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France prepares ‘tax buffer’ for victims of wildfire property damage

Measures could include a delay in paying income tax contributions as well as a suspension of property-related taxes

People in France whose homes have been damaged by fire are in line to receive certain tax breaks. Picture is representative and does not necessarily show a property in France Pic: Edler von Rabenstein / Shutterstock

People in France whose homes have been damaged by wildfires this summer are to receive financial support by way of tax breaks, France’s minister of public accounts has announced. 

Gabriel Attal laid out three primary measures aimed at helping people. 

These include a delay on when income tax must be paid, a possible suspension of property-related taxes - taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation - and a potential lowering of the valeur locative cadastrale, a theoretical rental value used by the tax office to calculate these taxes. 

Read more: Which French households must still pay some taxe d’habitation in 2022?

The delay to income tax payments is to be a one-off measure. The application and duration of the other two proposed measures has not yet been set out. 

If taxe foncière and taxe d'habitation are suspended for the upcoming year then the benefit of lowering of the valeur locative cadastrale will not immediately be useful. 

Businesses could also be in line for ‘tax deferrals’ and faster reimbursement of VAT or other tax credits. 

Mr Attal said that a special unit would be created within the next week in partnership with Urssaf, the network tasked with collecting social security contributions, to plan the proposed ‘tax buffer’. 

61,000 hectares of forest burned

France has faced a series of massive wildfires this summer, caused by soaring temperatures, droughts and the irresponsible or illegal behaviour of individuals. 

Read more: MAP: How to see where wildfires are in France in real time

It is not clear how many homes or buildings in total have been damaged in the fires this year and how many people will be eligible for the tax breaks. 

Read more: Homes destroyed as south-west France wildfire reignites overnight

Tens of thousands of people have had to be evacuated from their homes due to the blazes at various times this summer. 

Over 61,000 hectares of forest have burned in the country since the beginning of the year, figures from the European Union's Earth observation programme Copernicus show

This is the equivalent to 0.11% of France’s territory. The average yearly percentage between 2006 and 2021 was 0.02%. 

Read more: France’s wildfires rage on as minister warns of more to come

The enormous wildfire in Gironde that ravaged 7,400 hectares over the past week has now been classified as “contained”. 

The fire spread in the forest around Landiras, just south of Bordeaux, forcing around 8,000 people to flee their homes. It was one of the biggest blazes of this summer. 

Rain over the weekend and a drop in temperatures helped the firefighters to contain the fire. 

There are still over 700 on hand to monitor further outbreaks. Marc Vermeulen, head of Gironde firefighters, said he was glad the fire was now under control but warned that a “controlled fire does not mean an extinguished fire”, saying firefighters there must remain cautious. 

Another fire that broke out around Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes (Pyrénées-Orientales) on Sunday night is also now under control, authorities there have said. 

Since the beginning of the summer, 25 people have been arrested on suspicion of having started forest fires in France, four of which have now been convicted.

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