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Can we avoid a French tax return if we rescind our residency cards?

We look at the implications of swapping your Withdrawal Agreement cartes de séjour for visas de long séjour

Tax returns are an annual chore for many in France Pic: HJBC / Shutterstock

Reader question: We have a house in France. If we swap our Withdrawal Agreement cartes de séjour for visas de long séjour, will that mean we can avoid making a French income declaration?

A carte de séjour is for a person with the right to ongoing residency in France and means you have made your main home here before applying, whereas a visa de long-séjour is applied for by non-EU nationals moving to France and/or who want to come for long stays, typically up to six months at a time. In the latter case this is a visa de long séjour temporaire (VLST).

You are concerned about whether having a Withdrawal Agreement (WA) residency card means you are eligible to declare income to France for tax. 

Firstly, you should bear in mind that even if you have a right to live in France (in this case via a carte de séjour) it does not automatically mean that you will also need to file a tax return in the country. 

The necessity to fill out a tax return is based on whether you are a tax resident in France, which is subject to specific rules.

The most important thing to point out here is that filing a French tax return is not a choice – if you fall under the requirements to file one, you must do so.

To be classed a resident of France for tax purposes (résident fiscal de France) there are four main tests which are looked at:

  • Is your main home in France?
  • If a ‘main home’ cannot be identified, then the rules consider whether you live habitually in France and spend more time there than anywhere else
  • Whether your centre of ‘economic interests’ is in France (for example, if you make more money in France than elsewhere) 
  • Do you run a business in France?

As you have a carte de séjour specifically for British citizens living in France before Brexit – that was designed to help them retain residency rights they previously held due to being EU citizens – it is possible the tax authorities could consider your primary residence to be in France. 

However, this is not necessarily the case and we have no specific evidence that tax offices are chasing up holders of these cards.

If on the other hand you are a resident in France for tax purposes, this means all your worldwide income has to be declared to France, even if it comes from the UK.

This does not mean you will be double taxed on your income. The UK-France double tax treaty contains rules clarifying how this works (The Connexion also has an annual guide to income tax in France).

Note that having to complete a tax return in France does not necessarily mean you will be taxed, just that you need to declare your income to the state.

Read more: Do UK or French inheritances need to be declared on French tax return?

Why some WA card holders may not be French tax residents

If you have a five-year Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Card (the card given to those not living in France for five years before Brexit came into force), this grants you the right to live in France for the duration of the card’s validity.

As a general rule it is unnecessary to ‘renounce’ a card you have been awarded, though we note that according to the Brexit WA, holders of this residency permit who want to eventually upgrade to the permanent residency card (which actually lasts for ten years but can be easily renewed) should not leave France for more than six months of the year apart from if there are ‘important reasons’ for doing so. These include absences of up to 12 months for pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, study or vocational training or a posting abroad.

Having said that, from information received from the French Interior Ministry, documents for renewal for a permanent card in France are minimal. It would not, however, be appropriate to do so if you have moved back to the UK.

‘Permanent stay’ cards are issued for 10 years and holders maintain their French residency rights as long as they are not away from France for more than five years. As a result, it is quite possible for some holders to currently be UK tax residents, for example if they have moved back to the UK since receiving the card. 

You could always keep your current permit until it expires and then not renew it – after this, if you are living in the UK at this stage you will be able to apply for visas to visit your second home for periods of more than three months at a time.

As mentioned above, there are visas that second-home owners can apply for that allow holders to spend up to six months at a time in France (very occasionally up to one year). 

After this, they must leave and a future visa period cannot start before six months after expiry of the previous one. Otherwise, it is possible for Britons to visit France for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, visa-free. 

Read more: Explainer: Common visa options for visiting and moving to France

Property tax form considerations

You should also be aware of the new mandatory online property form – biens immobiliers – that all owners of French homes are required to fill in by July 31.

The declaration asks you whether your property is a main or secondary residence. If you state the French home to be your main residence, then this would normally be an indication of you also being a French tax resident. If, on the other hand, you state it to be a second home because your main residence is in the UK, the opposite would usually apply.

Related articles

Why has the mandatory property tax form deadline been extended?

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