France’s tax system can be tricky to navigate. Between income taxes, social security contributions, and taxes on goods and services, there’s a lot to keep track of. Thankfully, as long as you do your research and seek expert advice when necessary, you can avoid most major pitfalls.
This guide on taxes in France sets out a basis only; you should take expert advice on your individual tax situation.
The guide provides advice on the following:
- The tax system in France
- Federal taxes in France
- Local taxes in France
- Taxes on goods and services (VAT) in France
- Who has to pay tax in France?
- The French tax system for foreigners
- Income tax in France
- Tax on property and wealth in France
- Inheritance tax in France
- Company taxes and VAT rates in France
- Tax rebates and reliefs in France
- Tax avoidance and evasion in France
- Tax advice in France
- Useful resources
Elitax’s services span the full spectrum of tax advice, assistance, and support to meet the specific needs of the individual expatriate in France. Their primary focus is income and wealth tax returns, where they assist expats on positioning, preparation and processing of the returns during thorough personal consultations. Elitax also provides tax representation, tax training and tax audit support.
The tax system in France
There are three main types of personal taxes in France:
- French income tax (impôt sur le revenu)
- Social security contributions (charges sociales/cotisations sociales)
- Tax on goods and services (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée TVA, or VAT, in France)
You also have to pay occupier’s tax (taxe d’habitation) or French property tax (taxe foncière). If you’re selling land or property or have assets of more than €1.3 million, there may be capital gains tax to consider, too.
Since 2019, a Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) system has been used universally throughout France. Instead of filing an income tax and paying whatever taxes you owe for the prior year, you’ll be taxed at the source of the income, in monthly payments.
Income subject to PAYE also includes retirement income (such as pensions or annuities), relevant overseas income, leave (for illness or maternity, for example), and rental income.
Federal taxes in France
Taxes in France are extensive. In fact, as someone who lives in or makes money from France, you may pay taxes on the following, among others:
- Personal income on an annual basis
- Corporate or business income
- Purchased goods and services
If you don’t plan to use an accountant, be sure to do your research thoroughly so that you don’t end up facing fines or penalties.
Local taxes in France
Local residence tax: taxe d’habitation
Homeowners in France have previously needed to pay local residence tax – a local communal tax levied on whoever is the occupant of a property on 1 January each year.
In 2021, the tax was been abolished completely for properties that are the owner’s principal residence. So if you own two properties in France, you’ll pay the tax on the property that you do not live in.
The amount of this French property tax depends on the size and condition of the property, as well as the rates set by the local communes.
TV license tax
The redevance audiovisuelle was abolished in France in 2022.
Taxes on goods and services (VAT) in France
Taxe sur la valeur ajoutée or TVA – VAT in French – is a tax on certain goods and services, which is included in the sale price. The standard TVA rate in France is 20%. However, there are reduced French TVA rates for certain pharmaceuticals, public transport, hotels, restaurants, and tickets to sporting/cultural events (10%), food and books (5.5%), and TV licenses and newspapers (2.1%).
Can you get a refund on VAT?
If you’re not a resident of the European Union, you may be able to apply for a VAT refund. The process can be tedious, but you’ll need receipts of items purchased (totaling at least €100.01 or more) and all the items should have been bought on the same day and should come from the same store.
Be sure to ask for the Detaxe form before you leave the store and ask if they have a tax refund desk where you can get the VAT refund there and then. If not, take the Detaxe and your receipts to the VAT desk at the airport; you can complete the process before you check your bags and enter security.
Who has to pay tax in France?
You’re liable to pay taxes in France if:
- France is your main place of residence or home. If your spouse and children live in France and you work abroad, you may still be considered a French tax resident.
- You are resident in France for more than 183 days in a calendar year – not necessarily consecutively.
- Your main occupation is in France.
- Your most substantial assets are in France.
French tax refunds and credits
You may be able to reduce your tax bill with French tax refunds, allowances, and concessions. These can include:
- La prime pour l’emploi or PPE if you are working in a professional capacity and you earn under a certain level
- Employee social security contributions
- Any professional/employment-related expenses (up to €13,522)
- If you support a person in your home over the age of 75
- Rental losses from unfurnished properties (up to €10,700)
- Losses from business or professional activity
- Child support payments for minors not part of your fiscal household
- If you invest money in or contribute to an assurance vie investment policy
- If you are on a low income, you might be able to get relief from local French property taxes
The French tax system for foreigners
Non-residents of France are taxed on income earned from French sources. So, even if you’re not living in France permanently but you do work for a French company, you’ll get taxed on that income. That said, France does have tax treaties with a number of countries that enable residents of certain countries to avoid dual taxation.
France is signed on to the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), which seeks to fight tax evasion by requiring financial intermediaries to be transparent about their clients’ tax residence in signatory countries.
Income tax in France
France’s income tax rates depend on whether you’re single or married, whether you have kids (and, if so, how many), as well as your income and whether you’re self-employed.
Personal income tax rates for residents
Official residents pay French taxes on worldwide income, which includes earnings from employment, investments, dividends, bank interest, pensions, and property. The income tax rates in France in 2022 and 2023 are as follows:
Income tax bands in 2022
|French income tax bands
|French tax rate
|Up to €10,225
|€160,367 and above
Income tax bands in 2023
|French income tax bands
|French tax rate
|Up to €10,777
|€168,995 and above
Personal income tax rates for non-residents
Non-residents usually pay tax on their France-sourced income at a minimum French tax rate of 20% for French-sourced income up to €27,478 and 30% for income above this threshold.
How to file your income tax return in France
Thanks to the PAYE system, for every monthly salary you receive, you’ll pay your income tax there and then, in real-time.
Generally, exceptions to the PAYE system include investment income (including gains from life insurance policies), capital gains from financial investments and real estate, and non-French income.
Filing general tax returns
If you need to complete a tax return and have previously submitted one, you will probably be sent a completed form automatically, for you to check, amend if necessary and return. If you don’t get one or if it’s your first time, you can get one from your local tax office (centre des impôts) or mairie, or online through France’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.
It is your responsibility to make sure you complete and submit your French tax return, even if you think you will fall below the income threshold to pay any French tax.
The French tax return deadlines in 2023 are as follows:
- 22 May: deadline for postal returns
- 25 May: online deadline for départements 1–19 and those living outside of France
- 1 June: online deadline for départements 20–54
- 8 June: online deadline for départements 50–101 and those living in Overseas France
If you don’t meet the deadline, you’ll incur a fine of 10% of your tax bill.
Self-employed income tax in France
In France, if you are self-employed and the only employee (for example, a freelancer), you’re considered a micro-entrepreneur and you benefit from a tax status that greatly simplifies your tax and accounting requirements. This means that, for income taxes, you’ll file under the standard personal progressive rates.
However, if you own a larger business that cannot fit under the micro-entrepreneur status, you file taxes through the normal regime réel, where your income tax and social security contributions are based on profits and appropriate business costs are deducted.
Filing US taxes from France
Tax on property and wealth in France
French property tax: Taxe foncière
If you are buying or already own a property in France, you will have to pay the taxe foncière (property tax), even if you’re renting it out. The bill for the taxe foncière arrives in the last quarter of the year and the amount is based on the estimated annual rental value of the property multiplied by a percentage set by the commune (ask for more information at your local mairie). You can pay the tax in installments or in advance by monthly direct debit.
The taxe foncière rate for a primary home is around 1%, and 3% for secondary homes. Similar to the taxe d’habitation, it also includes the extra prélèvements pour base élevée et sur les maison secondaire tax but no tax relief is offered for children. You’ll also need to arrange insurance in France.
Usually taxed along with taxe foncière is the Taxe d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères (TEOM), which is how a locality charges for waste collection services. Some localities decide to fund this service through their general budget, but many choose instead to tax residents.
French capital gains tax
Capital gains tax in France (impôt sur les plus values) is payable on the sale of buildings, land, and shares.
A single flat-rate tax of 30% is applied on savings and investment income and gains – comprising of income tax at 12.8% and social charges of 17.2%.
Capital gains tax on property comprises of income tax of 19% plus 17.2% social charges, making a total of 36.2%. Main residences are exempt.
French wealth tax
In 2018, France abolished wealth tax on financial assets, replacing it with IFI (Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilière), which is only applicable to real estate assets where the total value exceeds €1.3 million.
If the €1.3 million threshold is exceeded, the tax due is calculated on the total value of the assets above €800,000.
The tiers of wealth tax are the following:
- €800,000 to €1.3 million: 0.50%
- €1.3 million to €2.57 million: 0.70%
- €2.57 million to €5 million: 1%
- €5 million to €10 million: 1.25%
- €10 million+: 1.5%
As a reminder, non-residents are only taxed on French assets, while residents are taxed on all assets worldwide. A wealth tax cap applies for French residents, meaning the total taxes shouldn’t exceed 75% of income.
Inheritance tax in France
Inheritance tax in France is notoriously complex. For deceased residents of France, all worldwide assets are subject to French inheritance tax, while all French-based estates are subject to tax even if the beneficiary isn’t a resident in France.
For non-residents, many bilateral tax treaties with France provide exemptions for paying French tax on worldwide assets.
In general, after any applicable deductions and exemptions, plus after adding back any gifts given from the deceased within the prior 15 years, the inheritance rates for parents, children, and grandchildren are the following:
- Tax-free allowance: €100,000
- Up to €8,072: 5%
- €8,072–€12,109: 10%
- €12,109–€15,932: 15%
- €15,932–€552,324: 20%
- €552,324–€902,838: 30%
- €902,838–€1,805,667: 40%
- €1,805,667+: 45%
Siblings of the deceased are taxed at 35% for amounts up to €24,430 and 45% for more, after a French tax refund of €15,932. Others are taxed at 55% or 60% depending on their relationship. More information is available in our guide to French inheritance tax.
Company taxes and VAT rates in France
When you are running your own company in France, you may be taxed under the personal income tax system (Impôts sur le Revenu, IR) or the corporate tax system (Impôts sur les Societiés, IS). If you are operating as a sole trader or freelance worker under the new micro-entreprise regime, you pay tax and social charges based on turnover (income from your business) under the micro-fiscal simplifié system.
Corporate tax rates in France have been gradually falling, with most companies now paying a rate of 25%, regardless of their profits. Read more in our guide to French corporate taxes, as well as how to start a business in France or set up as a freelancer in France.
Tax rebates and reliefs in France
Charitable donations in France can be claimed as a tax reduction up to 66% of the amount contributed. Donations made to organizations providing food to people in need qualify for a credit of 75% (up to a maximum contribution of €1,000)
Until 2019, a tax credit was available for energy-efficient home improvements. However, this has since been replaced by a grant system called MaPrimeRénov. This grant offers financial assistance for improvements to insulation and heating. Grants range from €4,000 to €11,000 and are subject to income caps.
Research and Development (R&D)
Companies who spend money on research and development (for example training staff in scientific, medical or engineering professions) can benefit from a credit of up to 30% on eligible expenses.
Tax avoidance and evasion in France
The sums lost to tax fraud in France have risen in recent years. The French Public Accounts Ministry reported that €14.6 billion was lost to tax fraud in 2022. This compared to an average of €12 billion per year between 2016-2019.
If you fail to pay or underpay your taxes in France, you’ll be fined. Minor errors (such as underpayments of 5% or less) may not incur a penalty, as long as they’re rectified within 30 days. More serious errors are subject to a recovery procedure (une procédure de redressement).
In these instances, you may need to pay a penalty ranging from 10% to 80% of the tax owed. However, the maximum amount is only charged in the most serious cases. The unpaid tax will also be liable to an interest charge of 0.4% per month. In the rare event that serious tax fraud (flagrance fiscale) has been committed, assets can be seized and legal proceedings may be commenced.
Tax advice in France
If you are facing your first tax cycle in France or if you have to navigate multiple tax laws – say, if you’re self-employed or you’ve inherited some money – it’s wise to get an accountant. They can advise you on your financial options and help you avoid errors and fines. Check out our directory of accountants in France.