Guide to French Income Tax


5. Calculating Your French Income Tax Liability

  1. Composition of Your Household
  2. Income Tax Rates/Bands
  3. Income Tax Allowances
  4. Income Tax Credits

5.2. Income Tax Rates/Bands


  1. Rates/Bands 2021
  2. Exemption Thresholds 2020/21
  3. Income Tax Payable 2020
  4. Social Charges
  5. Exceptionally High Income
  6. Non-Residents

5.2.1. Rates/Bands 2021 (2020 Income)

There are five tax rates and bands on net taxable income earned in 2020 (taxable in 2021), as follows:

Income Share Tax Rate
Up to €10,084 0%
Between €10,085 - €25,710 11%
Between €25,711 - €73,516 30%
Between €73,517 - €158,222 41%
Above €158,222 45%

In 2021, for 2020 income the rate of the second band reduces from 14% rate to 11%.

The rates are applied on a fractional basis so that each household 'part’ of the income is charged progressively, as we outlined in the previous section. Thus, if a couple have net income of €30,000 in the year there are two 'parts' of €15,000, with each part taxed using the scale rates.

Example: Assume a couple with two children with an annual income in 2020 of €64,000.

The income is granted a standard cost allowance of 10%, giving net taxable income of €57,600.

The income is then divided into three parts being €19,200 (€57,600/3) each.

The calculation of tax on €19,200, using the rates and bands that apply for 2020 is:

  • 0% to €10,084 = €0
  • 11% to €19,200 (€9,116 at 11%) = €1,002,76

This sum is then multiplied by 3 to give €3,008 as the tax payable.

There are then various adjustments made to your tax liability that are applied automatically by the tax authority.

i. Quotient Familial - As we stated in the previous page, there is a cap on the tax benefit that is granted for dependants arising out of the division of the household into 'parts'.

The level of ceiling depends on the size and composition of the household, but as a general rule it is €1,570 for a half-part (2021 for 2020 income).

ii. Discount - A discount mechanism (décote fiscal) operates for those who pay little by way of income tax. This discount operates to ease in the imposition of income tax on a household that becomes liable.

For 2021 (2020 income) if you are nominally liable to pay tax of less than €1,720 (single person) or €2,848 (couple), a reduction in income tax is granted to you on a formula basis that lowers the actual amount you would be required to pay.

The formula for the reduction is characteristically complex, being the difference between 75% of the tax limit threshold above, and 75% of your notional tax charge. The reduction normally works out at a few hundred euros.

Example: A couple have an income tax charge of €1,000. Discount is €1,000 < €2,848.

The amount of the discount is €1,289 - 0.4525 x €1000 = €836.

Their tax charge will be €1,000 - €836 = €164.

iii. Under €61 Liability - If the tax due is no greater than €61 it is not charged.

iv. Flat Tax - Savings and investment income (dividends and certain other financial instruments) are subject to separate taxation through a 'flat-tax', called the Prélèvement Forfaitaire Unique (PFU), although it is possible to opt out of this tax. You can read more at Taxation of Savings and Investment Income.

v. Tax Credits - If you are entitled to any tax credits (such as home insulation) these will be deducted from your liability.

We published an Income Tax 2020 Newsletter Special, giving advice on how to make a French income tax return on 2019 income, which you can find at French Income Tax 2020.

5.2.2. Exemption Thresholds 2021 (2020 Income)

In practice, less than 50% of inhabitants in France pay any income tax at all; only around 14% pay at the rate of 30%, and less than 1% pay at the rate of 45%.

The following table shows the maximum net taxable income below which a couple living on their own, and with a varying number of dependants in the household, would not be taxed.

NB: It applies to income taxed solely on the basis of the income tax bands and rates, and not on the basis of a flat-rate, eg non-residents, investment income and those who run a micro-entreprise who have opted for the flat-rate tax micro-fiscal.

As can be seen, a couple with no dependants would not pay any income tax in 2021 if their net taxable income in 2020 was no greater than €28,617. The table also shows their nil imposition threshold with dependants in the household.

Number of Parts Nil Imposition
2 Parts €28,617
2.5 Parts €33,659
3 Parts €38,701
3.5 Parts €43,743
4 Parts €48,785
4.5 Parts €53,827
5 Parts €58,869

The table below shows the same analysis for a single person, who would pay no income tax living on their own with an income no greater than €15,341. The table also shows their nil imposition threshold with dependants in the household.

Number of Parts Nil Imposition
1 Part €15,341
1.5 Parts €20,383
2 Parts €25,425
2.5 Parts €30,467
3 Parts €35,509
3.5 Parts €40,551
4 Parts €45,493

5.2.3. Income Tax Payable 2021 (2020 Income)

You can use the following formula to calculate the (approximate) amount of tax you will pay in 2021 on 2020 income.

It is only suitable if you are resident.

Once again, the formula and subsequent tables have been provided by the French tax authority.

Income Tax Rate Calculation
Up to €10,084 0 %
€10,085 to €25,710 11% (I X 0.11) - (1,109.24 x N)
€25,711 to €73,516 30% (I X 0.30) - (5,994.14 x N)
€73,517 to €158,222 41% (I X 0.41) - (14,080.90 x N)
€158,223+ 45% (I X 0.45) - (20,405.78 x N)
  • I = Net taxable income
  • N = Number of parts in the household

Thus, a couple with net taxable income of €85,000 being two household 'parts'. The total income is divided by 2, so €85,000/2 = €42,500 and therefore within the 30% tax band on marginal income. The formula is then (€85,000 x 0.3) - (€5,994.14 x 2) = €13,512 tax payable.

The result will before application of the ceiling under the quotient familial, and any credits or reductions in tax to which you may be entitled.

If you are having difficulty with the maths, the following tables gives the (approximate) tax payable by a single person with no dependants, for net taxable income up to €50,000.

The figures are for 2020 (2019 income). We will update for 2021 in due course, but there will be very little difference.

Income Tax Payable
€20,000 €1,078
€26,000 €2,231
€32,000 €3,744
€35,000 €4,644
€41,000 €6,444
€45,000 €7,644
€50,000 €9,144

The following table shows the tax payable by a couple with no dependants, for net taxable income up to €100,000 (2020 for 2019 income)

Income Tax Payable
€30,000 €342
€35,000 €1,322
€40,000 €2,447
€46,000 €3,622
€50,000 €4,182
€56,000 €5,088
€60,000 €6,288
€66,000 €8,088
€70,000 €9,288
€80,000 €12,288
€90,000 €15,288
€100,000 €18,288

5.2.4. Social Charges

As well as your liability to income tax you also need to consider your liability to French income tax by another name, that of the social charges, which you can read about at Social Charges.

5.2.5. Contribution Exceptionnelle sur les Hauts Revenus

In addition to the basic rates of income tax those fortunate few with a taxable income of upwards of €250,000 pa are liable for a special tax called contribution exceptionnelle sur les hauts revenus.

This tax is at the rate of 3% on income up to €500,000, and at the rate of 4% on income above €500,000.

Married couples and those in a civil partnership are exempt up to €500,000, when they then become liable at the rate of 3% to €1m, and 4% above this figure.

The tax is imposed on net income, after determination of the tax liability under the standard scale rates.

5.2.6. Non-Residents

Non-residents are subject to a flat rate of 20% or 30% (2020 on 2019 income) on France based net taxable income.

The 30% rate is an increase of 10 percentage points on the previous year and arises from the 2018 Finance Act, which came about as a result of a reduction in social charges for non-residents from the EEA.

In terms of application of the two rates, for income up to €27,519 the rate remains taxed at 20%. Rental and related investment income from France, and taxable in France, beyond this level is taxed at 30%.

As a result of simultaneous changes to the liability for social charges, effective from 2019 on 2018 income, the combined rate of social charges and income tax on French sourced income of EEA non-residents will fall to 27.5% (down from 37.2%), provided the income does not exceed the above threshold.

There is no reduction in social charges for non-EEA residents, which remains at 17.2%. So for them the combined rate of social charges and income tax will increase from 37.2% to 47.2%, depending on income threshold, as above.

You can read more about these changes in our Newsletter article Reform of Social Charges.

Despite these rates if you are able to justify a lower rate based on your worldwide income, you need to indicate this option on the tax return and include your tax return and tax notice from your home country.

If these are not available at the time, alongside your tax declaration, you need to submit Form 2041TM sur l'honneur, pending receipt of the relevant paperwork.

The law also provides that, for the purpose of determining the average tax rate on worldwide income received since 1 January 2018, maintenance payments made by the taxpayer are deductible when they are made to a beneficiary in France (children, parents), and provided their inclusion is not likely to reduce the tax payable by the taxpayer in their country of residence. These payments are known as a pension alimentaire.

Finally, if you are liable to no more than €305 in income tax, it is not imposed.


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