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Moving to France For Members

Reader question: When do I have to pay tax in France?

The Local France
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Reader question: When do I have to pay tax in France?
France's tax system can be hard to understand. Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP

If you're moving to France it can be hard to know when you need to make contact with the tax office and indeed whether you have to pay French taxes at all. Here's the breakdown.

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The French tax system requires almost all residents in France - even if they are not working or earning money here - to file an annual tax declaration, but knowing when to file is not always straightforward.

Here's the breakdown for people moving to France to become full-time residents (more on visitors and second-home owners at the bottom of this article).

When?

The French tax year runs from January to December, and tax declarations cover the previous year. Tax declarations open in April, with deadlines that vary slightly from year to year, but are usually in late May or early June. 

So let's say you move to France in June 2023 - you will do your first tax declaration in April/May 2024, which will cover the six months of your residence in France in 2023.

The tax declaration must be completed by almost all residents in France - even if your taxes are deducted at source from your salary, even if you are not earning anything in France (eg retirees living off a pension from their home country).

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Doing the declaration doesn't necessarily mean you will have to pay taxes in France (more on that below) but you must still complete the declaration. There are fines for failing to do so.

You complete the declaration every year while you are living in France.

You must also declare all your worldwide income - if your home country has a dual taxation agreement with France you won't have to pay tax on any income in your home country (eg property rental income), but you must still declare it. You must also declare all non-French bank accounts, even if they are dormant or empty.

READ ALSO What exactly do I need to declare to the French taxman?

Who?

Pretty much everybody living in France has to do this. The exceptions are posted workers, diplomats and salaried employees whose circumstances have not changed since the previous year.

If you fall into this final category, the tax office will tell you that you no longer need to declare - if you don't hear from them, assume that you're still doing the declarations. 

How?

Normally your first tax declaration will be done on paper, and then you can move onto the online system via the impots.gouv.fr website.

The first step is to request a numéro fiscale (tax number), and then you can make your declaration. If you have time, it's a good idea to request the tax number well in advance of the declaration deadline, as it can take several weeks to arrive.

How to request a numéro fiscale and set up a French tax account

If you get stuck, you can visit your local tax office for help and advice - even fairly small towns have a tax office, they are open on a walk-in basis and staff are usually friendly and helpful (which tends to come as a surprise to anyone used to dealing with HMRC or the IRS).

READ ALSO 7 top tips for dealing with the French tax office

So do I have to pay tax?

Taxation naturally depends on your personal circumstances, and it's important to understand that filling in the declaration doesn't necessarily mean you will have to pay tax - plenty of people file a declaration every year and then receive a tax bill of €0.

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If this sounds a bit mad, it's because France is in the middle of a long-term change from tax declarations and bills to deductions-at-source, but there is a way to go yet. 

In the brief, the following people will pay tax in France;

Salaried employees - if you're a company employee, it's likely that your taxes will be deducted from your wages each month on a pay-as-you-earn system (known as prélèvement à la source). If you have no income apart from your salary, your tax bill will likely be €0 - or the taxman could give you money if you qualify for any of these tax breaks.

Self-employed workers - if you run your own business or work as a freelancer or contractor you will need to complete the annual declaration and then pay the taxes you owe, minus any tax breaks that you qualify for (eg for childcare or employing a cleaner). Your social security contributions will be deducted more regularly by URSSAF. 

People who own property - the householders' tax (taxe d'habitation) has now been phased out for everyone apart from second-home owners, but if you own property in France you will continue to pay taxe foncière (the property owners' tax).

READ ALSO How much property tax can you expect to pay in 2023?

People who have income in France - if you have other income in France such as rental income from a property or income from shares you will likely pay tax in France, even if you do not live here (see below). 

People who have inherited property or other assets in France - if you have been the recipient of an inheritance in France, you may have to pay French inheritance tax, even if you do not live here. The rate depends on your relationship with the deceased - full details here.

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But what if I'm not living in France?

If you're not living in France, you may pay still need to pay tax here. Here's the most common categories that this applies to;

Second-home owners - if you own property in France, you will pay property taxes. However, if you have no other financial activity in France you will not need to complete the annual tax declaration. Be aware, however, that if you rent out your property as a holiday let (on Airbnb or similar) then this means you have income in France and you will almost certainly have to complete the tax declaration.

If you have income in France - any income in France, such as work done on a freelance basis for French companies, income from a rental property or investment income in France can potentially mean you will have to complete the French tax declaration and maybe pay tax here (depending on dual taxation treaties). In these circumstances you should consult an accountant who specialises in cross-border taxation and has knowledge of the French tax system. 

If you do not live in France, you fill in a different form to make your declaration - find it here

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