French authorities could be on shaky ground if they fined homeowners for not filing the mandatory property form by June 30, a lawyer has suggested.
Around 34 million homeowners will need to complete the form so that the authorities have up-to-date information on properties and how they are used to ensure that taxe d’habitation – which is now only levied on second homes – is being charged correctly.
Those who miss the deadline could in theory face a €150 fine, although tax authorities have told The Connexion they will adopt an easy-going attitude this year will not impose penalties in 2023.
Nevertheless, a lawyer has been explaining why - even authorities wanted to - any sanctions imposed could be contested.
‘Mandatory nature could be contested’
Béatrice Hingand told Les Échos it all hinged on the fact the government had yet to publish a decree regarding the mandatory property form in Le Journal officiel, which is where the legislative and regulatory texts of the French Republic appear.
If the decree is not published before June 30 “the administration could not sanction those who had not made the first declaration”, added Ms Hingand, a member of the Cercle des fiscalistes think tank.
She stressed, however, that if the decree is published before the form’s current June 30 deadline, the sanction would be legal.
Ms Hingand cites two key articles from the French Tax Code – Article 1418 and Article 1770 terdecies, which relate to the creation of the new declaration.
The former requires a list of ‘procedures’ for new taxes and declarations to be set out, whilst the latter deals with fines that can be levied for non-submission or omission of information for these new additions.
They both require, however, a more specific decree to be published about any new declarations or taxes created by authorities – which in the case of the property form, has not yet been done.
Without a published decree, the lawyer believes there is no legal justification for any punishments or sanctions if the form is not completed.
“The Civil Code is very clear. A legislative text for which an application decree is foreseen only takes effect as of the publication of this decree,” said the lawyer.
“So at present, without a decree, the mandatory nature of this property declaration could be contested,” she added, ultimately removing the ability of the government to fine those who did not complete it until the decree is published.
Ms Hingand warned, however, that there is still a chance for the decree to be published before June 30, which would validate the deadline and mandatory aspect of the form.
With that being said, the DGFiP announced recently that fines for non-submission of the form would not be dished out until January 2024, although they urged property owners to still complete the declaration before the June 30 deadline, as it may affect future taxes levied on the property.
Why has the decree not been published?
This raises the question then, of why the decree has not already been published.
After all, the declaration was announced in January, and we are now close to entering May, giving ample time for publication of the decree.
Ms Hingand thinks the lack of a decree could be related to the fact it is a brand new declaration, with authorities hesitant to publish a decree that did not encompass all aspects of the form.
“This absence is neither an oversight nor negligence on the part of the administration. I wonder if [the authorities wanted to wait] until the end of the tax campaign to introduce all the necessary information and processes in this decree;” said the lawyer.
“The risk when texts are issued too quickly is that, as a result of the IT and administrative implementation… additional decrees have to be issued later on,” she added.
In the case of the mandatory property form, this is likely to be the case – it is a completely online, one-off declaration, so authorities may be erring on the side of caution to make sure all their angles are covered.
Are you having issues with the form?
If you are still experiencing some issues with the declaration, The Connexion has compiled a list of all of our articles on the topic here.
This handy page gives you an overview of articles for SCI property owners, second-home owners and non-residents in France, our FAQ, a list of contacts if you are having difficulty with the form and more.
If you have any questions, reach out to the tax authorities, or let us know over at firstname.lastname@example.org