French News Archive


Is France Now a Tax Haven?

Monday 16 July 2007

Well, maybe not, but the reputation of France as a high tax country may be misplaced.

Although the overall tax 'take' in France is one of the highest in the world, in fact, for many expats the country offers a number of tax advantages.

France has a very progressive system of income tax, to the extent that around 40% of the population do not actually pay the tax.

A couple do not start paying income tax until their joint net income is around €17,000, and those with two children would not be liable with income less than around €22,500.

There are also low rates of taxation on the first slices of taxable income, starting at only 5%, rising to 11% on the next slice, up to a maximum of 40% at the highest levels.

The high overall rate of taxation in France stems mainly from the level of social security contributions but, if you are of retirement age, you are exempt from the payment of these charges on your pension income.

Indeed, retired expats from within the EU also get free State health service cover and escape the payment of the infamous social welfare levy (CSG/CRDS) on their pension income.

Accordingly, UK expats can elect to have their retirement and private pension taxed in France, and thereby benefit from the tax advantages the country has to offer.

It is also now possible to add into this pot, the recent abolition of inheritance tax for all but the very rich, as well as the attractive new tax allowances available for gifts to your children for those who may still be liable inheritance tax.

Only the very wealthy need be concerned about the wealth tax, which does not strike if you have assets valued at less than an inflation linked €760,000, with a 20% (soon probably 30%) abatement granted for the principal home.

If you are buying a property to renovate, then you can also benefit from VAT at the rate of 5.5% on the renovation works. The same rate also applies to repairs to your property.

It is true that local rates have risen more sharply in recent years, but they still remain below the level of local taxes payable in many other countries, notably the UK.

Whilst the tax burden for those in business remains high, steps have recently been taken to cap the income tax payable by a small business, and to reduce significantly employer social security contributions for minimum wage employees in a small business. The new government has promised further measures are on the way.

Needless to say, with these and other tax concessions that have been announced, the question remains just how the government it is going to fund these tax reductions, a point which is of growing concern to France's EU partners.

One of the principal measures is to cut back on civil service posts. Another, may well be to increase the rate of VAT, a proposal we touched upon in a previous newsletter.

There is also a lot of talk about 'structural reforms' to reduce the deficit, but as yet nothing concrete has emerged.

In large measure, however, the government is hoping that the new liberal approach to taxation will bring about increased economic growth, which in turn will generate additional revenues. At least, that is what we all hope!

You can read more about French taxes in our guide to Tax in France.

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