Reader question: I was told I need a timbre fiscal to renew my French residency card. What are they and how do I get one?
In France, a timbre fiscal (tax stamp) is a kind of pre-paid validation required for a number of administrative tasks, such as obtaining official documents.
They are used to cover the tax fees for these tasks, and the prices can vary greatly depending on what the stamp is being used for.
Since 2019, tax stamps have been fully digitised and are no longer issued in paper versions, so you cannot, for example, buy one and enclose it with a paper application. Instead, you must purchase a digital one and enter the code either during the application process or when you go to collect your documents.
More and more official procedures are now undertaken entirely online.
What are they used for?
As mentioned, in most instances the tax stamp is used to get new administrative documents.
The full list of uses for tax stamps includes:
- Replace a lost or stolen French identity card
- Obtain or renew a French passport
- Replace a French driver's licence
- Get a boating licence
- Appeal a court decision
- Validate a long-stay visa (VLS-TS)
- Apply for an attestation d'accueil
- Apply for a residency card
- Apply for a document de circulation pour mineur étranger (DCEM)
- Apply for travel documents for refugees, stateless persons or subsidiary protected persons
- Apply for French nationality
The cost of a tax stamp can range from around €25 (to renew an identity card), to more than €200 to apply for certain residency permits or appeal against a court decision.
How do I buy one?
As mentioned, you can only buy a digital timbre fiscal.
The stamps are available:
- At a tabac, if the shop is classed as a Point de vente agréé – you can find a list of participating tabacs here.
- If purchasing a timbre fiscal for a driving licence or passport, you can buy one at the website of France’s Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés (ANTS).
- Alternatively, you can buy a tax stamp directly from the government using this website.
The cost of a tax stamp differs depending on what you need it for. Helpfully when you purchase via the government website you can select the reason to ensure you pay the correct amount.
You can pay with a bank card. American Express or Paypal are not accepted. You can pay with cash at a tabac.
How do I use them?
After buying the stamp, it will be sent to you, either via email or a text message.
The stamp contains a QR code and 16-digit number.
You may need to present this to be scanned at some point during your application. Usually for passports or identity cards your stamp will be scanned when you go to your local administrative centre to collect the document.
You have up to 12 months after buying your stamp to use it, however, you have 18 months to request a refund if you do not.
You can ask for a refund using the same government site where you buy them, via the section that says Demander le remboursement d'un timbre électronique.