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France’s top court orders safety checks for motorbikes

France's top administrative court on Monday ordered the introduction of safety inspections for motorcycles, overturning the government's decision to drop the measure.

France's top court orders safety checks for motorbikes
Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

The court ruling comes after a standoff lasting over a year between motorbike owners’ associations who have protested against any requirement for the Contrôle technique vehicle safety check, and NGOs fighting against air pollution and traffic noise.

The Conseil d’Etat, France’s supreme court for administrative matters, ordered the government last year to comply with a 2014 EU directive calling for regular safety checks for motorbikes with engines of more than 125 cubic centimetres, starting this year.

In response the government issued a decree announcing checks on some motorcycles, starting only in 2023.

However, faced with protests from bike owners and associations, the government made a U-turn, with President Emmanuel Macron being quoted by an adviser as saying that he didn’t want to “bother French people” with the measure which he vowed would never be applied.

But the same NGOs that had launched the original case mounted a fresh challenge against the government and, again, the Conseil d’Etat ruled in their favour.

The Council said in a statement Monday that the government had “overstepped its powers” by cancelling the EU directive which it said was aimed at the protection of the environment as well as at the safety of motorcyclists.

This means that motorbike owners will have to have regular safety checks on their vehicles, in the same way as car owners are required to have the two yearly Contrôle technique. This only affects French-registered bikes, so does not apply to tourists or visitors. 

It also threw out the government’s claim that the EU directive allowed for “alternative measures” to replace mandatory safety inspections.

Given its “direct and significant environmental impact”, the decision to scrap the inspections should have been subject of a public debate, it said.

Even the alternative measures proposed by the government failed to satisfy the EU’s requirements, either because they were still only at the project stage, or did not improve motorbike safety “in a sufficiently efficient and significant way”, the Council said.

NGOs were delighted, with the head of the Respire (Breathe) association Tony Renucci calling the ruling a “victory for the environment and for public health”.

Gael David, president of Ras Le Scoot (Fed-up with with scooters), said the government would now no longer be able to “use health and road safety as elements in its electoral calculations”.

The setback for the motorcycle lobby comes only two months after the city of Paris introduced fees for parking motorbikes and motorised scooters in the capital, sparking outrage and defiance among bikers.

Since September 1st, bikers parking their ride in the historic centre of the capital have to pay €3 per hour – two in surrounding neighbourhoods – for a maximum stay of six hours.

Member comments

  1. If it only applies to bikes over 125ml then it will miss a lot of the more polluting and dangerous scooters. There’s probably a greater return from starting at the bottom.

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PROPERTY

France brings in new tax declaration for property-owners

If you own property in France - either a main residence or a second home - you will now have to complete an extra tax declaration after changes to the tax system. Here's how it works.

France brings in new tax declaration for property-owners

People living in France already have to complete a yearly tax declaration, but if you own property here, you will also have to complete an extra declaration this year after changes to the tax system.

Who?

This applies to anyone who owns property in France – whether it is their main residence or a second home. If you do not own property and only rent your home, then this does not concern you.

What?

This isn’t an extra tax, it’s simply an extra piece of paperwork that has to be filled in, known as a Déclaration d’occupation, and this declaration is concerned with whether the property is your main residence or a second home.

Why?

This is because of recent changes to the property tax system. There are two types of property tax in France; taxe foncière which is paid by the property owner and taxe d’habitation which is paid by the property occupier. If you own your home home, traditionally you paid both.

However, taxe d’habitation is in the process of being scrapped for most people, and now only high-earners and second-home owners pay it. The problem is that the tax office don’t have a record of whether a property is used as a main home or a second home and therefore don’t know who to send bills to – hence the new declaration.

How?

If you live in France and already make your annual tax declaration online then this process should be fairly easy – head to impots.gouv.fr, log in and then click on Biens immobiliers (real estate) in the menu bar along the top of the website.

The site will then list the property or properties in your name, and you can fill out the déclaration d’occupation for each, stating whether it is your main residence or a second home.

If you’re not already registered on the impots.gouv site then you have two choices – register and set yourself up an account which will allow you to make the declaration online, or make the declaration on paper.

In order to register on the site you will need your numéro fiscale (tax number) which you should be able to find on previous correspondence from the tax office such as your annual tax bills.

You can find a full explanation of how to set up the online account HERE.

If you would prefer to make the declaration on paper, then the easiest option is to head to your local tax office and ask for a Déclaration d’occupation – you can find the tax office that serves your area by googling ‘Centre des finances publique‘ plus the name of your commune.

You do not need an appointment, as tax offices deal with queries on a walk-in basis, but make sure you check the opening times in advance as some offices, especially in small towns, have unusual opening hours. 

When?

The deadline to have completed the declaration is June 30th, and people who have a property registered should receive notification from the tax office. 

You will then receive your property tax bill in the autumn as usual. 

This is a one-off declaration so you won’t have to do it every year – only when your situation changes, so for example if you sell the property, buy a new one or change from it being a second-home to your main residence. 

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