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French Taxation

French Local Property Tax Increase

Thursday 01 February 2007

Local property taxes in France are rising steeply and there are large variations in the amount payable across the country.

According to the French Finance Ministry, local rates have gone up by an annual average of 5.3% since 2002, well ahead of the average rate of inflation of 1.9%.

The main reasons for this increase appear to have been the programme of decentralisation carried out over the past few years and the ambitious investment programmes of many local authorities.

In a separate survey carried out by ‘Le Figaro’ newspaper on the level of the local residence tax – the «taxe d’habitation» - the town with the highest rate of local taxes for a similar property and household is Nîmes (€1,777) in the Languedoc.

Other towns and cities with the highest rates are three localities in the Ile de France region - Creteil (€1,168), Rueil-Malmaison (€1,087) Saint Mur (€1,042), - as well as Pau (€1,133) and Bordeaux (€1,008) in the South West and Dunkerque (€1,022) in the North.

At the bottom end are two towns in the Ile de France region - Courbevoie (€386) and Nanterre (€403) – as well as Paris itself (€489), Calais (€595), Amiens (€640), Mulhouse (€658).

The disparity cannot be explained by political differences, for the in the list of the top 60 towns and cities in France, there were 30 of each political colour.

One of the reasons for the differences is the complex manner in which local councils raise their revenues. Those benefiting from the presence of an important economic infrastructure raise the majority of their finances through the local business tax, called the «taxe professionelle». Households living in these areas may thereby be relieved of high local rates bills.

Thus, both Coubevoie and Nanterre benefit from the lowest residence tax in the survey because they are the location of ‘La Défense’, the financial hub of the country.

In addition to the payment of the residence tax, owners are also responsible for the payment of the other local property tax, called the «taxe fonciere», a tax which has also risen significantly in recent years. The average householder now pays €1,090 a year, compared with €743 in 1995, an increase of 47%.

Once again, however, there are huge variations across the country in the rises that have taken place in recent years and the amount paid by each household. Thus, whilst areas in Normandy have seen rises actually below inflation, they still pay amongst the highest rates of «taxe foncier» in France because of an historically high base figure.

Conversely, Marseilles has seen large increases in the last few years but, still has one of the lowest sums payable, because the increases have been from an historically low base.

The whole system of the funding of local, county, and regional councils seems to satisfy no-one, least of all the councils themselves, who are demanding greater equality and simplicity in the structure of local taxes.

They have some support for their views amongst senior politicians, with Presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, no less, recently stating that ‘no-one understands anything’ about local taxes.

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