Your Brexit questions: Second homes in France

Will capital gains tax change? What visa should we get to stay twice in one year? Why do I need to pay a new fee to sell now?... 

8 February 2021
By Liv Rowland

Will taxes on the sale of a second home in France change now because of the Brexit deal?

Yes, due to Brexit there are changes in the capital gains tax regime on sale of a French second home of a British resident.

They will pay higher French social charges of 17.2% instead of a reduced rate of 7.5% on the capital gain as they can no longer benefit from a rule giving reduced charges for those attached to an EU social security regime.

This means a total 36.2% charge (including 19% capital gains tax) as opposed to 26.5% for EU residents.

See also below the question about a représentant fiscal.
                          

What are the best options, in terms of visas, for making two trips to our second home in France in 2021? One would be for nine weeks in March and the other for 16 weeks in June.

The best bet in this situation would probably be to make use of the 90/180-days rule for the first trip and apply for a temporary long-stay visa via the French consular services for the second stay.

The default rule for non-EU citizens, that applies to Britons now, is the right to stay as a tourist/visitor for up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period without specific formalities (there is no separate legal category of 'second-home owner' as opposed to other visitors). There would be no problem, therefore with the first trip.

The difficulty is the second trip, which you plan to follow fairly soon after the first, so you would need to obtain a visa for that.

Applications should be made no more than three months before the planned start of the trip and take around two weeks to be processed, The Connexion was told by French officials.

Note however that as part of this process you will be asked to take paperwork in person to an office in the UK, in Manchester, London or Edinburgh, so it would most likely work best to apply immediately on returning to the UK from the first trip or just before.

Time spent in France on a visa is not calculated in the 90/180-day visiting period, so this should work for you.

Bear in mind though that if you take the full periods you mention you risk staying more than half the year in France and being considered to have become a French tax resident this year, so you may want to adjust the exact periods accordingly.               

I came to France at the end of October 2020. I am a second-home owner. May I stay 90 days from January 1 to March or will my days before Christmas 2020 count in my 90 days?

The rules for staying in France as an EU citizen or ‘third country’ citizen are completely different and Britons’ status changed to the latter on January 1.

The rule for an EU citizen is they may stay for up to three months with no restrictions and after that can stay on indefinitely as long as they have healthcare cover and, if they are not working in France, are not a financial burden on the French social welfare system in the first five years. No residency card or visa is required for them.

The rule for third-country citizens of nationalities exempt from a visitor visa (which includes Britons) is they may stay for up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period after which visas (and in the longer term residency cards), become applicable.

The Connexion believes that as your status changed on January 1 and you were previously staying in France legally under EU citizen rules due to the Brexit transition period, then the 180-day period will start rolling from then.

However we have asked the British Embassy in Paris and the French Interior Ministry if they can confirm this point and will do a separate update article on this if necessary. As it is a matter of some urgency for you now we would also suggest you also contact their consular services about your specific situation.

The British consular services in France can be contacted via an online form. The services also have contact information online for the consulates in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille
                        

I am a second-home owner, and I understand that second-home owners who want to spend more than three months in France have to obtain a visa de long séjour 'visiteur'. I checked on the French government website, and it appeared that the visiteur visa is only possible for special categories, like having a relative in France, or being a religious representative?

There are several points to clarify here, firstly the difference between a visa and a residency card.

From previous experience, we would infer that you looked at the information on obtaining a visiteur residency card, which refers to the situations you mention. With regard to that point, we agree that the wording could be clearer, however officials previously told us that these are only examples of reasons you might apply for one of these cards and they do not exclude other categories.

The key point for someone remaining in France with visiteur status is they must be able to support themselves as they will not be working or seeking work in France.

However a residency card is not the same as a visa. All third-country citizens, which now includes Britons, coming to France need a visa from the French consular service in the UK before coming if their intent is to stay longer than the 90-day rule allows.

Only those wanting to stay on in France as their main homes long-term need to apply at a later date for a residency card.

The appropriate visa for you would be a visa de long séjour temporaire, valid for a stay of up to six months. You can apply for this at on the main French visas website. See also this and last month's editions of The Connexion for more on visas, and/or our helpguide to Brexit and beyond for Britons in France.                      

My notaire dealing with the sale of my French residence informs me that because the sale price is over €150,000 the transaction needs to be rubber stamped by a représentant fiscal at a cost of €900 which would not have applied pre-Brexit. What is the purpose of such an additional sales cost and can one negotiate this charge?

It is correct that when selling as a third country resident an owner of a property in France should also use a représentant fiscal, a financial professional, to act as their intermediary in France in the capital gains tax process if the sale is for an amount of more than €150,000.

Their fees are around 0.5-1% of the sale price and vary from one firm to another. You should not be obliged to use a particular firm or individual if you find one whose fees are more reasonable than one suggested by the notaire.

The close relationship between EU countries means that this extra safeguard is not asked for where the seller lives in the EU.

The representative carries out certain formalities related to payment of the capital gains tax and pays the money over on your behalf.

Their name must be mentioned in the declaration of the capital gain, which will usually be done by your notaire.
                        

Are there likely to be any restrictions on the number of times one can apply for a long stay visa, or whether one has to wait a certain period of time before reapplying for one?

As mentioned in the previous question on making two long trips to France in a year, the main restriction if you do not want to become a French tax resident and for your second home to be considered to have become your main home, is to avoid spending most of the year in France.

If you do this then it creates a presumption that you have ‘moved to France’ (though several other matters relating to your attachments to one country or the other can also be taken into account).

Otherwise, no there are no specific restrictions on the number of temporary long-stay visa applications that you can make or the timing of these. When you apply for one you will be asked your intentions and a visa for a second-home owner will generally be issued for a period appropriate to their needs, for four to six months in duration (there are a few limited circumstances where they are issued for 12 months, such as for doing voluntary service in France).

Each visa application can only be made no more than three months before the planned start date of the relevant trip and the process reportedly takes about two weeks.

Previous articles

Your Brexit questions: Visas and travel to France

How to obtain a visa to move to France

The EU's 90/180-day rule: How does it work?

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