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French bank doubles fees for non-residents

One of the largest banking groups in France has revealed that it is hiking the account fees that it charges for non-residents - doubling or even trebling the fee for some groups - in a blow to the many second-home owners in France who set up French accounts to deal with household bills and direct debits.

French banking giant BNP Paribas is increasing fees for non-resident clients.
French banking giant BNP Paribas is increasing fees for non-resident clients. (Photo by HATIM KAGHAT / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT

Semi-retired consultant Mike was in London when he received a message from his bank in France. 

“Account maintenance fees incurred by non resident clients will evolve,” began the message from BNP Paribas. 

BNP Paribas – the largest banking group in France and Europe – has confirmed that from June 2nd, the monthly account fee will double for people who are not full-time residents in France.

From June, Mike will have to pay €10 per month for the privilege of keeping his account open. 

“It seemed like needless complexity. No one has a positive reaction towards a bank – particularly when the costs are going up but the service has stayed the same,” he said.  

The planned price hikes have tempted Mike to look elsewhere.

“I would be interested in reading about some of the alternative offers,” he said.  

Fee increases 

Mike is far from the only person who will incur greater fees as a result of BNP’s policy change, which targets non-residents. 

People who are resident in a country that is a signatory to the Automatic Exchange of Information mechanism (including the UK and the US) will have to pay €10 per month, per account, from June 2nd.

BNP Paribas sent the following letter to non-resident clients (Source: Mike)

People whose official residence isn’t in an EU country or an AEOI country will have to pay €15 per month, per account.

Those who are resident in an EU country other than France will continue paying the same fees – €5 per month, per account. 

What does the bank have to say?

BNP Paribas say they are increasing fees to “be able to continue providing all of our non-resident clients the same level of service and accompaniment despite a more and more demanding international environment”. 

“BNP Paribas is one of the rare actors on the market that has decided to take international clients whatever their country of residence. Certain banks have made the choice to close the accounts of non-resident clients and those that do not often limit themselves to the EU zone,” said a representative of the bank. 

However, a number of other French banks that we spoke with also offer services to non-residents. 

READ MORE Which French bank is best if you are a non-resident

BNP told us that their account advisers speak more than 30 different languages and offer some options to non-resident clients, such as specially tailored lending insurance and health coverage, that other banks do not.

Clients can also benefit from video calls with their account adviser – even when there is a significant time difference. 

Member comments

  1. The claims that BNP functions in any language other than French are FALSE.
    We have had an account with BNP for over 20 years. There is absolutely NO service in English, period. Can’t comment on the other 29 languages they claim to speak …
    The extra fees are just a rip-off that won’t raise any opposition at home.

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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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