We live abroad so can our French property be a ‘main’ home here?

How a property is used, for example whether it is your ‘main’ or ‘secondary’ home, affects such issues as which local taxes apply and at what rates

People in France often inherit family homes in rural areas
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Reader question: Is our French holiday home really a second property or, as it is the only property we have in France, does France see it as the main French property? Our other property is located out of the EU.

The classification of property in France as main or secondary for tax purposes (which affects matters such as which local taxes are payable, and at what levels) comes down firstly to whether or not you have your fiscal residency in France.

As the tax authorities clarify at this link, if you are a non-resident, then any residence you have in France is ‘secondary’.

For tax purposes, you are a resident in France once you have moved to make France your main home, which in most cases is obvious.

If unsure as to which of two countries you are a tax resident of, then rules in the Code général des impôts describe what counts as a fiscal domicile in France.

In complex situations, ‘tie-breaker’ rules in bilateral tax treaties come into play. Some of these state, for example, that failing all else you are a tax resident of the country whose nationality you have (assuming it is one of the two).

The main rule in France however is that you are a fiscal resident if you have your foyer here, in the sense of your main home. If your partner and children also live there, for example, that may be indicative of this.

Failing that, whether you are a tax resident is likely to depend on how much time you spend in France.

Generally, you will be a French tax resident if you live in France for the majority of the French fiscal (calendar) year, but it can also apply if you live in several countries but spend more time in France than anywhere else.

Other rules come into play if there is still uncertainty, such as running a business from France or having the ‘centre of your economic interests’ here.

In the case of non-EU foreign residents, people cannot be tax residents of France if only visiting via the 90/180-day rule. They would rather need to have long-term residency status via a visa and/or carte de séjour. In the case of visas, this should be for more than a merely six-month temporary long-stay visa.

What is the definition of a second home in France?

If you are a fiscal resident of France and have more than one property, then other rules come into play as to which is the main residence.

Firstly, only one can be designated to the tax office as such, by definition, and it will usually be the one where you spend most of your time. Similarly to tax residency, issues of where your other immediate family members live, where your children go to school, where you work etc may come into consideration.

Any houses which are not inhabited for the majority of the year by the owner, but instead are essentially used for weekends, leisure or holidays are classed as second homes.

Ownership is not the main criterion. For example, if you own a property in Tarn but rent one in Paris, if you live in the rented property for more of the year than the second home, it is still likely to be the ‘main’ residence.

This is the case for many people who own houses in rural areas in France (often inherited from family) but who live in larger cities to work.

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