Second-home owners France: Can tax be reduced as Covid stopped visits?

MP asks question in French parliament as lockdown rules in 2020 prevented use for at least 75 days

14 April 2021
Country homes in autumn. Second-home owners France: Can tax be reduced as Covid stopped visits?

Many second-home owners in France were unable to spend time in their properties due to travel restrictions Pic: @michellabeaume / Michel Labeaume / Unsplash

By Joanna York

Lockdowns and 100km travel restrictions imposed by the government in 2020 due to the pandemic made it impossible for many people with second homes in France to access their properties.

As the lack of access was the result of government regulations, rather than through choice, questions have been raised over whether second-home owners should pay reduced rates of taxe d’habitation on these properties for the 2020 tax year. 

MP Nathalie Serre estimated that people living in France who wanted to visit their second homes in the countryside were unable to due to restrictions for a “minimum period of 75 days” in 2020. 

She asked parliament: “[Will there be] an exceptional reduction in taxes for homeowners who could not access their properties during this time?”

People living abroad with second homes in France may have been unable to visit their properties for even longer periods, due to the added complication of international travel rules relating to Covid-19. 

Taxe d’habitation is charged on primary residences and second homes, based on who is listed as resident in the property (or having the right to reside in it) on January 1 of the tax year in question.

The tax office has said that this rule will not change for the 2020 tax year, even for second-home owners who were not able to access their properties. 

It said the tax applied “whether the property is occupied as a main or second home” regardless of the amount of time residents had spent in the property.

Note that second-home owners do not benefit from the general exemption from taxe d’habitation that is being progressively applied to main-home owners in France depending on income level. It remains payable by them in full.

Second-home owners also, like main-home owners, have to pay the taxe foncière, however this tax is related to ownership of property, not occupation, which may explain why no questions were raised regarding it.

This comes as top French administrative authority the Conseil d’Etat has issued a reminder that may also come as bad news for second-home owners.

Homeowners with a property in a zone that uses public rubbish removal services (service d’enlèvement des ordures ménagères) must pay the relevant taxes, even if they did not use the service in 2020.

It said the payment was a tax, rather than money owed for a service provided, and as such was not eligible for exemption.

Related stories 

France second home-owners: Up to €457 for Covid tests to visit from UK

France second homes: Is there a change for visits from UK?

Brexit and Covid 'silver lining' for home sales in France

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