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TAX

Reader question: Do I need to declare my non-French bank accounts?

Tax declaration season is upon us and one issue that often catches foreigners in France unaware is bank accounts in their home countries - we explain.

Reader question: Do I need to declare my non-French bank accounts?
Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

Question: I’m living in France and filling in my French tax declaration and have come to the section on foreign bank accounts, investments and holdings – I don’t have shares or investments outside France, are they really asking me about my old account back in the UK that has about 27p in it?

The annual French tax declaration is a comprehensive document, compulsory for almost everyone living in France, in which you’re asked about all your financial affairs. When looking at exactly what you have to declare, the short answer is – everything. For example;

  • If you’re working in France you need to declare your French income – even if you’re an employee and your salary has already been taxed at source.
  • If you’re not working you need to declare all your income, even if it comes from outside France eg a UK or US pension.
  • If you get any income from outside France – eg rental income on a property in another country – you need to declare that too.

For full details on what to declare – click HERE.

It’s important to note that declaring your income does not necessarily mean you will have to pay tax on it – France has dual taxation agreements with most countries so that if you have already paid tax on your income in another country, you won’t be taxed on it again – but you still have to tell the French taxman about it.

When it comes to bank accounts, you also need to declare any bank account that has your name on it – including joint accounts – that are held outside France.

This is in the section of the form for foreign earnings and investments, so it’s easy to miss but it’s an important one for foreign residents, who are likely to have at least one account in their home country.

Ask the expert: How to fill out each section of the French tax declaration

You need to declare each account that that you have – the bank/building society that it is with, the account number and the date you opened the account, so it’s worth getting this information together before you start filling out the form.

You don’t need to declare how much is in each account, but you do need to be careful to declare all accounts that you have – even if they are dormant or only have a tiny amount of cash in them.

If you have cryptocurrency accounts you need to declare them too, although they have their own section.

If you have a PayPal account you might also need to declare that – although only if you use it for business or you have spent more than €10,000 with it in the last year.

Finally if you have insurance policies such as life insurance in another country you need to declare that too.

The good news is that if you declare online, your declaration remembers last year’s information so you don’t need to fill out all this information from scratch every year, but if you have opened a new account in the past year, don’t forget to add it to your declaration.

What happens if you don’t declare them?

You might think that your 27p back in the UK is not very important, in the scheme of things, but not declaring a bank account or investment scheme carries with it hefty penalties – they range from €1,500 to a maximum of €10,000, with €3,000 being the most commonly applied amount. And that fine is per bank account, so if you have several accounts that you haven’t declared the fines can quickly add up.

International money-laundering legislation means that banks and governments share a lot more information these days, so it’s definitely not worth the risk. 

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For members

PROPERTY

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

If you're researching the French property market, you might have come across mentions of 'courtiers' - here's what they do and whether they are necessary.

Courtier: Should you hire a broker when buying property in France?

The French ‘courtier‘ is usually translated as a broker, and the Notaires Association describes their role like this: “the broker is a true intermediary in banking operations. His/her role is to negotiate the best rates for you, but not only that: they will also find the most advantageous financing conditions for the realisation of your project.”

Essentially they act as an intermediary between you and the banks, so they’re only required if you need a mortgage or a loan in order to buy your French property. 

Their job is to research the best deals for you and then to help you put together your application and ensure that all your paperwork is correct – unlike the notaire, instructing a courtier is not a required part of the process, so the decision on whether to instruct one is up to you. 

So is it worth it?

Among French buyers, around 30 percent of mortgages are obtained using the services of a courtier, and this rises to 60 percent among young, first-time buyers, who generally find it harder to access credit.

Some of things to consider are your level of French and confidence in negotiating French bureaucracy, your financial situation (since French mortgage lenders tend to be stricter than those in the UK or US) and whether you currently live in France or not (since there are extra hoops to jump through for overseas buyers).

READ ALSO Is now a good time to buy a home in France?

“Things have changed,” Trevor Leggett, group president of Leggett International estate agents, told The Local. “It’s now more important than ever to work closely with a reputable broker.

“In France it is all paper-based, very old-school and extremely bureaucratic, a different world entirely to the UK. Preparing the client “dossier” so that it will be accepted is an art form.”

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

He advised non-resident international clients, particularly, who may not be au fait with the French system to seek the help of a broker who knows the ropes.

“The question is no longer really about savings,” he said. “It is about finding a bank that can actually lend to the client profile, interests rate are secondary. 

“It occasionally happens that one bank can be played off against another, or to shop around, but it’s a rare event nowadays.”

READ ALSO Revealed: The ‘hidden’ extra costs when buying property in France

And he had no hesitation in recommending that prospective buyers find a broker to sort out the financing.

“The lending market has tightened for international buyers and a good one is worth their weight in gold,” he said.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Time-frame for buying and selling property in France

In France, you make an offer on a property and then you begin the mortgage process (while in the UK it’s the other way round) so problems in getting your mortgage approved could lead to you losing your dream property.

“[Using a courtier] can be the difference between buying and not,” added Trevor.

“It’s not just any possible language barrier – but understanding the process and the different players in the market.”

How much?

The cost of hiring a courtier is borne by the buyer – but how much do they charge?

The courtier usually charges a percentage of the total mortgage amount – fees must be fixed in advance and are only payable once your mortgage application has been approved. 

Fees vary between different areas and different businesses, but the average fee is €2,000, which amounts to around one percent of the purchase price.

Many brokers set a minimum amount – around €1,500 – for smaller loans, and take a percentage of larger loans, so how much you pay depends on your property budget. 

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