2023 French local taxes: thousands overcharged, how to claim reimbursement

The tax office admits a massive increase in complaints due to its ‘many difficulties’ with the launch of new property form

close up of old french taxe d’habitation property tax form
2023 saw the end of the taxe d’habitation but an increase in complaints about property taxes
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The French tax authority has admitted it had “many difficulties” with its new online property declaration in 2023, resulting in a massive increase in the number of complaints about property taxes - despite an end to the taxe d’habitation.

Last year saw the end of taxe d’habitation for main homes, meaning that millions of people paid less tax.

The tax had already been reduced progressively on main homes, with only higher earners paying it in 2022. 

However, the number of complaints to the tax office about local property taxes actually increased in 2023. 

New official DGFiP figures show more than 840,000 disputes over bills and demands for corrections in 2023, more than in 2022, when there were three times as many bills, and 2021, with seven times as many. 

Read more: French property tax fraud: what is targeted other than 'secret’ swimming pools?

What to do if you received an incorrect tax bill

If you believe that you paid a 2023 TH bill that was sent out in error – for example, levied on your main home – or that it was wrongly calculated, you have until the end of this year to contact your tax office.

The new online property use declarations for homeowners is thought to have been a major cause of confusion.

An MPs’ report into “dysfunction in local taxes” was expected to look into this but has been shelved due to the dissolution of parliament. 

The DGFiP’s own annual activity report for 2023 admits problems and shows that €696m was paid out in 2023 under a heading of ‘refunds and lowerings’ for this tax, up from €681m in 2022. 

It said “the [biens immobiliers] campaign was marked by too many difficulties… difficulties for users in understanding the aim of the declaration, and communication that was doubtless insufficient or at least could have been better”.

“This created worry and extra workload for our services.” 

“Our contact channels were at times saturated,” the DGFiP added, saying the quality of service had suffered as a result.

The report claims it has carried out a wide-ranging review and taken steps, including making the online process easier to understand and improving the IT tools available to its officers.

It stated that the end of TH on main homes had required a “thorough modernisation” of its processes. 

Previously, tax officers needed to go to great lengths to keep records updated about which homes were eligible for taxe d’habitation or tax on vacant homes.

It said this would not have been cost-effective now the number of TH bills has, over recent years, reduced from 30 million to four million. 

How to get a refund if you paid too much tax

The easiest way to claim a refund is via your personal space at impots.gouv.fr, clicking Nous contacter and then Ma messagerie sécurisée.

From here, you can send a message to officials detailing the mistake that you believe has been made, attaching supporting evidence if relevant, such as information on calculations or previous bills.

Click on Je signale une erreur sur le calcul de mon impôt as the reason for your message. Alternatively, you can send a letter indicating your reasons for contesting the bill. 

Note that if you owed some TH last year, this could be why your bill is higher.

The tax is based on theoretical annual rental values for each property, called the valeur locative cadastral (VLC), which increased across the board last year by 7.1%. 

Read more: Tax bill errors double in 2023 for French second homes: are refunds possible?

Other factors that could cause a rise include:

  • an upgrade, such as a new pool or extension

  • if your mairie increased its percentage rate that is applied to the VLC 

  • if your mairie voted for a new or increased TH surtax on second homes. 

As of 2024, an extra 3,500 communes, especially in popular coastal areas, are entitled to apply a surtax on top of the bill of between 5% to 60%.