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7 facts about tax in France that may surprise you

Did you know that in recent years more than half of French households did not actually pay income tax? 

The May/June deadlines for filing your income tax return in France are fast approaching. Whether you are a veteran of French form-filling or just arrived at the paperwork party, it's time to start thinking about what you will need to declare.

We've compiled a few interesting facts about tax in France below to help you prepare (or at least provide some light entertainment in-between calculations). Don't forget you can also refer to our new Income Tax in France Help Guide 2021 where we have gathered the essential tax information for residents and property owners in France in one easy-to-read handbook. 

1. Most people in France do not actually pay any income tax

Official figures released last year stated that more than half (56%) of households did not pay income tax, a figure which has been gradually rising in recent years. In fact, 2013 was the last time more households paid than did not - and even then it was only slightly more.

The far-left party La France Insoumise wants everyone to pay something however small, in proportion to their means, the idea being that everyone will then feel they are contributing.

2. French income tax is not une taxe but un impôt

Legally-speaking, an impôt raises funds towards central or local government expenses but is not linked to paying for any specific service and does not give rise to any specific benefits. Une taxe is levied in return for providing a service, such as la taxe sur l’enlèvement des ordures ménagères for removing rubbish, whether or not you actually use it. Confusingly, some levies called ‘taxe’ (eg. TVA, taxe foncière) are actually impôts…

3. Income tax in France is generally lower than in the UK

This is correct but France makes up for it with the social charges - additional levies that go towards funding its social security and welfare system. They are sometimes compared to the UK’s national insurance but are levied on many kinds of income, not just work, and in many cases provide no direct personal benefits.

4. French tax declarations are by household and not by the individual

Adult children can remain part of the foyer fiscal until age 25 if they are studying, while dependent disabled people can also be part of the household whatever their age. The more dependent people in your foyer the more your tax is reduced by a mechanism called the quotient familial.

5: At-source taxation is now in place but everyone still has to make an annual declaration in addition

The annual declaration  – which most people now complete online – takes into account any due tax credits. It is used to check you have paid the right amount considering all worldwide incomes, and to reassess your tax-at-source rate.

6: Paying income tax is simpler than it used to be

If once you make your annual declaration you still have something to pay in addition to your at-source tax, officials just take a direct debit from your bank account. You can also pay an outstanding regulating tax, if less than €300, at a Tabac (this is known as a paiement de proximité).

7. A total of €72.7billion was raised for the state’s coffers from income tax in 2020

This was slightly less than that raised by VAT. The money goes generally to funding public spending in the central government’s budget in areas such as education, justice, health etc.

Read our latest articles about taxes in France

How to declare French rental income

The time is now to reap the benefits of tax planning in France

Money and Tax February updates for Britons in France

How France defines tax residency

Income Tax in France Help Guide 2021 - Available to pre-order now 

Resident or second-home owner in France?
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The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Income Tax in France 2023 (for 2022 income)*
Featured Help Guide
- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - but also contains significant general information pertinent 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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