly uttered words in every language around the world and even people with an extremely rudimentary knowledge of French will know that oui is the term used here. 

But for those of you looking to expand your vocabulary, look no further than the article below: 

Beyond oui: 23 ways to agree in French

If you’re not yet in France but considering moving here – or even are just daydreaming about it – there are a number of things you should do to prepare: from checking your residency rights, to choosing a place to live, to sorting out bank accounts and health insurance.  

For those considering making the move, take a moment to read our guide to some of the steps you should take beforehand. 

Checklist: 10 things to do before moving to France

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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.