Government Gives Details of Inheritance Tax Reforms in France

The French government has published further details of its proposed reform of French inheritance taxes, which includes a complete exemption from the tax between husband and wife. However, the biggest winners out of these changes are probably those in a civil partnership, who will also be granted the same concession. Whilst it has always been possible for married couples to get around the tax on first death by entering into a French marriage contract, there has been no escape route for unmarried couples. The other big gainers will be French children, whose allowance before liability to the tax will be tripled, from €50,000 to €150,000. This allowance is per parent, so each child will benefit from an allowance of €300,000 against liability to the tax. A married couple with three children will, therefore, be granted an allowance of €900,000 before the tax becomes payable. If you are in the fortunate position of owning wealth greater than these allowances, then you will be able to reduce liability to inheritance tax by granting tax-free gifts of cash or real estate to your children during your lifetime. Whilst France has a gifts tax, the thresholds under which the tax becomes payable are being lifted in line with those of inheritance tax. Accordingly, during their lifetime a couple will be able to gift to each of their children €300,000 free of gifts tax, a concession that is available on a rolling basis every six years. No changes are proposed to the laws on inheritance rights, so children retain their entrenched rights to inherit some of the property. Nevertheless, the surviving married spouse will continue to enjoy the right to lifetime occupation of the family home.

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