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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.

taxes
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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SECOND HOMES

Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Towns and villages through France are raising property tax rates for second-home owners, with many areas voting for the maximum 60 percent increase.

Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

Even though France’s taxe d’habitation (householders’ tax) is in the process of being phased out for most French residents, second-home owners are still required to pay it.

This year more towns have voted to increase it, and others have recently gained the ability to add a surcharge for second-home owners, with French daily Le Parisien reporting that the residence tax “continues to soar.” 

Municipalities in zones tendues (areas with a housing shortage) have the ability to choose to increase taxe d’habitation by up to 60 percent for second home owners.

From 2023, several new areas – including Nantes – will join the list of zones tendues, meaning they will be able to vote to increase taxes for second-home owners.

This year, large cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Biarritz, Arles and Saint-Jean-de-Luz saw their city councils vote to increase the tax at the maximum 60 percent.

READ MORE: Why some French cities are increasing taxes for second-home owners

Some areas have still not chosen to apply the increase, but those looking to buy a second home in France should beware that these municipalities could vote to increase the taxe d’habitation in the future.

In 2020, cities on average voted to increase the residence tax on second homes by 248.50, in comparison to €217 in 2017. This year, that amount is expected to be even higher.

On top of the taxe d’habitation, second-home owners also have to pay the separate taxe foncière property tax, which is itself rising sharply in many areas.

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