Why children as young as two have been sent local tax bills in France

Some bills were for over €2,000

The letters were surely not what the children were hoping to receive so close to Christmas
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A number of children have been sent taxe d’habitation bills in error by the tax authorities during this year’s round of property taxes.

Children as young as two were mistakenly sent bills of hundred – or even thousands – of euros, asking for payment of the tax which is now only levied on second homes.

In some cases, the bills were asking for payments far higher than parents were paying previously when the tax was also levied on all homes, leading to even further confusion.

Jokes that children were living ‘a double life’

Parents of the children bill told various media outlets of their – and their children’s – dismay, shock, and laughter at receiving the bill.

“Sophie was delighted to receive a letter embossed with the logo of the French Republic," said father Frédéric to French media outlet Le Progrès.

“She thought it was the English diploma she had recently obtained.” Instead the envelope contained a taxe d’habitation bill for €2,467.

In the northern city Le Havre, an 11-year old boy received a bill for €1,197.

“I turned to my son and jokingly accused him of leading a double life," said his mother.

The family thought it was a joke or a scam, and laughed it off, but the letter was real and sent by the Direction générale des Finances publiques (DGFiP).

Mistakes from both homeowners and authorities

The bills were, of course, sent in error, but worried a number of families, some of whom thought they could have made a mistake when declaring their property earlier this year.

As a reminder, this year saw a mandatory property declaration form, which some people may have filled in incorrectly. Taxe d’habitation does not require a declaration and the bills are sent automatically depending on the information held by the tax authorities.

In the case of Sophie above, the issue was indeed “a declaratory error… on the part of the owners of the [property, which was listed an SCI], who listed all the occupants, including the children," said the DGFiP to Le Figaro.

Because of the mistake, the child was seen owning “two living quarters”, thus making her the owner of a second property.

“We obviously do not blame these taxpayers who ticked the wrong box, anyone can make a mistake,” the authorities added.

Whilst errors from property forms may account for some of the errors, the DGFiP has admitted some may originate from them.

“We are dealing with industrial processes – 39 million taxable households, 24 million property owners, 4 million taxe d’habitation bills for second homes issued each year… this type of error can happen,” the DGFiP said.

Erroneous bills need to be identified

In the case of an erroneous bill the DGFiP should be informed as soon as possible.

Parents whose children receive such a letter can notify the DGFiP, who will rectify the mistake.

This can be done by calling 0809 401 401 (note, this number can only be called from within France), or via the secure messaging system (messagerie sécurisée) in your personal space on the French tax site.

A similar error caused by incorrect information in the DGFiP’s database saw thousands of homeowners to be sent a taxe d’habitation bill for a second home they did not own earlier this month.

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