French wealth tax explained in full

Read our comprehensive guide to the controversial Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune (ISF) - France's wealth tax

14 May 2010

FRANCE is the only EU country to impose a wealth tax. In the continent of Europe, Norway and Lichtenstein have versions of it and Switzerland levies at cantonal level at variable, mostly low levels.

Several countries have abolished their versions of the tax in recent years, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Spain, and Greece as of this year. Others countries, including Britain and Belgium, have never had such a tax.

ISF is based on your overall net worth above €790,000, being all assets after deduction of exempt property and debts.

ISF is a controversial tax, with critics claiming it drives away so many rich people France loses money because of it, a past report by a senator having estimated that 843 people left France in 2006 as a result of the tax, taking away wealth of some €2.8 billion.

The idea of a wealth tax is partly ideological as in no country does it contribute a large proportion of national tax.

It is seen as “redistributive,” helping narrow the gap between rich and poor, hence its name - “solidarity tax.” Opponents, on the other hand, joke that the ISF is an Incitement de Sortir de la France (incitement to leave).

The tax is:

- Calculated on your total net wealth exceeding €790,000 as of January 1. Foreign assets are excluded in your first five years of fiscal residency in France. Some tax experts believe this should apply to people who moved here since 2005, but the tax authorities have been taking a start date of August 6, 2008. There is some disagreement over this and you should get professional advice.

- Your responsibility. If you think the possessions of your household exceed the threshold, you need to take the initiative to assess their value and submit the form with full payment. Debts outstanding as at January 1 are also allowed but care needs to be taken with loans.

- Declared by residents in France by June 15; by other EU residents who own French property valued in excess of the threshold by July 15 and by other people by August 31.

- Generally assessable on your worldwide net wealth if you are an EU citizen permanently resident in France (but subject to the new foreign asset exemption mentioned above) but only on property situated in France if you are a foreign fiscal resident.

Find out more

The Connexion publishes a comprehensive helpguide, priced €5, explaining everything you need to know about the French wealth tax, including:

- Am I liable?
- Which assets are liable for ISF?
- Exempt assets
- Tax reduction measures
- Penalties
- How to fill in the forms
- How much is my property worth?
- How to offset wealth tax in France
- Which regions pay the most?

Click here to download the helpguide

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