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Are French income tax bands doubled for married couple to reduce tax?

Reader question: What are the income tax bands for a married couple? Are they just doubled compared to the allowance for a single person?

France uses a specific mechanism to make sure couples pay less tax on the same income than single people Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

No, the allowances are not simply doubled, but this is a good question that highlights some of the characteristic features of the French income tax system, including the fiscal household and the family quotient.

These mechanisms do indeed make sure that a couple pays less tax on the same income compared to a single person.

Here is an explanation of how this works.

The fiscal household

In France, income tax does not apply individually, but rather is assessed on the incomes of the whole ‘fiscal household’ (foyer fiscal), which can include:

  • A single person (people who live together in an unofficial couple are also each seen as single for tax purposes)
  • A married or pacsed (or civil partnership) couple
  • Dependent children (under 18) living in the household
  • In some cases, adult children aged under 21 (or under-25 if in full-time study) who wish to be ‘attached’ to your household
  • Disabled children of any age who live with you and cannot manage independently, and who do not wish to make their own declaration
  • Other adults with serious disabilities who live with you

The parts

Depending on the size of your household, you are allocated a certain number of family quotient ‘parts’ which are used in the tax calculation. These rise with increasing family responsibilities.

For example, a single person has one part, a married couple has two, a couple with one child has two and a half, and with two children three, or four children, four.

The tax bands

The tax bands for 2021 income, declared in 2022 are as follows:

Up to €10,225 = 0%

From €10,226 - €26,070 = 11%

From €26,071 - €74,545 = 30%

From €74,546 - €160,336 = 41 %

Above €160,336 = 45%

How your tax is worked out

Here is how the tax bands and family quotient parts are combined in order to make sure that a larger family does not pay as much tax on the same income as a single person.

1.   The tax office takes the household’s net taxable income, which is all incomes minus any deductible expenses, allowances etc

2.   This figure is divided by the number of ‘parts’

3.   The tax bands are applied to the resulting figure

4.   The amount of tax arising from this is then multiplied up again by the number of parts

The effect of this process is that larger families have the lower tax bands applied to a larger amount of their income than smaller families.

An example 

Here is an example, where the annual household income is €40,000:

  • A single person (one part)

€40,000 / 1 = €40,000

€10,225 at 0% tax band (up to €10,225) = 0

€15,845 at 11% tax band (from €10,226 to €26,070) = €1,742.95

€13,930 at 30% tax band (from €26,071 to €74,545) = €4,179

= €5,921.95 tax to pay

  • Married couple (two parts)

€40,000 / 2 = €20,000

€10,225 at 0% tax band (up to €10,225) = 0

€9,775 at 11% tax band (from €10,226 to €26,070) = €1,075.25

€1,075.25 x 2 = €2,150 tax to pay.

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