Taxes For Members

7 top tips for dealing with the French tax office

The Local France
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7 top tips for dealing with the French tax office
A local tax office in Rennes, north west France. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

Dealing with complicated tax paperwork is no-one's favourite task, but doing it in a different tax system and another language is a whole new level of challenge. Here are some handy tips for dealing with the French tax office.


Taxes are a lovely concept - they enable the State to fund itself and provide all sorts of cool things from healthcare and roads to pensions and village cafés (yes, some rural businesses are subsidised by the French state). But while most of us accept the necessity of paying tax, dealing with the complicated and ever-changing paperwork is few people's idea of fun. 

For foreigners in France (or those who own property here) doing it in a different language makes things a lot more complicated, so here are some tips to make the process a little less painful.

You can also find lots of information about the income tax declaration and the new property tax declaration in our tax section HERE.

EXPLAINED How to complete the new property tax declaration


1 Visiting hours

If you're used to dealing with HMRC in the UK or the IRS in the US, you might be expecting a system only accessible by phone or online, but in France your local tax office is open for visits.

Even quite small towns have a tax office, and they are open to the public on a walk-in basis.

The first step is to find the correct office - Google Centre des finances publiques plus the name of your commune to find your local office. Then check the opening hours, some offices - especially in small towns - are only open on certain days.

Then simply walk in and ask for help.

Despite the fearsome reputation of French fonctionnaires, most people report that tax office staff are among the most friendly and helpful - they can direct you to the forms you need, help you to fill out a declaration, explain a certain system or pinpoint an error if you have received an unexpectedly large bill.

Don't assume that tax office employees will speak English, however, so if your French is at beginner level it might be best to take along a French-speaking friend or neighbour.   

If you're in a small town, it may be that the local tax office doesn't deal with all types of query, but they will be able to tell you where you need to be to get help.

2 Be prepared to wait at busy times

The flipside of the walk-in system is that at certain times the tax office can get very busy. In the run-up to a deadline date, you're likely to have to wait, so take a good book to read in the queue.

The 2023 property tax declaration has reportedly been a nightmare for tax office employees who have been inundated with complaints and questions from people grappling with the new system.


Be nice to office staff - the problems that you're experiencing are almost certainly not their fault and staff representatives say they're dealing with an increasing number of aggressive customers.

3 English-speaking helpline

The tax office does run an English-speaking helpline for people who are not resident in France, as well as an 'international' section of the tax website that is in English.

The helpline is on + 33 1 72 95 20 42, although it doesn't appear to have a huge staff, so expect long waits at peak times like income tax declaration season. 

The helpline cannot, however, help with queries about property tax - for that you need to speak to your local tax office - their phone number should be listed online and some offices will deal with queries via email. 


4 Impots website 

For most people, the easiest way to keep on top of your tax situation is to use the tax website - and certain tasks including the property tax declaration can only be done via this site.

Setting up your online account can be complicated - first you need to request a numéro fiscal (tax number) and then you set up the account once you have the number. Getting the number can take several weeks or even months, so it's wise to give yourself plenty of time before a deadline to do this.

Although setting up the account is not easy - find a full explanation on how to do it here - once you are set up, the site is actually quite user-friendly. 

The one-off property tax declaration must be done here and takes only a few clicks - full details here.

Those living in France will almost certainly have to make an annual income tax declaration and although we certainly wouldn't describe that process as easy the system does have one handy feature - it remembers your previous year's answers, so your subsequent declarations are a lot quicker (unless your circumstances have changed). 

5 Schedule a phone call

In addition to simply walking into your local tax office, if you have any  tax questions, you can also schedule a call or meeting in advance.

You can do this by heading to the tax website,  clicking "Contact et RDV" in the top right hand corner and then clicking "Particulier" (Individual).

You do not need an account on the tax website in order to use this service.

Then click the following options as shown in the screenshot below. Once you have done that, you should be able to put your address in to be connected with your nearest tax office. 

Screenshot of Impots.Gouv.Fr site, PC: The Local

Next, click "Prendre Rendez-Vous", and choose whether to schedule your meeting in person or by phone. A screen should appear that allows you to pick a meeting or call time at your next convenience. You can find more tips on how to do this here.

6 A declaration is not the same as a bill

One aspect of the French tax system that frequently confuses foreigners is the compulsory income tax declarations even for people who have no income in France.

You can find the full explanation here, but briefly almost everyone who lives in France must complete the annual income tax declaration - even if they have no income in France (eg retirees living on a pension paid out by their home country).

But, and this is the crucial bit, simply filling out the declaration doesn't mean that you will be landed with a bill, if your income all comes from abroad and is covered by dual taxation arrangements. Many people fill out the declaration each year and then receive a bill for €0.


Likewise the new property tax declaration does not mean that you will be hit with extra property taxes, in fact in some cases your bill could go down. 

It's important to note, however, that declarations are compulsory so you can be fined for not filling one out when you are eligible. 

7 Help is out there

If you still can't face dealing with the French tax office, help is available. Due to the large numbers of English-speakers who either live in France or own property here, there is a thriving bilingual accountancy sector.

We asked an expert for the things you should be looking for when you select someone to help with your French tax affairs - How to find professional help with French taxes


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