Filing your tax return in France

How to file a French tax return as an expat

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Once you establish residency in France, you are liable to pay taxes in France on your income worldwide. Here's a guide to filing a French tax return as an expat and the relevant French tax forms.

The déclaration des revenus (French tax return) is the first step to paying your taxes in France. As an expat living in France, you will need to know the French tax regulations and learn how to file your French tax return online.

This guide explains everything you need to file your French tax return, including which expenses can be deducted on your French tax form, such as childcare expenses, energy efficient technologies, or hiring domestic help.

Are you liable to pay French taxes?

Under French law, you are a resident in France for tax purposes if you meet any one of the following four conditions:

  • Your permanent home (habitual home for you and/or your family) is in France.
  • You spend most of your time in France (at least 183 days during a calendar year, or even less if you spend more time in France than in any other country).
  • Your professional activity is in France.
  • The centre of your economic or financial interest is in France.

How are taxes in France calculated?

French taxes are calculated on a calendar year basis. In order to comply with your French income tax reporting obligation, you must complete Form 2042 (the recapitulative form) and perhaps other forms depending on the source and type of income and expenses for the year.

Deadlines for filing your French tax return

Please note that the income tax declaration must be completed by the due date, which is generally sometime in May of the following year. The actual date can vary from one year to another. If you are not a first time filer, you also have the option to file online which gives you additional time to file. The French tax month (May) is known as La Declaration des Revenus.

It is very important to respect the filing deadlines. There will be a penalty assessed at 10 percent (majoration) for late filing.

For those who have already filed a French tax declaration and are already in the system, they should expect to receive a pre-printed (pré-remplie) tax form, with certain information filled in the form. This information will include salary amounts, bank interest, dividends etc. If the information provided in the pre-printed form is incorrect, you should cross out the erroneous figures and write in the correct figures. You will not receive a preprinted form if you opt to file your French tax return online.

For those who will require a form and have not received a pre-printed form, you can obtain forms at your local tax office (centre des impôts) or online by referring to the French tax authority website: www.impots.gouv.fr.

French tax return online

The French tax authorities are working to making filing French tax returns easier. For the time being, most people can choose between filing a paper declaration or an online French tax return, however, conditions exist. In 2017, if you have previously earned above a certain threshold (more than EUR 28,000 in 2015) and have an internet connection, you will typically be required to file a French tax return online and could be fined if you don't. There is a fine of EUR 15 if you fail to file online two years in a row (essentially allowing a one-year grace period to adapt).

The portal to file your French tax return online opens on 13 April in 2017 (find it here), while the deadline for paper tax returns is 17 May. By 2019, France plans to make online French tax return mandatory for all residents, except for those without an internet connection.

The deadlines to file a French tax return online vary between France's départements (101 regions in total) to avoid online congestion:

  • Départements 0 to 19 – 23 May (midnight)
  • Départements 20 to 49 – 30 May
  • Départements 50 and above – 6 June
  • Non-residents – 23 May.

French tax return: Declaring your income and deductions

Taxable income

As a French tax resident, you are taxed on your worldwide income. This will include salary, pensions, interest and dividends, rental and any other income.

Tax deductions

The most common deductions for income are:

  • outside-the-home childcare for children under six (50 percent of cost up to EUR 2,300 per child);
  • having school-age dependents (EUR 61 per child for collège, EUR 153 for lycée, or EUR 183 for university);
  • installation of energy-saving technologies in the home (a chaudière à condensation or chaudière à basse temperature);
  • employing a domestic worker (frais d'emploi d'un salarié à domicile) – you may deduct 50 percent of the salary up to a total of EUR 12,000;
  • giving money to a charitable organisation will provide for a deduction of either 75 percent or 66 percent of amount donated subject to further limitations depending on the charity;
  • child support costs as a result of a divorce judgement;
  • union fees.


Marriage / pacsé

If you were married or pacsé in 2016 and live together, then you have the option of filing a joint return for the entire year or a separate return for the year, whichever gives you the best result.

Divorce

In the year of divorce, each spouse needs to file a separate tax return as you are considered divorced for the entire year.

Spousal death

If your spouse died in 2015, then it's more complicated and you probably need the services of a notaire or accountant. But the overall rule is that you must fill out a déclaration for yourself from the date of death until 31 December; you have six months from the date of death to correctly fill out a joint déclaration from 1 January until the date of death.

Children

If you have minor children living at home but working (up to age 25), their income is added to yours as long as you declare them as part of your tax household. (See below for a definition of foyer fiscal)

French tax forms in English

It is not possible to fill in French tax forms in English. If you can't read and write in French, you can employ a translator or tax advisor to assist you. Some local French tax offices deliver sessions in English to help non-French speakers through the process of filing a French tax return.

French tax forms

There is not a single French tax form but rather additional forms for each type of income must be filled out to accompany your main French tax return form (Form 2042). If you have paid French taxes before, you will typically receive Form 2042 in the mail, on which you should list your worldwide income and gains.

Other French tax forms include:

  • Form 2042C – micro-entrepreneurs, complementary income and tax credits; it is also where you can offset tax paid in the UK or elsewhere.
  • Rental income is either declared in Form 2013 (furnished properties) or Form 2044 (unfurnished properties).
  • Form 2074 – capitals gains (profit) from the sale of any assets or investments
  • Form 2035 – BNC business earnings (régime réel)
  • Form 2031 – BIC business earnings (régime réel)
  • Form 2047 – for declaring any income earned from abroad, which also must be stated on Form 2042.
  • Form 3916 – for any bank accounts held abroad.

Paying your French taxes

Please note that you do not pay any amount with your declaration. Once this is received by the French tax authorities, they will calculate your tax and send you a bill (avis d'imposition), usually around mid- to late-August for the amount of taxes due. If you are a first time filer, you may get your tax bill as late as November or December of the year you filed.

Once you are in the system, the French tax authorities will use the previous year's income as a basis to calculate the following year's taxes. For example, if 2016 was the first year you filed you will be paying towards your 2017 French tax liability on the basis of your 2016 income.

The standard payment cycle is three installments but you can also put in place a monthly tax withholding arrangement either through an express request at your local tax office or by going online. For more information, read Expatica's guide to taxation in France.

Useful French tax terms

  • Abattement: standard deduction.
  • Avis de non-imposition: certificate of non-taxable income (you will receive this if your total income is under the taxable income threshold).
  • Barème fiscal: tax-rate table (sets out the amount of tax for a given amount of income).
  • Un contribuable: a taxpayer.
  • Un credit d'impôts: a tax credit or a reduction in tax generated by one of many tax saving schemes.
  • Un expert comptable: Accountant.
  • Conselliers fiscaux: Tax-advisors.
  • Foyer fiscal: tax household (the household is calculated in portions, parts. First and second children counts as ½ part; a third child counts as a full part. So a married couple with one child is a household of 2.5 parts; a married couple with three children has four parts. Even married children and grandchildren can be added to your tax household under specific conditions).
  • Impôts sur le revenu: income taxes (as opposed to property taxes, sales taxes, etc).
  • Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune: wealth tax (this applies to anyone whose net wealth is worth more EUR 1.3m.
  • Prélèvements obligatoires: all social charges and sometimes this can include income taxes taken at source
  • TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée): value-added tax or sales tax (it currently stands at 20 percent on all goods and services except those specifically exempted).
  • Revenu à déclarer: gross income.
  • Revenu imposable: taxable income after all deductions and credits are calculated.
  • Revenu foncier: rental income.

French tax authority websites

  • Service-Public is the website of the French civil service and has detailed information on all aspects of personal and business taxation and social charges.
  • www.impots.gouv.fr is the website of the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, the body that collects income tax.
  • French tax return online.

 

Click to the top of this guide to French tax returns.

 

Expatica / Updated by MG Partners Paris

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Updated 2017.

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10 Comments To This Article

  • Will posted:

    on 16th September 2016, 16:24:50 - Reply

    Hello all,
    I have been told that I can be deducted for the money I send my family abroad for helping them there at home. Can anyone give me some more information regarding this? Thanks

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • tom posted:

    on 9th November 2015, 16:27:56 - Reply

    Hi, I'm from the UK but I lived and worked for several years in France, but I have left since. I'm wondering if I can get a tax return?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

  • David posted:

    on 9th May 2015, 21:00:41 - Reply

    Where can I find help filling in the forms? I arrived mid-year, so not sure if I need to put income only for the portion of the year living in France, or the entire year...?

    [Moderator's note: Please post your questions in our forums]

  • cherie posted:

    on 1st May 2014, 21:06:09 - Reply

    i would like to know where do i put nil on my tax form for i nterest on my uk bank account

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our forums or Ask the Expert service]

  • claudine posted:

    on 23rd October 2012, 16:02:29 - Reply

    I would agree with Ruth and the other people, examples are easier to follow.

  • Michael posted:

    on 1st August 2012, 21:23:33 - Reply

    Thanks Ruth for your adviced did that but still no help even with broken french they were not that helpful still having a copy of a completed form would still make life a little easier especaily for those of us who have difficulty with the language
  • Ruth posted:

    on 16th May 2012, 09:26:49 - Reply

    If you go along to the nearest impot office with all your information, (totals for the year) they will fill in return for you.
  • irene posted:

    on 5th May 2012, 15:48:08 - Reply

    I'm with Michael and Darren. Actually SEEING the completed form would be a terrific help.
  • Darren posted:

    on 12th October 2011, 10:31:18 - Reply

    I agree with Michael! A translated or annotated form with some explanation as to where the info can be found would be great.
  • Michael posted:

    on 29th September 2010, 15:04:15 - Reply

    is it possible to put a déclaration des revenus form already filled out as an example so that we can see it and understand how to do it because some of us dont understand french enough to read the forms