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Deal, no deal, no Brexit? 2019 will be a big year

This will be a significant year for Britons in France – from the start of a new tax system to (it is hoped) the long-awaited end of the 15-year voting rule for British elections, and a fast-approaching Brexit day (assuming it is not all called off). We look at some of the changes in store for France this year

19 December 2018
By Connexion journalist

Some items, such as certain health and finance matters, were subject to a vote on 2019 budget laws on going to press, but are unlikely to change significantly.

HEALTH

Full reimbursement of a range of quality glasses, hearing aids and dental prosthetics (crowns/bridges) will be phased in from 2019 to 2021. Carried out via state funding and top-up insurance, it is called 100% santé and is open to all residents.

  • Lower earners will see the end of the Aide au Paiement d’une Com­plé­mentaire Santé (ACS) that helps them pay for a top-up health policy. From November 1, those qualifying will move to the CMU-C, which offers ‘free’ healthcare to low earners. Depending on age and means, they will have to pay a monthly contribution of no more than €30.
  • Daily accommodation fees in the Forfait journalier hospitalier that helps cover the cost of a hospital stay rise from €18 to €20.
  • Early diagnosis, monitoring and care of children who may be autistic or have other developmental issues is to be set up and reimbursed.
  • Plans to offer medically-assisted conception to all women, including same-sex couples, will be debated this year as part of a bioethics law.
  • The first posts will be created for assistants médicaux, who will be fund- ed to support GPs and specialists in areas with a shortage of doctors. They will assist by welcoming patients, taking blood pressure, making appoint­ments with specialists, billing etc.
  • A three-year experiment starts in which some A&Es will be paid for sending patients who are not emergency cases to see a GP instead.
  • Trials of flu jabs in pharmacies are being extended to two further regions in winter 2018-2019 (Hauts-de-France and Occitanie) with a view to the measure being rolled out everywhere in winter 2019-2020. 

Prices for a cigarette pack rise by 50 centimes in March and then again in November.

EDUCATIONAL AND TRAINING

Schooling will become obligatory for all from the age of three from the 2019 rentrée in September.

Continuous training credits in the Compte personnel de formation (CPF) that employees, jobseekers and self-employed people now build up will this year consist of a value in euros rather than an amount of hours. During the second half of the year, an app will be launched that will allow credit-holders to manage purchases of training, which can include online learning but must consist of approved courses leading to a certificate.

SPORT

The tour de France starts from Brus­sels, the capital of Belgium (and the EU). The Grand Départ will be on Satur­day July 6 and the route will cross north-eastern France before heading south-west to the Pyrénées.
The closing stages will be in the Alps before the riders fly to the Ile-de-France for the traditional finale along the Champs-Elysées in Paris on July 28.

  • Prices of a national hunting licence are set to drop – though on going to press there was debate about the final fee. President Macron had spoken of halving it from around €400 to €200, but it might end up at €210 to €240, some sources said. Most hunters do not have this type of licence but rather hunt under a depart-
  • mental licence.
  • Golfers face a new set of competition rules as new international modifications are brought in. Details can be found at tinyurl.com/y8dkeeqs (French) or tinyurl.com/yawye5tw (R&A, English).
    They set a new time restriction for searching for a lost ball, down from five to three minutes, and a player dropping a ball after it lands in an unplayable place (dropper la balle) should let it fall from knee height instead of the shoulder.
  • The Fifa Women’s World Cup will be held in nine cities from June 7 to July 7. It opens in Paris and the final is at the Stade des Lumières in Lyon suburb Décines-Charpieu.
Tour de France will start from Brussels and have three finishes above 2,000m

HOME AND DAILY LIFE

The tax credit scheme for eco-friendly home improvements will now include 50% against the cost of removing an oil-fired boiler and a credit of 30% towards the cost of the labour (including VAT) for putting in alternatives, such as a wood-burner or heat pump.

Aid for low-income families to pay energy bills sees the cheque énergie rise from an average €150 to an average €200 (the amount depends on income, family size and energy use). Minimum and maximum amounts are also rising, from €48 to €76 and from €227 to €277. Those eligible should be sent a cheque in the post.

New ‘one-stop shops’ will help those who employ a home worker, such as a cleaner or gardener, with social security fund Urssaf managing payments.

From March parents who pay childminders can use pajemploi.urssaf.fr and others can use cesu-urssaf.fr from June, to opt not only to have social charges paid out of their bank account but also the salary. At-source tax for workers in the home is deferred a year to 2020 when the levies can then also be taken automatically via these sites.

A new law will be passed to allow faster removal of offensive (racist, sexist, homophobic…) material from social media.

Families with a disabled child with the AEEH education benefit will see the Complément mode de garde rise by 30%; a gain of up to €140 for families employing childcare workers.

Prices of red stamps rise 10 centimes to €1.05, while the green stamp rises eight centimes to 88 centimes. La Poste says it needs to compensate for declining volumes (a red stamp was 55 centimes in 2009). There will now be three centimes off for those who print stamps at home via La Poste’s website. A 20g letter in the EU is also rising by 10 centimes to €1.30 and there will no longer be a different price for the rest of the world, just a single international rate – meaning the price for the UK should not rise after Brexit.

An EU regulation on matrimonial regimes comes into force on January 29, 2019. It will no longer be possible for a British person in France to change their regime only for property in France. It will now have to apply to their worldwide estate. The change is not retrospective.

Under an EU proposal, countries may be asked to decide by March 31 if they wish to retain their winter time all year round – in which case they would change clocks for the last time in October – or summer time (the last change would be in March).

TRANSPORT

  • Plans to raise fuel prices on January 1 by 3 centimes/litre on diesel and 6 centimes/litre on petrol –  targets of the gilets jaunes protests – have been cancelled by the prime minister. A temporary cap has also been set on electricity and gas prices.
  • Similarly, new stricter emissions rules in the Contrôle technique (MOT) have been suspended for six months.
  • A new law on transport will be debated in the spring. 
    One measure sets stricter rules on car-sharing payments: if a fee is set for a single passenger then a set reduction will apply for each extra passenger
    Another plan would remove péage barriers in favour of number plate recognition ,with drivers billed by direct debit. Tests are under way on the A4 Paris-Strasbourg motorway.
    Employers are already encouraged to help staff who come to work by car or public transport. In the new law they will be urged to offer up to €400/year to those using car-share or bicycle. It may also allow lone women travellers to ask bus drivers to request a halt between stops for better safety.

From January prime à la conversion for scrapping an old car and buying a greener one is doubled for the 20% lowest-income families and for workers who drive at least 60km/day to go to work. It is up to €4,000 for buying a low-emission diesel or petrol car, either new or second hand (the prime is €2,000 for other families who do not pay tax, or €1,000 for those who do). Amounts are higher for electric or (new this year) hybrid cars.

  • The malus (financial penalty) applied to polluting cars will also now apply to pick-ups, apart from ones used by artisans for their work.
  • From winter 2019/2020, drivers in some mountain areas may be obliged by law to use winter tyres. Prefects will list the communes affected.
  • 4G internet reception will be available in the Lyon metro this year.

Both Easyjet and Ryanair are opening new bases in France.

CULTURE AND EVENTS

  • Elton John will play four French dates in Lille, Paris, Bordeaux and Nîmes for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. The Lille event is June 18, with Paris on June 20, Bordeaux June 22, and Nîmes on June 23
  • This year is the 350th anniversary of the Opéra National de Paris since it was created as the Académie Royale de Musique by Louis XIV.
  • A stage show in honour of Johnny Hallyday is to open in Paris by the end of the year at the Casino de Paris music hall in the 9th arrondissement.
  • Replica 18th Century frigate the Hermione will voyage around the north from April to July, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. She will take part in nautical festivals from May 23-27 at Saint-Nazaire and Nantes and in Rouen on June 7.
Farewell, not Goodbye, as Elton John plays his last concerts in France

WORK/EMPLOYMENT

Small businesses with turnover of less than €5,000 will not have to pay the CFE business tax from this year. In addition, micro-entreprises with a turnover of under €5,000 will no longer need to have a dedicated bank account – unless they exceed this threshold two years in a row.

Included in the 2019 Finance Law, being finalised on going to press, is a measure replacing two income tax credits, CICE and CITS, with a permanent six percentage point cut in the health social charges on salaries up to 2.5 times the Smic minimum wage.

Another measure is halting social charges on overtime from September 1, estimated to give an average €200 per year per worker (as more pay goes into their pocket). President Macron told gilet jaunes protestersthis will also apply to income tax.

  • An option for firms to pay impôt sur les sociétés (corporation tax) instead of income tax will no longer be irreversible. A lowering of the rates of impôt sur les sociétés under way since 2017 will continue, with the rates being 28% for the first €500,000 of profit and then 31%.
  • The Accre scheme, which gives reduced social charges to those starting or taking over a business under conditions linked to age or claiming unemployment or other welfare benefits, is to be opened to all with a sole criteria of means (net annual income of less than €40,000).  Renamed exonération de début d’activité, it will be for the first year only or for micro-entrepreneurs it may be extended to three. As now, it will be an exemption if your income is under a certain level (€30,393), or otherwise a reduction above that.
  • As the Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI) was abolished (with transitional arrangements) in 2018, self-em­ployed people who start a new business this year will be covered by the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie for sickness insurance, as for employees. This has no effect on social charges or their health cover.
  • The list of types of self-employed work requiring affiliation to Cipav for pension cotisations is much reduced for new businesses. Remaining sectors include architects, ski instructors and osteopaths. The others should join the Sécurité Sociale des Indépendants (which has replaced RSI).
  • Prime d’activité, a top-up for low-earning workers, is being increased for those with work-related incomes of 0.5-1.2 x the Smic minimum wage. There will be up to a maximum €30 a month extra by June for a single person on the Smic.
  • Following gilets jaunes protests President Macron promised workers on the Smic they would get an extra €100/month though the precise means of doing this was not confirmed.
  • Senators will discuss the PACTE Law in January. It includes simpler patents procedures; creating a vetting system and whitelist and legal framework for ICOs (‘initial coin offerings’ where people can invest in something via a new cryptocurrency); rules for more self-driving car experiments; and a plan to pool public and private expertise to advance this technology.

The right to paid maternity leave for self-employed women is extended to give equality with employees, ie. a total of four months, or 16 weeks, up from 10. Maternity pay is around €54/day. Those taking paid maternity leave must stop work for at least 56 days, up from 44.

  • The ARPE, a benefit for certain people aged under 28 seeking a first job, has been abolished.
  • Businesses with a CSE committee representing the employees (which from 2020 will include all those with at least 11 employees) should now designate one member to have responsibility for combating sexual harassment and sexism. Employers must also post up a text regarding the laws on sexual harassment and refer to these in recruitment and training.

Ceilings for micro-entrepreneurs will not change this year.

Micro-entre­preneurs who use the simplified tax system, paying monthly or three-monthly based on turnover, are not affected by the new at-source taxation but those declaring annually will pay instalments by direct debit based on 2017 income declared in 2018. Instal­ments will be readjusted in Septem­ber after the spring declaration of 2018’s income. Those who start businesses during the year can either volunteer to start paying instalments, or wait for the adjustment in September 2020.

  • Set-up courses for people starting an artisan business will now be optional, with the cost falling from an average €250 for a week’s course to €194.
  • Self-employed people who have to close a business due to going into receivership or bankruptcy will be able to claim unemployment benefit. 
    Under certain conditions (including having been in the job five years) people who resign to retrain or to start or take over a business will also be able to claim benefit (called allocation d’aide au retour à l’emploi projet)

TAX AND MONEY

  • A tax on borrower’s insurance that people take out when taking a loan to buy a property will be extended from January 1 on new policies. This tax, at 9%, was already applied to the guarantees for loss of job or disability and will now also be applied to the death insurance portion, increasing the overall cost by around €2-3/month. 
    It will go towards social housing and helps compensate for a loss of revenue from a business tax that now applies only to those with 50 or more employees, compared to 20 before.
  • The exit tax on latent capital gains of wealthy business owners leaving France, formerly payable up to 15 years after a person left France if they then sold shares in a French business, will now only be payable for two to five years (for the wealthiest). MPs raised this after the government proposed two years for all. In January complementary pension regimes for management and other workers will merge – to be called Agirc-Arrco. Rights obtained before this will be unchanged and pension ‘point’ values will be aligned with the Arrco ones. For most workers it will mean a small increase in charges with no increase in pension. 
    A new bonus-malus will encourage people to continue to work after they can retire on a full pension. Those retiring immediately receive 10% less “complementary pension” in the first three years (5% for those on small pensions), up to age 67 at the most, while those working on for two or more years obtain 10-30% extra, payable only in the first year.
  • The fusion will benefit managers’ widow/ers as a non-means-tested pension de réversion will be available from age 55, whereas it was 60 for Agirc.
  • Certain tabacs are to offer bitcoin and ethereum cryptocurrencies.

Basic salaries of fonctionnaires are to be frozen this year (though rises based on service will remain).

Legal changes will affect rights of people living in copropriété flats, including possible fines for syndics who delay sending residents documents such as contracts and invoices, and a postal vote option for people who cannot get to a residents’ AGM.

PROPERTY

Zero interest eco-loans will be prolonged and opened up to more projects, with people no longer needing to do multiple kinds of renovation. The repayment period is extended to 15 years, no matter how many works were done and it will be for homes at least two years old, while previously it was for those built before 1990.

Housing benefits APL, ALF and ALS will rise less than inflation. Also, as of April, officials will use the last 12 months of income to calculate eligibility and not income two years before based on the income tax declaration.

SHOPPING

Galeries Lafayette is opening a new store on the Champs-Elysées in spring on the former Virgin Megastore site. Some 300 ‘personal stylists’ are being trained to help customers.

POLITICS AND BREXIT

Unless there is a last-minute change due to a snap general election, an MPs’ vote or another referendum, the UK will leave the European Union on Friday, March 29, at midnight French time.

If the Brexit deal was agreed by British MPs in December, the last hurdle will be a vote by MEPs in February or March.

If a withdrawal agreement is in place, a transition period will last until the end of 2020, when nothing should change in terms of rights of Britons in France.

Britons would have until July 2021 to apply for a card proving their right to benefit from it.

Those with EU citizen cartes de séjour may be required to exchange them. If a no-deal scenario looks likely, the French government is expected to pass laws to deal with this before Brexit day, including ones helping secure the right of existing British residents to continue to live and work in France.

  • European elections will be held on May 23-26. British people will not be able to take part.
  • A referendum could take place on whether or not the department of Loire-Atlantique should join Brittany.
  • A bill to end the 15-year limit on Britons voting from abroad may finally be passed by the UK Parliament early this year.
  • British MP Sir Roger Gale has proposed it be known as Shindler’s Law, for campaigner Harry Shindler who will be 98 in July.
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