4. Taxation of Property Rental Income in France

  1. Non-Residents
  2. Summary of Tax Regimes
  3. Furnished Lettings
  4. Unfurnished Lettings
  5. Lodgings

4.4. Taxation of Rental Income From Unfurnished Lettings

While rental income from furnished property is taxed under the tax regime of Bénéfices Industriels Commerciaux (BIC) outlined in section 4.3. rental income from unfurnished property is taxed under a system of revenus fonciers (property income).

This tax regime applies to both residential and certain non-residential property, but the following guidance notes are restricted to residential property.

Two income tax regimes apply for revenus fonciers:

  • i.Micro-Foncier

  • ii. Régime Réel

In addition, all landlords are liable for the social charges, called prélèvements sociaux.

4.4.1. Micro-Foncier

Where your total rental income from unfurnished property does not exceed €15,000 a year then you are entitled (but not obliged) to be taxed under the system of micro-foncier.

This income figure is doubled if the rental property is owned by a couple and run by them.

Under this system the tax authority applies an automatic allowance of 30% against your gross rental income.

This means that you do not need to calculate and deduct actual costs against gross income to arrive at a figure for taxable profits, as the automatic allowance will be used.

You will be taxed on 70% of your gross rental income.

Accordingly, if your actual eligible costs are less than 30% of gross income then you would benefit from being taxed under this system.

If your costs are higher than 30% then you would be better off electing to be taxed under the régime réel, where you are taxed on the basis of actual net income.

You cannot carry forward losses incurred in the year under the regime of micro-foncier in the same way as is possible with the régime réel.

So, if you undertake eligible major works to a property to get it ready for letting, then you are likely to be better off electing for the régime réel.

The rate of taxation under micro-foncier will depend on your family circumstances. A flat rate level of taxation will not apply as occurs with company tax – you will be taxed on a progressive basis as if you were earning a salary.

If you let a unfurnished property using one of the special tax regimes outlined below in 4.4.3. then you cannot benefit from use of the system of micro-foncier. There is similar exclusion for listed buildings (monuments historiques), properties located in conservation areas (Malraux) and urban revitalisation areas (Zone Franche Urbaine).

If the property is held through a French property company (Société Civile Immobilière (SCI) it is still possible to use this tax regime, provided the SCI is not taxed on the basis of company taxation. Those in such a 'fiscally transparent' company will be liable for tax on an individual basis in proportion to their own share of the income of the property, and to the extent to which they are otherwise liable to French income tax.

4.4.2. Régime Réel

If your eligible costs are greater than 30% of your gross rental income then you would be better off choosing to be taxed under the régime réel.

Similarly, you are obliged to use the régime réel if your rental income is in excess of €15,000 per year.

Under the regime réel your tax liability is determined after deducting your actual eligible costs against your gross rental income.

They include general management costs, the costs of property insurance, local property taxes, the costs of a managing agent, guardian, caretaker, or gardener and the costs of insurance taken out against the risk of non-payment of rent by the tenant.

Also deductible are the interest costs associated with the repair or improvement of a rented property, as well as the interest costs on a mortgage for a property purchased with a view to it being let. It is irrelevant whether these interest costs arise from a secured or unsecured loan.

You can also deduct the fees associated with taking out a loan, as well as life insurance premiums payable to guarantee the loan.

There are particular rules governing the depreciation costs of new build investment properties purchased for letting, which we do not consider here, and on which you are strongly advised to take professional advice.

If you elect to be taxed on the basis of actual costs you can charge repair, maintenance and improvement works against rental income.

However, not all works of improvement are accepted as a deductible cost, and major construction works are expressly excluded.

The problem for any landlord is establishing the boundary line between these different types of works, and the rule that applies if they are carried out simultaneously, as is frequently the case.

Unfortunately, the law on this matter does not offer a great deal of precision.

Article 31 of the French tax code states that:

"Les charges de la propriété déductibles pour la détermination du revenu net comprennent….. a) Les dépenses de réparation et d'entretien effectivement supportées par le propriétaire……… b) Les dépenses d'amélioration afférentes aux locaux d'habitation, à l'exclusion des frais correspondant à des travaux de construction, de reconstruction ou d'agrandissement."

There are regulations that provide more guidance, but there is no list of works that fall into each category and it is only as a result of case law that some greater level of definition has developed.

We can consider each of the works categories in turn.

Repairs and Maintenance

Repairs and maintenance are defined in the regulations as "work having as their object to maintain or restore a building to good condition and allow normal use for its intended purpose, without changing the solidity, the configuration or original amenities."

They also include "the restoration, repair or replacement of essential facilities to maintain the building capable of being used for its intended purpose."

The regulations state that the mere fact that the expense involved replacing a part or obsolete equipment with more modern equipment is not sufficient to deprive it of its character of expenditure of repair or maintenance.

Where repairs and maintenance are accompanied by improvement works then, depending on the nature of the works, the whole may be considered to be improvement works.

If the latter are, in turn, considered to be part of other major construction works that have been carried out, then they would not be deductible.

Improvement Works

Improvement expenses are defined in the regulations as "those that are intended to provide new or improved facilities, an increased level of comfort, or amenities better adapted to modern living, provided the works do not change the structure of the building."

Accordingly, example works that have been accepted as deductible are a new central heating system, new toilet and bathroom facilities within the property, a new kitchen within the property, a lift, and improved drainage system.

The difficulties arise when improvement works are undertaken following major construction works, or simultaneously with such works. In practice it is often difficult to separate the two elements.

The issue frequently turns on the scale of the construction works, leading to the general conclusion that where such works are relatively modest the improvements works would be separated out and accepted as deductible.

Indeed, in some cases, even the construction works may be accepted as deductible. Thus, prima facia, a bathroom extension would not be eligible, although it is quite possible the tax office would allow it if was a sensible solution to the improvement of a property, particularly if there was no alternative. The plumbing works within it would almost certainly be deductible.

Where the construction works were significant and the improvement works merely accessory, the latter have been held to be not deductible.

In addition, in another case, where improvement works could not be separated from other major construction works they were assimilated as the latter and found not to be deductible.

Clearly, in all of this, some careful wording of the estimate and the invoice by the builder might help!

Major Construction Works

Those works that are expressly not chargeable are those which either:

Make an important change to the structure of the building;
Improvement works that by their nature are equivalent to reconstruction of the building, or;
Works that increase the volume or living space of the property.

The reason why major construction works are not admissible is that they lead to an increase in the value of the property, so cannot also be considered to be a deductible expense. Such works are then an eligible allowance against capital gains tax, in the event of sale of the property.

Of course, improvement works generally also lead to an increase in value, but such works are accepted as deductible in order to encourage improvement of the housing stock.

Works which have been determined to be non-deductible include full or partial demolition of a building with a view to its reconstruction; change of use of a building involving major reconstruction work; an increase in the number of units in a property involving major reconstruction of many of the structural elements of the property.

In addition, any increase in the size or height of the property is unlikely to be accepted as deductible, save where they are minor and/or necessary for the installation of modern amenities.

However, where an owner converted two en-suite bedrooms into a three-roomed single apartment, without undertaking any major construction works, the works were held to be deductible by the courts.

There are particular rules governing works carried out on certain type of investment properties, such as 'Scellier' and 'Pinel' and to properties within conservation areas under the 'Loi Malraux'.

DIY Works

Works carried out on a DIY basis by the landlord are eligible, but only for the cost of the materials.

Local offices are often reluctant to accept invoices for materials only, so make sure the invoice has on it the address of the property, and not that of your principal home. You may also want to take before and after photos as proof, or discuss the project with the local office before you start.

Timing of Works

In relation to an empty property in which building works are carried out to make available for letting for the first time, only those works paid in the year in which the property is let are deductible.

So building works carried out and paid in 2015 for a property let in 2016 would not be deductible. Only if the building works were paid in 2016 would the costs be deductible.

What this can frequently mean in practice is that the initial costs to prepare a property for letting are not deductible.

One possible solution here is to borrow to fund the acquisition and building works, as interest is tax deductible.

The rule is different for works carried out between lettings, when the tax authority normally allow a period of time for reletting following works.

The period allowed between lettings is a maximum of two years, but possibly less if demand in the locality for such accommodation was considered to be strong.

The whole issue is often difficult area, due to the frequently mixed nature of a programme of works (repairs, maintenance, improvement, and new construction), and a discussion with your local tax office and/or accountant is advisable before you start any major construction works.

Accounting for Losses

In the event that you incur a loss in the year (due, for instance, to major renovation works) then you are entitled to carry forward losses.

If you let out a number of property losses on one property must be offset against the rental profits on another rented property to arrive at a total net profit or loss for the year.

In principle, losses are only chargeable against rental earnings (revenus fonciers) for 10 years.

However, losses other than those arising from interest costs are chargeable against your total earnings, up to a maximum of €10,700 a year.

If the losses are greater than this then they are chargeable against rental income for up to 10 years.

That part of the deficit resulting from interest costs is chargeable against rental income for up to 10 years.

These concessions apply provided you continue to let property for at least three years,

In the calculation of the deficit, the treatment of interest costs is a little peculiar, as rental income is initially charged against interest costs to arrive at the interest deficit.

In the following example the method gives a deficit against interest costs of €3,400, with other costs at €5,600. Only the latter figure can be charged to global revenues in the year, with the €3,400 chargeable against rental income the following year.

Table: Calculation of Deficit

Item Amount
Gross Rental Income - €10,000
General Expenses - €5,600
Interest Costs - €13,400
Deficit - €9,000

If you elect for the régime réel (or you obliged to use it), it would be prudent to engage a good accountant to assist with the bookeeping and tax declaration, at least in the first year of operation. The tax form you need to complete is the F2044.

If you elect to be taxed in this way then it is irrevocable for a period of three years. At the end of this period it is renewable on an annual basis.

On this basis you need to carefully consider your likely costs over three years before you jump for this option.

Whilst you will not be required to produce the invoices and receipts for the purposes of the tax declaration, you can later be asked to produce them by the tax authority.

If you are considering adopting the régime réel we strongly recommend you take appropriate professional advice, ideally prior to purchase of the property and/or commencement of any major building works.

4.4.3. Social Charges

In addition to income tax a landlord is liable for the social charges, called the prélèvements sociaux, at the rate of 15.5% on net rental income. This charge is deductible against income tax at the rate of 5.1%.

Non-residents are also be liable for the social charges of 15.5% on unfurnished lettings, although there is substantial legal controversy about this liability.

In relation to rental income received on UK property, this income is taxable in the UK, although the elimination of double taxation occurs by way of a 'tax credit'. In practice, it all amounts to the same thing - you will not pay any social charges on the rental income.

4.4.4. Special Tax Regimes

There are a number of special tax regimes that are available to landlords who are prepared to let a property on a concessionary basis for a minimum period of nine years.

There are also investment funds that offer the possibility of investing in this type of letting.

Chief amongst the schemes are those of 'Scellier' and 'Duflot' named after the politicians who introduced them.

You are strongly advised to take professional advice before you invest in one of these schemes. The tax benefits of these schemes are not as generous as was the case in the past, and other conditions are imposed which have reduced their attraction as a tax break.


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