2017: Key changes that will affect you

Healthcare - Driving - Money - Banking - TransportWhat are the key changes and how will they affect you?

20 January 2017

Events and culture

FOR THE first time in 25 years the Tour de France will cover all five mountain ranges in France.
After starting in Düsseldorf, Germany, on July 1, it spends two days in Belgium (the first visit since 1992), then heads to Chambéry in the Alps before flying across to Périgueux for a stage to Bergerac then a stage from Eymet to Pau before crossing the south of France and heading to Paris for July 23.

ONE of this year’s more unusual artistic events will be a giant open-air museum in Marseille. Called Marseille 3013, it will take over the Rue de la République from June 25-30, with artists invited to create works imagining the city in the next millennium.
EIGHT French cities will host the world men’s handball championships on January 11-29, with half a million spectators expected.
The ice hockey world championships will also be in France (shared with Germany), from May 5-21 – Asterix and Obelix are the mascots.
FESTIVAL Interceltique de Lorient (August 4-13) this year has Scotland as guests of honour – a Celtic nation is the guest each year at this celebration of Celtic culture that has 200 shows, 5,000 performers and over 700,000 visitors.
FRANCE and Germany have worked together on a museum of the First World War on the rocky spur of Hartmannswillerkopf in Alsace.

The hill was a key battleground and trenches still remain. Historial HWK opens on August 3 (memorial-hwk.eu)
EUROPE’S first trans-European horse-riding route – from Lupiac, Gers, to Maastricht in Belgium – is set to be inaugurated this year.
Part of the planned six-country Route d’Artagnan network named in honour of the musketeer, this first stretch will be called La Route Royale (route-dartagnan.eu).

MAY sees the Energy Observer catamaran start a six-year world tour powered only by renewable energy. Using solar, wind and hydrogen, the yacht will make 101 stopovers in 50 countries. As ENZA New Zealand she won the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy for Robin Knox-Johnston for fastest sail circumnavigation. She is being prepared in Saint-Malo for her voyage.

Recipe for beer is revamped

AN explosion in the French artisanal beer market has prompted the government to set a new ‘official recipe’ for beer – the first change since 1992.
France now has nearly 1,000 brewers against a couple of dozen in 1992, making a staggering 4.1billion demis a year.

Speciality beers with exotic ingredients have drifted away from the original recipe which was that beer was a fermented drink from a wort that had come from a mash made with at least 50% barley, water, hops and yeast.
Now extra ingredients are allowed such as fruit juice, flower petals, vegetable colours and even extra alcohol but it must be at a very low dosage and not significantly alter the alcohol level.
The French brewers’ association welcomed the change.

Health

VISITING the doctor will cost more, with the basic GP fee rising from €23 to €25 on May 1 and a specialist referral up to €30 instead of €28 (€30 will also apply to a GP’s consultation with a child under six). Tariff for a referral for a second opinion at your doctor’s request (avis ponctuel) rises from €46 to €48 in October.

New higher tariffs may be applied from November for a complex consultation (€46) or ‘very complex’ (€60) relating to certain serious conditions.
From November 30 everyone in the French system will have the right to be offered le tiers payant (meaning the state-reimbursed part of the fee no longer has to be paid upfront) and it is planned doctors may also be able to offer it for the portion paid by the mutuelle. Take-up is likely to depend on what technical solutions are found for organising this.

Also this year the government hopes to have balanced the social security budget and closed the so-called trou de la sécu deficit, however, some extra savings in the healthcare system will have to be found to ensure this.
AS OF this month a new website goes live for registering if you do not want to be an organ donor after death.

Everyone in France is presumed to be a donor unless they say otherwise and the site registrenationaldesrefus.fr will record people’s wishes.
NEW caps on the maximum price of dental prostheses (crowns, dentures etc) are promised this year. Health Minister Marisol Touraine also said she is going to improve the reimbursement rates of certain common preventative treatments, like fillings and a scale and polish.
Discussions are ongoing between dentists and the state.

Politics

First steps to take the UK out of the EU should happen as the UK government has said it intends to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the official start of a two-year negotiation period to leave – by the end of March.
Whether or not this happens will depend on various factors, notably the outcome of court cases challenging the government’s wish to carry this out with ‘royal prerogative powers’.
The UK Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether or not triggering article 50 requires a parliamentary bill to be introduced. The High Court ruled it did and if the Sup­reme Court agrees then delays may ensue, especially as significant opposition is expected in the Lords.

French politics

FRENCH politics will see primary elections on January 22 and 29 for
the Socialist Party and allies, who
are calling themselves the ‘Belle Alliance Populaire’.
The presidential elections will
then be held on April 27 and May 7, followed by élections législatives (for the MPs) on June 11 and 18.
There will be senatorial elections on September 24 (but only certain grands électeurs, who are all people in elected positions, have a vote).

Property

PEOPLE renting out properties built before 1975 will have to supply a diagnostic check certificate for the electricity and gas systems as of July 1.
This was formerly only obligatory for property for sale.

Shopping

AFTER plastic bags were banned from supermarket checkouts in 2016, a ban is being extended even to bags used for weighing out your fruit and vegetables, or for cheeses, meats or fish. Special biodegradable plastics will still be able to be used, or otherwise paper ones.

Telecoms

MOBILE phone ‘roaming’ charges will be abolished in the EU as of June 15 so that, with minor provisos, people can use their mobiles in other EU states and pay the same tariff they pay at home – whether for making or receiving calls, texts or using internet.
However, it is only for ‘reasonable’ and temporary use, to avoid people shopping around for a cheaper phone contract abroad.
TELECOMS regulator Arcep set a deadline of June 30, 2017 for all communes which still have so-called zones blanches (mobile phone blackspots) to have 3G mobile coverage in their town centre.
TELEPHONE boxes could all vanish from streets by the end of the year.
Orange is no longer obliged to maintain them in view of targets for wider mobile phone coverage but they can only be removed if coverage exists. Many communes are opting to keep them – minus the handset – and have turned them into libraries.

Transport

JOURNEY times from Paris to Bordeaux will be cut from 3hr14 to 2hr04 after the Tours-Bordeaux high-speed TGV line opens on July 2. It will also cut the Toulouse route from 5hr42 to 4hr09.
New-style TGVs have been rolled out to serve the south-west in anticipation – and they include free fast wifi. Others being connected this year include Paris to Lille, Strasbourg, Rennes and Marseille.

DRIVERS in Paris should have a pollution sticker on their vehicle from the start of the year – and foreign road users are included.
The stickers are not compulsory, but from January 16 Paris authorities will use them to enforce checks on vehicles during pollution peaks when high-pollution vehicles are banned, although not on the Périphérique.
Called Crit’Air, the coloured stickers will also be enforced in Gren­oble during pollution peaks and other large towns may follow suit.

FIRMS offering car maintenance or repair will now be obliged to offer the option of using good quality second hand parts instead of new ones.

CARS with tinted windows letting through less than 70% of light are now banned. They may incur a €135 fine and three licence points, and cars with them risk not passing their contrôle technique (French MOT test).

TOUGHER rules are now in place for people committing driving offences while using a company car. Fines are multiplied by five where it is a company that is responsible for paying them – as is the case where an employee is using a company car.
Firms are also now obliged to tell the authorities the identity of the employee who was driving, so they can be docked licence points.

BRITAIN and Ireland were given until May this year to comply with an EU directive on cross-border traffic offences. If applied, it will mean, for example, that if a UK-registered car is flashed by a camera in France, a fine notice will be sent in English to their British address, along with details of how to pay it (such as an international bank transfer).

FOREIGN drivers who break the law in France will be allocated ‘virtual’ points against their driving licence under a new law. These virtual points will be removed for offences, just as they are on French licences, unless they lose all 12 points, in which case they may be barred from driving.  A decree will confirm application dates and detail how it will work.

CHILDREN travelling outside of the country without their parents will, from January 15, have to possess a signed form from a parent authorising them to leave French territory.

Work

EMPLOYEES will be able to take holidays as soon as they have ‘earned’ them, rather than waiting to use them from the following June.

Employers can also now set a new period – such as a calendar year – as the reference period for accrual of holiday rights, as opposed to the holiday year of June 1 to May 31.

EARNINGS ceilings for the micro- entrepreneur small business regime have risen to €82,800 for buying and selling and €33,100 for services and professions libérales.

EMPLOYEES who have worked for a firm for at least a year may now benefit from a right to (unpaid) leave called congé de proche aidant to help someone elderly or handicapped who is living in difficulty.
Unlike the congé de soutien familial (available after two years), which it replaces, it is available to anyone who is close to a person who is elderly and/or handicapped and having problems living autonomously, whether or not they are related to them. Usually of a three-month duration, the leave can also be broken up and used to work part time.

SELF-employed people could pay less in cotisation payments towards healthcare as the government says it intends this year to lower the level. It will apply to those declaring incomes of less than €27,000 a year.

Tax

REGULAR incomes for 2017, such as salaries and pensions, will in effect not be taxed – they must be declared in 2018, but will benefit from a tax credit. This is because 2018 will see the introduction of tax ‘at source’, so the government has decided to avoid double payments of tax in 2018.
However ‘exceptional’ incomes in 2017, such as capital gains, dividends and interest must still be declared and taxed in 2018 as usual.
FIVE million households should see smaller tax demands. Single people with a net income less than €20,500 are expected to benefit and couples with less than €41,000 (increased for families with children by €3,700 per half family quotient part). The maximum 20% off is only for those with less than €18,500/€37,000. Reductions should apply as of January for those who pay in monthly instalments.
TAX offices are now authorised to pay people who provide tip-offs enabling them to identify people who are not declaring their income properly. This trial measure will last two years.
FROM this year online tax declarations will be obligatory for those who previously had net income of €28,000 or more.

Home and daily life

STAMP prices rose on January 1 with a timbre vert 73 centimes, up from 70; a red ‘priority’ stamp is 85, up from 80, and the economy rate, écopli, is 71, from 68. A lettre recommandée is €3.95, up from €3.77.
Posting a 20g letter/birthday card in the EU is up from €1 to €1.10. Heavier cards go from €2 to €2.50.

THIS year (and continuing to 2022) GRDF, the national gas distribution network company, will start rolling out across France its new ‘Gazpar’ smart meters. Similar to the electricity ‘Linky’ smart meter, they allow customers to be charged for actual consumption, not estimates, by sending data to GRDF directly.

Customers will also be able to see their gas usage on a personal space on the company’s website.

CIGARETTE packets face a major change this month as they must all be of neutral appearance with no visible logos or reconisable features. Smokers can also expect price rises too (due to increased taxes) but this may be pushed back from January to May. Rolling tobacco is expected to rise about €1.50 a pack and a pack of cigarettes by about 35 centimes.

Environment

PARIS mayor Anne Hidalgo hopes to clean up the Seine enough to allow people to swim in it this year – as part of a bid to win the 2024 Olympic Games. The winner of the right to host them will be announced this September…
Swimming in the river has officially been banned since 1923 but events have been held at various sites, including a triathlon in 2012.

TAX credits for eco-friendly home improvements, known as CITE, will be continued in 2017. Back-dated to loan offers since March 1, 2016, it is intended they may now be combined with an interest-free eco-loan regardless of your income (previously certain income ceilings applied). This measure was expected to be signed off as law on going to press.

A MOVE to encourage cycling means that from this month all new commercial or industrial buildings which have parking spaces must also
put in place spaces for parking a bike securely. The number of spaces depends on the size of
the building.

CHANGES have been made to the money-off bonus available for people buying hybrid or electric cars and the ‘malus’ penalty for gas-guzzlers.
‘Simple’ hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, which can do very little mileage on electricity alone, will no longer be eligible for the bonus while ‘rechargeable’ ones (which may do dozens of kilometres on electric propulsion) maintain a €1,000 bonus if they have emissions less than 60g/km.

Expensive all-electric cars (those costing more than €40,000) will no longer receive a bonus while those that do will see it fall from €6,300 to €6,000.
Malus penalties now start at a lower emission rate (127g/km), meaning more models will be concerned.
A new, more variable, penalty grid also applies with the maximum now €10,000 for vehicles over 191g/km, up from €8,000 and 201g/km.

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