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TAXES

What are the penalties for filing a late tax return in France?

The deadline to file a French tax declaration, whether online or by post, has now passed. The sanctions for being late can be costly - but in some cases, can be avoided.

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Read our guide on the penalties you face if you are late on your tax return in France. Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

The deadline to file your French tax declaration for 2021 has now passed for everyone living in the country. 

Depending on where you live and whether you send your tax return electronically or by post, the deadline was different. 

READ MORE The upcoming deadlines you need to know for tax declarations in France

Those filing electronically and living in départements 55 to 974/976 were given up until Wednesday, June 8th by 11:59pm – the most generous period of timeframe of any group in the country. 

But what happens if you are late to file your return? 

Penalties

If you are late to file your return, you will generally be sent a letter known as a mise en demeure, which has to be signed for upon delivery. This letter will instruct you to submit your tax return as soon as possible and state the potential penalties incurred, should you fail to do so. 

The amount varies according to how late you are. 

If you were late to file your tax return but didn’t receive/sign for a mise en demeure, you will need to pay an extra 10 percent on top of your final tax bill. 

If you file your tax return less than 30 days following the reception of a mise en demeure, you will need to pay an extra 20 percent on top of your final tax bill. 

If you file your tax return more than 30 days following the reception of a mise en demeure, you will need to pay an extra 40 percent on top of your final tax bill. 

Other penalties 

The service-public website advises that a 0.2 percent monthly interest rate can be applied in the case of late payment. 

There are also a range of penalties unrelated to late payment. 

If French tax authorities discover that you have failed to declare a revenue stream, you could have to pay an extra 80 percent on top of your normal tax bill. 

READ MORE What exactly do I need to tell the taxman about my assets outside France?

The maximum penalty for personal tax fraud in France is a €3m fine and seven years imprisonment. 

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. 

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. 

Exceptions 

If you had an inkling that you may have to declare your earnings in France, then chances are you probably do. 

You need to file a tax return if: 

  • You live in France (even if your income comes from another country, e.g. pensioners)
  • You work in France 
  • You live outside of France but earn income here, by renting out a property for example. 

READ MORE Tax warning for second-home owners with French carte de séjour

If one of these situations applies to you, but you have still not filed your return, it is best to reach out to the tax authorities before they reach out to you. You could plead that you forgot the deadline in “good faith” if you had a legitimate reason (serious illness, a death in the family etc.). If this is the first time that you have declared a late tax return, it is possible that the penalties won’t be enforced. 

If you declare your taxes online, you can use the messaging space available via impots.gouv.fr.

You can also call +33 8 09 40 14 01 to reach the government’s tax hotline Monday-Friday between 9h30 and 19h. 

Non-French speakers can try calling the following number: + 33 1 72 95 20 42.

Every town has a local tax office, where you can simply turn up without an appointment and ask for help.

What if I made a mistake on my declaration?

In 2018 France formally enshrined the ‘right to make mistakes’, in dealings with the authorities, 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 information, 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.

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TAXES

Taxe foncière: How you could pay less French property tax

Paying 'Taxe foncière' is a part of homeowning life in France - but, if you’ve built your dream home, made certain renovations, are older, disabled or on a low income, you may be entitled to a reduction or an exemption.

Taxe foncière: How you could pay less French property tax

Here we explain the various routes to a tax cut…

New property

New properties, rebuilds, or additions to buildings – are exempt from taxe foncière for two years after their completion.

This exemption is total if the building is used as a home, whether it is a primary or secondary residence. It is partial if the building is used for any purpose other than housing.

You must apply for a temporary exemption at the tax office in which the new building is situated no later than 90 days after completion of the work to benefit from an exoneration the following year.

Renovation work

Home improvements – notably energy efficient home improvements – on older properties could net homeowners a three-year total or partial exemption on taxe foncière.

The property in question must have been built before January 1st, 1989. 

On top of that, the energy-efficient improvements must have cost at least €10,000 (excluding labour), if carried out in the year immediately preceding any application for a tax break; or €15,000 if carried out in the three years preceding any application.

To apply, first contact your local tax office.

Age

Among the various tax reductions are exemptions for older people living in France – especially those on modest incomes – on primary residences (not second homes).

A €100 reduction on taxe foncière for primary residences is automatically applied for homeowners aged 65 and over.

Homeowners who are 75 and older can, from the January 1st after they turn 75, be exempt from taxe foncière if their income is below a certain level. This is based on tax declarations filed the previous year, and is usually applied automatically – you can find the full details here.

This exemption applies even if they have moved into a retirement home, provided they retain exclusive use of the residence on which the tax is applied.

Beneficiaries of the solidarity allowance (Aspa) for older people on low incomes are also exempted.

Disabled homeowners

Beneficiaries of the supplementary disability allowance (Asi) or the disabled adults allowance (AAH) are exempt from paying the tax. This is applied automatically.

Low earners

Low-income homeowners can also benefit from a reduction in taxe foncière. To be eligible, your income must not exceed €11,276, for the first part of the family quotient, increased by €3,011 for each additional share.

To apply for this reduction, click here.

Unoccupied property

Owners of empty properties intended for rental may be entitled to a reduction in taxe foncière. To benefit, homeowners must apply to their local centre des Finances publiques.

Be aware, unoccupied properties may, in certain circumstances, be subject to taxes sur les logements vacants (TLV) and taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV).

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