France faces its largest strike to date today, there’s some potentially good news for American and Canadian drivers in France, and don’t miss our special French tax webinar! Here are the French news stories you need to know about this week.
1. France’s worst strike yet?
Today (Tuesday March 7th) sees the latest in a series of nationwide strikes take place in France in protest against the government’s pension reform bill. Unions have warned of their intentions to “bring France to a standstill”, with up to 1.4 million people expected to take to the streets in protest all around France.
The biggest disruptions will be in the travel sector, with only one in five national trains running, up to 30% of flights into and out of France cancelled, and limited public transport in most cities. Truckers have also vowed to join today’s protests, creating blockades at motorway toll booths and major intersections. Schools, public buildings and services, and oil refineries will also be joining the protests.
French unions are also pushing for rolling strike action, meaning that protests and disruptions could continue through March. This could mean public transport disruptions (especially in Paris and other large cities) and road blockades, but it is unlikely to affect national and international travel – we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
The pension bill, which is currently being debated by the Senate, proposes raising the minimum retirement age to 64 and the end of certain special regime pensions.
2. Hope for American driving licence swaps?
Expats living in France typically need to change their driving licence for a French licence at some point (find out more about that here), but while this is a simple enough process for EU and UK licence holders (read our guide to exchanging a UK driving licence for a French one here), it can pose serious challenges for others. Under the current rules, drivers are only allowed to exchange their driving licence for a French one if there is a deal in place between France and the country that issued the driving licence.
For Americans and Canadians, this also depends on which state your US licence was issued in. For example, a US driver with a licence issued in Texas or Ohio (two of the 18 states that do have reciprocal agreements with France), can simply exchange their driving licence for a French one using the online application system. However, a driver with a licence issued in California or New York State, states that don’t have agreements in place, cannot benefit from this exchange. Instead, the only way to obtain a French driving licence is to re-sit both the practical and theory tests in France – a lengthy, expensive, and often stressful (not least due to the fact that you’ll be sitting the test in France) process.
However, there is potentially a light at the end of the tunnel for such expats as the EU has proposed a simplified EU-wide process, allowing all drivers with licences issued in countries with “comparable driving tests to the EU” to be able to exchange their licence for an EU one. You can see the full proposal here. This would be great news for Americans and Canadians as both countries are highly likely to be included on this list.
Unfortunately, there is currently no proposed date for the changes and it’s likely that it will be years rather than months until this becomes EU law. We’ll keep you updated when we hear more.
3. UK and France State Visits
The next few weeks see two important dates for France-UK relations, starting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to France this Thursday, 10th March. Meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, the pair are set to tackle subjects “ including security, climate and energy, the economy, migration, youth and shared foreign policy goals.” It will be the first British-French summit since 2018.
Later in the month, King Charles III will also be stepping foot on French soil, during his first state visit overseas since taking to the throne. Travelling to France with Queen Consort, Camilla, from 26th to 29th March, King Charles is set to visit Paris, Versailles, and Bordeaux. The King will join President Macron and the First Lady for a commemorative ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on the 27th, followed by a state banquet at the Château de Versailles, before continuing to Bordeaux to open the British consulate building in the city centre.
The two visits are being hailed as a positive step forward for France-UK relations, which have been somewhat tumultuous throughout Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
4. Sign up for our free French tax webinar!
If, like myself and most other expats living in France, you get a bit panicked as tax season rolls around, we’ve got you covered! I’m excited to announce that the next event in the FrenchEntrée webinar calendar will be focusing entirely on FRENCH TAXES.
I’ll be joined by our expert advisor, Eliane Rakotonoel from Elitax for this special edition webinar, where she will be answering all your questions regarding French taxes, tax returns, and wealth tax. As always, there will be the chance to put your questions to Eliane live, but if you do want to send in your questions in advance, you can email them to me at [email protected].
The French Tax & Tax Returns: Your Questions Answered webinar will take place on Thursday March 30th at 4pm UK time (GMT+1). Sign up for free here or click the button below.
5. France’s new property tax form
Speaking of tax, we reported in a recent News Digest the introduction of a new tax declaration required by all property owners in France in 2023. All French property owners must fill in this extra tax declaration form, even those who don’t live in France and are not liable to pay income taxes in France. For all the details, including a step by step guide to filling in the form, check out our guide France’s New 2023 Tax Declaration d’Occupation for French Homeowners: Step by Step.
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