Paperwork in France: How Long Do I Have To Keep Records?
While many French utility companies and banks have (finally!) moved onto paperless systems, paperwork is still king in France, especially when it comes to official documents, deeds, and tax records. If you are a French resident, a homeowner, or a business owner in France, you may find yourself with a large stack of papers and documents to file. So, how long should you keep them?
Official Records, Bank Statements, and Other Paperwork
In France, there are certain documents that you must keep for a minimum period of time – and you may be fined if you don’t. We’ve listed some of the most common below, but this list is by no means exhaustive. The general rule of thumb is: if in any doubt, keep it. To make it easier, invest in a good filing system and take the time to label everything – that way you can easily file new documents as you receive them.
Paper or Digital Copies?
These days many bank statements and other documents, including tax declarations are available online and it is becoming more and more common that you will have only digital versions of official documents. However, the general rule of thumb is that if you are issued a paper copy, this will always be classed as the original document, while any digital versons will be classed as copies. Therefore, it’s recommended to hold onto all paper copies, even if you end up using only the divital versions.
Documents to hold on to forever (or a recommended minimum of 30 years)
House deeds, notaire fees, and property transfer documents should be held onto forever, as should your will and testament, and birth, marriage, and death certificates (not just your own – hold on to your parent’s certificates, too, or at least have copies). However, it’s important to note that in France, birth certificates are updated when you get married, divorced, or have children – unlike in some countries where they are issued just once upon birth. You should also hold onto your diplomas, degrees, or other qualifications, military service papers, and any important medical documents or medical history.
How Long to Keep Tax Documents
Tax declarations (Avis d’Impositions), Chiffre d’Affaires (declarations of revenue), and any tax-related documents including income tax, property taxes, business taxes, and TVA (VAT) should be kept for a minimum of six years. If you are audited or asked for your tax declarations and cannot produce them, you can be fined up to €5,000.
How Long to Keep Business Documents
If you run a business in France, you must keep all your accounts, invoices, orders, and client details for a minimum of 10 years (either the paper or digital copies depending upon how they were originally issued). You should keep all details of employees’ contracts, salaries, pay slips, etc, for a minimum of five years (although details of working hours only need to be kept for up to one year).
Crucially, even after you have closed a business in France or ceased working as an auto-entrepeneur, you must keep all your business records for a minimum of five years after closure.
Personal Accounts and Records
You should keep documents relating to your work and salary, bank statements and other banking documents (including cheque stubs and statements), and details of insurance claims for up to five years. You should also keep rent reciepts and contracts, insurance certificates, electricity and gas bills, and loan repayments for the same amount of time.
It’s a good idea to hang onto invoices and recipts for work or repairs carried out on your home or car, as well as any sales receipts, at least for the period of the guarantee.
The information in this article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal, professional or financial advice. We encourage you seek the advice of a relevant professional before acting on any of this information. Any links to other resources are provided as sources and assistance, and are not intended as endorsement.
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