France is one of the world’s most popular destinations for tourists and millions of people visit each year. The capital is Paris, which is one of the most famous cities in the world, thanks to its romantic history and plentiful tourist attractions and the country’s location in Europe makes it very accessible. Expats are being drawn to France all the time, with British, US and German citizens making their homes there.
The country has a population of almost 65 million people and there are large areas of the country which are sparsely populated, which helps to make it popular with expats who are looking to retire or who are interested in country living. Paris alone has a population of more than 2 million people and other major cities include Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux and Strasbourg. The country sits in the GMT+1 time zone.
If you are unsure whether or not you need to pay tax in France then there are a few regulations you need to be familiar with. If you intend to stay in France on a permanent basis then you are liable for French taxes as soon as you arrive in the country. You may also be considered a resident if your main home is in France or if the country is where you spend most of your time. This will also apply if your main work is in France or if the country is where you have all your assets.
A person does not have any choice in this matter. If any of these conditions applies to them then they are liable for French taxes. It may be that a person is also liable for taxes in another country. In this situation a person will be assessed according to the regulations laid out in the double taxation treaty between the two countries.
There are a number of deductions which can be made from the gross income before tax needs to be paid. Expenses which are work related are tax deductible, social security contributions can be taken into consideration as can interest paid on certain business loans. There are other deductible items too such as pension contributions. Extra allowances are given for the elderly and children below a certain age who return home to live with the family.
Visa, Residency & Immigration Laws
When visiting or staying in France there are a number of different visas (les visas) available and whether or not you need one will depend a great deal on the country you come from and the length of time you are planning on staying in the country. For the latest information you need to consult your local French embassy (l’ambassade) or consulate (le consulat) as the requirements for the citizens of each country are different.
You need to allow the right amount of time when applying for visas. There is no fast track system that can speed up the process. When confirming your travel arrangements, most embassies will accept emails as confirmation of your travel arrangements and proof that you have paid for a return ticket. All documentation must be the original paperwork, accompanied by the requested number of photocopies. All originals will be returned to you when the application has been processed. It is a good idea to keep invoices from hotels in case you need to prove at a later date that you have previously stayed in France.
When purchasing a house in France it is some comfort to discover that estate agents are required to have professional qualifications. The estate agent should be able to tell you exactly which charges you will need to pay during and after the sale.
You need to have a notary acting for you when you purchase a property and details of registered notaries can be obtained from the local Mairie.
You need to ensure that your finances can cover the initial costs that you will have to pay out when you are buying a house. Deposits are normally requested by the seller as a goodwill gesture but on occasion you may find a property that does not require it. This can be anything up to 10% of the purchase price. This can be paid to the notary or the estate agent if they are authorised to accept funds. The deposit is held until the sale is complete before it is passed to the vendor. Notary fees will equal approximately 8% of the purchase price but this can be added on to your mortgage if you are a tax payer in France. The buyer is also expected to contribute to the agency fees which can be between 5 and 10%, but in some areas the fees are split between the buyer and the seller, so you need to check with your estate agent about the policies which apply to their fees. If the buyer is liable then this can also be added to the mortgage if you are a tax payer in France.
Retiring in France
In France the retirement age is 65, although many people choose to retire from the age of 60 onwards. This is permitted providing the correct amount of contributions have been paid into the social security system so that you can claim a pension. There is also a clause in the system which states that people can work until the age of 70 if they wish. Some early retirement programmes have been established in certain professions such as mining and train driving. Women gain two years for each child so their contributions are reached earlier.
There are many attractions in France for retirees. One of the main advantages of moving to France is the great climate. Many areas have good levels of sunshine and warm temperatures all year round and there are large swathes of unspoiled countryside which are ideal for enjoying all the activities which are made possible by the good weather. The way of life in France is at a much slower pace than in many other countries and this is another reason why people want to live there. In rural areas it is still common to have a 2 hour lunch and avoid supermarkets in favour of local individual shops. Many rural areas do not have much crime and this is also attractive to expats. In contrast the cities in France are very cosmopolitan and those who prefer a busy lifestyle should find everything they need there.