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Refunds due as €600m of French property tax ‘billed to wrong people'

The money will be paid back this year and is said to be in part due to backlogs in registering changes in property ownership since the Covid pandemic

You should check your property tax avis to see if you are owed a refund Pic: HJBC / Shutterstock

An estimated €600million will be paid back this year to owners of French property who were billed for taxe foncière property owners’ tax that was actually owed by someone else, a report for French MPs states.

The government is basing the amount on similar sums paid back over the last five years for the same reason. 

This expense is thought to represent almost half of the money paid back following requests from the public this year, the report for the Assemblée nationale’s finance commission, looking at reimbursements and tax lowerings, notes.

Other additional sums relate for example to complaints about wrong bills or calls for leniency with payment due to extenuating circumstances.

It comes as members of the public have been receiving, and paying, their bills for the taxe foncière property tax, which is levied on all types of home, and which has in the vast majority of cases risen by at least 7.1% this year. The latter was due to an across-the-board rise linked to increases last year in the consumer price index.

As the tax is a local one, it can also rise (or occasionally fall) depending on percentage rates voted annually by local authorities, leading to huge increases this year in some communes.

Errors in calculations can also lead to complaints from homeowners who believe they were overcharged or wrongly charged.

The MPs’ report noted that for 2023 the government had budgeted to have to repay €1.37billion following requests from the public to their tax offices. 

However, it did not break this down between money for recours gracieux, where someone pleads difficult, special circumstances and asks to pay less tax, and recours contentieux, where someone complains that their bill is wrong.

The report noted, however, that this money represents about three-quarters of some €1.87billion that was budgeted for in total refunds and relief for this property tax. The total sum also includes lowerings decided on by parliament for certain groups, such as a €100 reduction for people aged 65-74 on low incomes.

Read more: Exemptions and reductions extended for the taxe foncière

Errors due to outdated property information

The estimated €600million relating to bills being sent to the wrong person, was mostly linked to delays in property registrations at the French land registry service (services de la publicité foncière, SPF). 

This mostly concerns changes of ownership when a property has been sold, where the information detailing the new owner is delayed in being confirmed, meaning the previous owner ends up being charged tax incorrectly.

The report states that delays had increased during the Covid crisis and had not yet returned to normal.

Read more: Hundreds more areas in France to levy ‘vacant home’ tax: what is this?

Other reasons for errors in taxe foncière bills can include errors in the calculation of a property’s surface area or incorrectly including annexe areas as being part of the main living space. 

It was hoped that the level of refunds would drop in future years, as the parliament’s Finance Committee called for a new performance-based objective to reduce the number of administrative errors on bills.

Having said this, current budget figures being used for the 2024 Finance Bill are an estimate of  €1.92billion in total refunds and lowerings for taxe foncière, up 3% on 2023.

How can I check if a mistake was made and claim a refund? 

In most cases, it is up to you to make a complaint to the tax office if you believe there is a mistake with your taxe foncière bill. Occasionally it will notify you, although you cannot guarantee it will do so. 

If the amount charged seems to you likely to be incorrect, look carefully at your property tax notice (avis de taxe foncière) for anything that appears to be an error.

You can either send the tax office a letter explaining what you believe the mistake to be (alongside some evidence proving your claim) – the address where you need to send this letter will be at the top of your property tax notice.

Alternatively, you can send a message through your personal space on the French tax website (impots.gouv.fr) – after logging in, click on 'Ma messagerie sécurisée' and then 'Je signale une erreur sur le calcul de mon impôt'. 

As with a physical letter, you should attach evidence with your claim – evidence can include proof of sale of a property before January 1 of this year, as well as evidence of the size of your property and other extensions that have been miscalculated. 

Related articles: 

How long do I need to keep old French documents?

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