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Taking on the tax office in France

If you completed your tax return in May, you can look forward to the bill, the avis d’impôts, about now. If everything is as expected then be happy you have made your contribution to the republic and relax until next May.But if it is much more than forecast, what next?

We have many more tax office battles every year, ever more numerous and longer to get to the right decision (ie. agreeing with us!).

We have also seen far fewer errors, where the declarations have been made online, and it also makes corrections easier.

First thing to remember is that the tax office may be right, so be kind and courteous when visiting to state your view. Offer your gratitude if they quickly acknowledge and correct immediately. It is not a good idea to be on bad terms with your local tax office.

The main error we see is the application of social charges, most often to UK rental income, but also to pensions where the payer has a valid S1. In both cases, social charges should not be applied but often are.

For UK rental income, the social charge is calculated and applied but then another line ought to offer a tax credit equal to the amount of the calculated charge. For pensions, it should simply not show at all, with no line for a tax credit.

So, what to do if you are sure there is an error?

Whatever you decide to do, do it quickly.

  • Emailing the tax office as the quickest way to register concerns. If the office is efficient this can work well. Your avis d’impôts has a tax office email like sip.(town name)
  • The site, is also easy. Log in to your account selecting ‘Effectuer une démarche > faire une réclamation > réclamation sur l’impôt sur le revenu’.
  • If you speak French or have someone happy to help, visiting the tax office can give the quickest result. Call or email for an appointment with an inspector to avoid a wait. If busy, turning up and taking a ticket is the only way.
    Usually a face-to-face meeting works well. If lucky you can get a correction, a dégrèvement, then and there. But what if they disagree and say the demand stands?
  • Send a registered letter. You have met the inspector and they disagree but to progress you need the tax demand to be placed formally in contention. You can do this with the inspector but these verbal requests may ‘get lost’.
    A formal letter sent recommandé avec accusé de réception, must be acknowledged and cannot be ignored. With written evidence that the demand is in contention, you can take it to the next step.
  • The conciliateur fiscal. This is a department of the same office but if you are clear on why tax is not payable and lay your argument out clearly, they will review it and 95% of the time rule in your favour, granting the dégrèvement. If not...
  • The Médiateur is a regional office that can overrule your tax office. This will take time, so the next problem is what to do about the bill, as the payment deadline will often have passed.
  • This can be stressful. If the bill is affordable, we say to pay and claim it back. If the demand is in contention there is rarely a problem, but going to the mediator does not halt the payment demand and the treasury will take it from your bank… with penalties (although these will also be reimbursed if you win). 
    It takes three to four months for mediation, but it can take longer. What if they say no?
  • Legal action, but for us it has never come to this. Mediation is slow but thorough. If your claim is rejected you must take rapid professional advice and be certain you have a claim.

What about next year?

File communications neatly and in order to make any future meetings easy. Log exact dates and times of conversations, in detail. If the mistake is repeated – it happens often – it is good to know you can easily remind them of what happened this year to save time and trouble.

This column was written by Robert Kent of Kentingtons financial advisers.


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Income Tax in France 2023 (for 2022 income)*
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- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - and contains general information relevant to readers of other nationalities - Overview of online declarations + step-by-step guide to the French printed forms - Includes updates given automatically after this year's site opened
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