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

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What are the penalties for filing a late tax declaration in France?
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The sanctions for being late with your French tax declaration can be costly - but in some cases, can be avoided.

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The annual French income tax declaration must be completed by almost everyone living in France - even those who do not have income here.

The final deadline in 2023 is 11.59pm on Thursday, June 8th for people living in départements 55-96 and France's overseas départements - deadlines for the rest of France and for people who file their declaration on paper have already passed.

Meanwhile, property owners must this year complete a new property tax declaration - the deadline for that is June 30th.

EXPLAINED How to file your French property tax declaration

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Penalties

If you are late to file your income tax declaration (déclaration des impôts), 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. 

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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.

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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.

Property tax declaration

The déclaration d'occupation for property owners is more straightforward - missing the June 30th deadline incurs a €135 fine.

The declaration is a one-off this year, you won't need to complete it every year, but must make a new declaration if your circumstances change - ie if you buy a new property or if the occupation status changes - for example a second home becomes your main residence or if you begin letting out your second home on a long-term basis.

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