As explained in my previous Connexion articles on France’s new Prélèvement à la Source (‘at source’) tax system which is due to begin next year, the key reason for it is to match the timing of the tax payment with the period in which the income is earned – in simplified terms, to bring in real-time taxation.
Under the current system there is a time lag as income tax is paid in the year following the one in which the income is earned.
However if the system changed with no other adjustment, we would have a situation of double taxation in 2019, with the ‘at source’ tax being levied at the same time as tax in arrears for income earned in 2018.
To avoid this the government is going to issue a tax credit for the 2018 year tax assessment. Hence this is known as une année blanche (blank tax year) because the tax credit should have the effect of cancelling the 2019 assessment of the 2018 income so that your 2018 income escapes French tax.
In other words employees and pensioners will suffer tax in 2019 on their 2019 income (salaries or pensions) but not 2018 ones.
However this comes with a few provisos. Firstly, we will still be obliged to file our annual returns in May/June 2019 to report our 2018 earnings. The French government will assess the 2018 income and apply to the resulting tax a tax credit which will be equal to the highest tax paid for the previous three years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
‘Exceptional’ (one-off) incomes (should you have had any) will not benefit from the tax credit and there will be a separate assessment to recoup any additional tax for these. This would include pension lumps sums and one-off capital gains.
This question was answered by Olaf Muscat Baron who is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Accountants UK, a French expert comptable and an International tax advisor. He is the principal accountant of Fiscaly, an accountancy firm based in the Dordogne.
See www.fiscaly.fr or call 09 81 09 00 15