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What is the Holiday 'Taxe de Séjour'?

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Introduced over a century ago to provide a source of income to thermal spa towns, the 'taxe de séjour' has since been extended to many tourist areas in France.

The legislators have also granted the right of imposition to those councils that merely promote tourism, as well as to those who take action to protect the natural environment.

The type of accommodation of on which the tax can be applied has also been gradually widened, to include all forms of tourist or transit accommodation - hotels, camping and caravan sites, chambres d'hôtes and meubles de tourisme (gîtes).

However, it is not a mandatory tax, as local councils have the discretion as whether or not they wish to introduce it.

Out of an estimated 6,000 councils who are entitled to do so, only around half have chosen to impose the tax.

Many step back from introducing it because of what they consider to be the potentially adverse impact on tourism; others simply because the income they would receive from it outstrips the administrative cost and difficulties of imposition and recovery.

Although total receipts nationally from the tax amount to around €250 million pa, many small councils receive less than €100,000 a year.

The main problem has been that the rate of the tax has barely been increased since it was introduced with a minimum and maximum range set between from €0.20 to €1.50 person/night.

Since 2015 all that has changed by a new law that modified the legal framework for the imposition of the tax and raised the minimum and maximum tax rates that apply.

The current rates differ by type of accommodation, but they are within a range from €0.20 to €3.00 person/night.

The position of chambres d'hôtes and meubles de tourisme has also been more clearly defined on the schedule of tariffs.

The tariffs that apply in 2017 for all types holiday accommodation are shown below. The tariffs are per person/per night by star rating. Slighty lower rates apply for the first year of operation of a new establishment.

Taxe de Séjour 2017
5 Star
€0.70 to €3.00
4 Star
€0.70 to €2.30
3 Star
€0.50 to €1.50
2 Star
€0.30 to €0.90
1 Star
€0.20 to €0.80
Chambres d'Hotes
€0.20 to €0.80
€0.20 to €0.80
Camping Sites
€0.20 to €0.60

The departmental councils are entitled to impose a 10% levy on these rates in support of their own tourism activities, and many do so.

A great deal of discretion is left to the councils as to the terms under which the tax is applied, and they can choose to adopt one of two forms of taxation:

  • Taxe de séjour au réel - The actual amount of tax due for each visitor who stays at the establishment.
  • Taxe de séjour forfaitaire - A fixed charge imposed upon the establishment based on the capacity of the establishment and the period it is open.

These different methods of taxation are not without significance, for, in the first case it is the guest who pays the tax shown on their bill, whilst under the forfaitaire method no tax is shown on the bill, and the amount of tax paid by the landlord is independent of the actual number of visitors they receive.

In addition, local councils determine the period(s) in the year when the tax should be applied (full or part year) and a discount that is applied for the period the establishment is open during this period. The level of the discount may be up to 50%

The rate is also determined by the council, within the permitted range, and can sometimes vary over the year, between low and high season.

In relation to hotels and camping sites, all of this seems to operate satisfactorily, but it is less successful in relation to chambres d'hôtes and meubles de tourisme.

This is due to the number of such businesses that do not register with the local council, and the under-reporting of occupancy rates even when they are registered.

The level of non-declaration has been greatest in the largest urban centres, particularly with the development of internet hubs such as Airhub, where authorities have simply lacked the resources and the powers to supervise the letting activities.

A submission to a committee of the French parliament in 2014 estimated at around 80% of chambres d'hôtes and meubles de tourisme escaped proper control by the local councils.

The hoteliers in France have protested loudly at the unfair competition they face.

It has been in response to those complaints that the government has granted local councils the power to inspect the books of holiday let landlords and to impose fixed tax demands if they consider there has been falsification of income.

The problem for the councils is to be able to prove that there has been an under-declaration, for such a demand must be justified, and it can be challenged by the landlord if they do not consider it to be reasonable.

As a result, it may well turn out to be a new power that is more often going to be used against those landlords that simply fail to make a declaration, with only flagrant under-reporting of registered landlords subject to such penalities.

Of greater impact has been the new framework in place for holiday rental websites, such as Airbnb and Abritel, who have been given the power to collect the tax on behalf of their clients.

Last year, Airbnb reached an agreement with the Paris council on collection of the tax, to whom they are now handing over millions of euros in tax receipts and is also in operation in around 20 other towns and cities in France.

Landlords marketing their properties through such sites are required to either authorise the site to collect the tax on their behalf, or to pay the tax themselves. Airbnb now make the charge compulsory as part of their booking procedures.

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