Guide to French Income Tax


3. Liability to French Income Tax

  1. Who Pays Taxes in France?
  2. Are you Resident or Non-Resident?
  3. What is your Fiscal Household?
  4. What Income is Taxed in France?

3.4. What Income is Taxed in France?


3.4.I. Worldwide Income

If you become resident in France you need to declare your worldwide income from all sources.

Accordingly, your personal income tax declaration needs to include salary, pension, rental income, investment income, interest on savings, and income from business activities if not otherwise subject to French company tax, called Impôts sur les Societés.

Some income is excluded, notably some French social security payments, certain French bank savings schemes, and some concessions for apprentices and students.

Declaring all your worldwide income does not mean it will all be taxed in France.

Under tax treaty agreements, income earned outside of France taxed in the country of origin should also get at least partial relief, if not full relief.

Nevertheless, this foreign income will normally be added to your French income to form the base for calculating the rate that applies on income that is taxable in France.

The elimination of double taxation on income taxable in the United Kingdom (and many other countries) is made through a tax credit corresponding to the French tax that would have been paid.

Accordingly, you may only get partial relief against income tax paid outside of France, although it will depend on your circumstances and the tax treaty arrangements.

3.4.2. UK Pension Income

i. State and Private Pensions

If you are resident in France and in receipt of a State Pension, private sector pension, or annuity from the UK, it is taxable in France.

Only occupational, stakeholder and personal pensions where tax relief has been granted against contributions or the lump sum is tax free are eligible to be taxed as pension income.

Unregistered pension schemes that grant no tax relief in your home country are taxed as investment income. Such ineligible pensions are normally referred to in the UK as 'Employer-financed retirement benefit schemes (EFRB)', sometimes used by owner-managers. That said, declaring such income as a 'pension' is entirely within the rules.

Initially, for those from the UK, when you relocate to France you will be taxed at source by HM Revenue and Customs. You will later need to make an application to be taxed in France and to receive a rebate of tax paid in the UK.

You can apply to the HM Revenue & Customs to obtain tax relief at source.

You can also contact their Centre for Non-Residents on 0044-151 210 2222 from outside the UK, or 0845 070 0040 from with the UK.

ii. Government Service Pensions

Government service pension from the UK are taxed at source in the UK, as is normally the case with other countries in Europe.

A 'government service pension' is paid to former members of HM Forces, ex Civil Service and Foreign and Commonwealth Office employees, as well as ex local authority employees. National Health service pensions are not considered to be a 'government service pension'. Neither are university pensions, except for those from Oxford University.

Nevertheless, although taxed at source you will still need to declare the gross income on your French income tax return but get advice on how to complete the form, as errors are frequently made.

The mechanism by which double taxation is avoided is through a tax credit for 100% of the French tax attributable to the proportion of total household income represented by the UK government pension. This may not fully recover any UK tax already deducted where the pension is in excess of the UK personal allowance.

You will receive your normal UK personal tax allowance against your government service pension. If you are also in receipt of a State retirement pension from the UK taxed in France then you will also benefit from the allowances granted in France on this pension to someone who is retired.

iii. Lump Sum Pension Payments

Since 2011 lump sums paid on retirement to expats living in France have been liable to French income tax, although subject to particular rules.

Specific provision for the taxation of lump-sums is made through Article 59 loi n° 2010-1658 du 29 décembre 2010 de finances rectificative 2010 and Article 41 LOI n° 2011-900 du 29 juillet 2011 de finances rectificative 2011.

The result of this legislation is that those resident in France who receive a lump-sum retirement pension that is taxable in France now have four options from which to choose.

i. Marginal Rate - You can choose to make no specific provision and have the lump sum taxed in accordance with tax rates and bands applicable at the time of receipt. The lowest tax rate is now 14%, albeit after a zero rate allowance of €9,964 (2018) on total household taxable income.

ii. Four Years - You can request that the lump sum is taxed as an 'exceptional payment' under which you can divide the sum by four equal parts, with each quarter part added to your other income for each of the four years. This is called the système de l'étalement.

iii. Quota Part - You can similarly request income tax is calculated by adding a quarter of the net taxable lump sum to your other net taxable income and then by multiplying by 4 the tax then due. This is called the système du quotient.

iv. Fixed Rate - You can opt for the whole of lump-sum pension to be taxed at a fixed rate of 7.5%. The lump-sum is not then taken into account in determining the tax payable on other income. This fixed rate option is called the prélèvement forfaitaire libératoire. It is only available if you receive the whole of the lump sum to which you are entitled, so that no part is deferred for payment at a later date, known as 'flexible drawdown'. Accordingly, if you are considering taking your pension in more than one lump sum payment you cannot use this option.

There are particular rules governing eligibility to opt for the prélèvement forfaitaire libératoire:

a. It is only available where you receive the whole of the lump sum to which you are entitled, so that no part is deferred for payment at a later date, known as 'flexible drawdown'.

b. It is only available where expressly demanded, when the decision is then irrevocable.

Whichever option you choose, the pension is subject to a 10% allowance before becoming liable to income tax. So the 7.5% fixed rate method of taxation actually equates to a rate of tax of 6.75%.

Contrary to the normal rules on pension income, under which the 10% is capped at a maximum sum, there is no ceiling on the amount of the 10% for lump sum pension payments, although you would need to confirm this is the case for either option 1 or 2, as the regulations are imprecise in relation to these two options.

Lump sum government service pensions remain exempt from taxation in France. One approach to the declaration of a lump service government service pension payout is simply to declare it as revenue income, not a capital payment, which means it is simply then revenus exonérés, effectively Option 1 of the 4 options listed above.

You are strongly advised to take professional advice on these options, as the calculation for each option is not as self-evident as it may seem.

iv. Social Charges

In addition to income tax, most pensions are liable to social charges.

Lump sum pension payments are liable to social charges at the rate of 9.1%, payable on the gross sum, without deduction of the 10% allowance.

However, lump sum government service pensions are exempt from the social charges.

In addition, if you hold an S1 certificate of health exemption, or you are covered for health entirely by a private health policy, your pension lump sum from whatever source is also exempt from social charges.

For those countries outside of the EEA, double taxation treaties may also exempt pension liability to social charges.

Social charges are partially deducible against income tax, which you can read about in our section on social charges.

This means your pension is reduced by the amount of deductible CSG you have paid, before income tax is calculated. However, this deduction does not apply to lump sums taxed at the fixed rate of 7.5%, although it does apply in relation to the other options.

The method used for recovery and deductibility of the social charges is a little complex, on which advice needs to be taken, as it may impact on the level and timing of your liability.

3.4.3. Foreign Rental Income

If you become resident, but continue to receive letting income from property in the UK, this income is ordinarily taxable by the UK authorities, to whom you will need to make a tax declaration. You will be entitled to your UK personal tax allowance.

However, you will also need to declare the income to the French tax authorities, and you will receive a tax credit equivalent to the tax you would have paid in France on the income. This tax credit may be higher or lower than the actual tax you pay in the UK; it will depend on your circumstances. The fact that you may have paid no income tax in the UK on the income (as perhaps below personal allowance) is irrelevant. You will also receive a 100% tax credit against liability to social charges in France so no such charges will be payable on the income.

Nevertheless, many local tax offices incorrectly impose social charges on UK rental income, an problem we set out in an article in our monthly Newsletter at Tax Errors on UK Rental Income.

You can make application to receive the income without tax deduction by HM Revenue and, depending on your circumstances, it may pay you to opt for this option.

More details on relief in the UK for non-resident landlords can be found by visiting Tax Relief for UK Landlords.

You can also set-off losses on a foreign-owned property against liability to French income tax - French Tax Rules on Foreign Rental Losses.

3.4.4. Foreign Savings Income

If you earn foreign savings or investment income, then this is entirely taxable in France, although you will get relief against tax paid elsewhere.

You can generally elect to have your foreign savings income paid gross to you by your UK or other overseas bank.

Indeed, the French tax return requires that you declare the gross level of interest earned, not the net amount, so it is far easier to elect to be taxed entirely in France, rather than having to reclaim from the UK (or elsewhere) the tax you may have already paid on the earned interest.

Even if you wished to do so, it is not easy to get away with not declaring your foreign savings interest to the French tax authorities.

Under the European Tax Directive Member States of the EEA agreed to exchange information about bank customers who earn interest in one country but live in another.

This means that if you hold savings in a bank account in the EEA other than in France, the amount of interest earned on the account will be reported to the French tax authorities.

France has also entered into separate tax exchange agreements with many so called 'tax haven' countries, so there is now a far greater chance of undeclared income in these countries being discovered.

You may find that your bank will ask you for your French income tax registration number.

3.4.5. French Rental Income

You will need to declare all rental income earned in France. The basis of taxation will depend on whether it is furnished or unfurnished rental income and whether you are taxed on the basis of a notional cost allowance or actual costs and income.

Information and advice and the taxation of rental profits can be found in our comprehensive guide to the Taxation of Rental Income in France.

3.4.6. French Business Income

The taxation of business income is dealt with elsewhere in our Guides, but if you run a micro/auto-entrepreneur business in France you will need to declare the turnover/profits with your personal income tax return.

You can read more in our Guide to Micro-Entrepreneur Business in France.

If you run a limited company your company tax return is submitted separately from your personal income tax return.


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