We know from your mails that many of you consider you are frequently taxed incorrectly in France, so how do you go about challenging an income tax demand?
Step 1: Correct Your Tax Declaration
It is not always the case that the tax office is wrong. Not infrequently, we do find that readers have completed their tax declaration incorrectly. That is not surprising; it is not the easiest set of forms to understand, even if you have a competency in the French language.
Whether or not you have made the tax declaration on-line or by paper it is possible for you to send a revised tax declaration, provided you do so by the end of November.
If you are correcting it on-line all you need do is to go into your account at Impots.gouv.fr and go to the link 'corrigez votre télédéclaration. You only need correct that part of the form you completed in error.
If you wish to submit a revised paper declaration you can download the forms from the internet and complete them again in full, marking it 'déclaration rectificative' on the main form 2042.
Step 2: Visit the Local Tax Office
Although we often hear some dreadful tales about your experiences with your local tax office there are as many instances when you are able to report that they are helpful and informed.
So if you are resident in France, it may well be very useful in the first instance for you to go along to your local tax office and discuss your complaint with an official. It pays not to assume the official is able or wishes to conduct the meeting in English.
It is not infrequently the case that the error can be corrected there and then, following which the official will arrange for you to be sent a revised tax demand.
Step 3: Submit a Tax Claim
If you are unable to resolve the matter on an amicable basis then you need to submit a formal tax claim, called a réclamation.
Once again, you can either do this on-line or by submission of a letter.
To do so on-line, simply log in to your account and go to the link: 'Effectuer une démarche > faire une réclamation > réclamation sur l'impôt sur le revenu'.
You will need to submit with your claim any supporting documentation.
Once completed, you should receive an automatic e-mail confirming receipt of your demand, called an accusé de réception.If you wish to contest the tax demand by paper you need to write to the tax office whose address appears at the top of your tax notice.
The tax office have six months in which to consider your complaint. If they have not responded to your claim within this period you are permitted to assume the response is negative, in order to open the way for you to bring legal proceedings. In practice you need (and you are entitled) to insist on a response, as without one it is difficult to bring such proceedings!
When you make your claim you can either choose to pay the tax that is demanded, and hope for a later refund, or to request suspension of the demand, called a sursis à paiement.
Provided the tax demand is less than €4,500, suspension is granted automatically. If over this sum the tax office may well demand some kind of guarantee of payment in the event your case is turned down.
Beware, however, that in the event you are not successful you will pay a penalty of 10% on the tax owed as well as interest on the late payment.
Conversely, if you pay the tax and you are proved right, you will be reimbursed the over-payment, together with interest at the same rate.
There are time limits for make a tax claim, which is 31st December of the second year following the tax demand. Accordingly, for income earned in 2019, for which you have received an income tax demand in 2020, the latest date for making a claim is 31st December 2021.
Step 4: Write to the Conciliateur Fiscal
If your tax claim is rejected by the tax office you are entitled to complain to the Conciliateur Fiscal Départemental, a senior official who works within each local tax area, who acts in a quasi independent capacity to deal with disputes between taxpayers and the administration.
They are also there to uphold service standards, on which they can also receive complaints.
They cannot, however, intervene where you are subject to a formal tax investigation.
The CF has substantial powers, with the ability to overturn a decision of tax officials (which they frequently do), despite their apparent lack of independence.
There is a CF in each department of France, who can normally be contacted through your local tax office. Their address can only be obtained through the government 'Impots.gouv.fr' website, under 'Contacts'.
The CF is unable to act until your complaint has been treated by your local tax office from whom you will need to have received a negative decision in writing.
Neither will the CF be willing to meet with you; the case is considered entirely on the basis of your written submission.
Making a complaint to the CF does not exempt you from the obligation, in the meantime, to pay any tax bill you may have received, but which you dispute.
In theory the CF should respond to your complaint with 30 days, although they are not obliged to do so in more complex cases.
Step 5: Write to the Mediateur
If you remain dissatisfied with the decision of the CF, then you can complain to the entirely independent service of the Médiateur des ministères économiques et financiers.
Indeed, there is no need for you to complain in the first instance to the CF before you seek the assistance of the Médiateur although you must have had your claim turned down by the tax office.
To make a complaint you can either do so simply by sending a letter, or completing a standard on-line complaint form, attaching to the form relevant documentation.
Further information can be obtained at Médiateur des ministères économiques et financiers.
The Médiateur can only make a 'recommendation' to the tax office; he cannot oblige them to act on it, although they invariably do so.
Step 6: Commence Legal ActionThe final process inevitably requires that you commence a legal action in the local Tribunal administratif.
However, you need to be careful here, as you only have two months from the date of the decision of the tax office on your claim to bring such action.
Accordingly, you need to be aware that should you decide to request the intervention of the Conciliateur Fiscal or the Médiateur their involvement does not stop the clocking turning on the period for bringing a legal action.
You are entitled to seek recourse through the Conciliateur Fiscal and the Médiateur in parallel with instituting legal proceedings, which you can halt should you obtain satisfaction with the recours amiable, as it is called.
There is no obligation for you to engage legal support as the proceedings of the court are entirely paper based, although it is highly likely that such assistance will be required.
Within two months of the decision of the Tribunal administratif you can also take the matter to the Court of Appeal.
** Article updated August 2020