Call out an IT expert

You can also offset some charges against your income tax bill

1 April 2010

CALLING out a computer expert to your home can be a lifeline when you are battling with unfamiliar software, internet connection or virus problems - and it often attracts money off tax.

You can find local operators in the Yellow Pages or the press - and some local computer shops do home call-outs. National chains like www.pc30.fr, www.docteurordinateur.com and www.depanordi.fr also exist, offering home visits, remote access repairs or helplines for a range of computer problems.

If using these services, shop around to see what they offer. A one-off call-out can be pricey, though many firms stress 50% of the cost can be deducted from income tax as a reduction or credit for home services. This is 50% of a maximum of €1,000 per year and is only for actual home visits, not for example, phone help. The firm must be agrée (certified) to offer service à domicile by the prefecture. Ask if they have a numéro d’agréement. They also have the right to use the “S!” logo. You can find suitable ones at http://tinyurl.com/findafirm

Tax credits (which mean if the money you are owed is more than your tax bill then the government will pay you the difference) are only available for the employed or those registered unemployed. If you are neither of these, ie. retired, you can only get a tax reduction – that is a reduction on your tax bill, no rebate.

You will benefit in the year after paying for the help.

PC30 say their €105 call-outs are all-inclusive to solve the problem (if follow-up ones are needed in the next 30 days for the same problem they are free), whereas, for example, Docteur Ordinateur bills €69 for the first hour and then €29 per half hour (or “€14.50 after the tax deduction”).

It might be worth looking into the regular contracts some of these firms offer instead. PC30 have one at €7.99 which gives unlimited phone help, after which they can also, over the internet, arrange with you for them to take control of your computer at a distance to try to resolve the problem. As a last resort they will come out. An adviser for the firm said they can send technicians anywhere in France and they have some English-speaking staff.

However this arrangement does not qualify for a tax deduction as it is mainly done at a distance.

These firms also offer computer training, with set topics, or tailor-made. Docteur Ordinateur suggests subjects like perfecting your ability to use Microsoft’s Word and Excel (or Open Office’s free word processing and spreadsheet alternatives), making videos with Moviemaker or learning how to touch up your digital photographs. Certain big retailers have also started offering computer (and other home electrical goods) help, whether or not you bought your computer from them. See http://tiny.cc/darty or http://tiny.cc/Fnac

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