French Tax FAQ: Do I Need to Declare Foreign Bank Accounts & Life Insurance Policies?


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French Tax FAQ: Do I Need to Declare Foreign Bank Accounts & Life Insurance Policies?

If you’re an expat living in France, what are the rules for declaring foreign bank accounts and life insurance policies on your French tax return? Does this include online payment accounts or currency accounts such as a Wise or Paypal account? What are the penalties for failing to declare an overseas account? Here’s what you need to know.

Do I need to declare overseas bank accounts on my French tax return?

Yes. If you are resident in France, you are required under Article 4 B of the General Tax Code (CGI) to declare all bank accounts and life insurance policies held in any overseas country. This declaration must be made on your annual French tax return.

What overseas accounts must be declared?

The official rules state that you should declare “all bank accounts, life insurance policies and digital assets opened, held, used or closed abroad during the year”. This includes not only bank accounts but savings accounts and ISAs, other investment accounts, life insurance policies, and money transfer services or online accounts. You must declare any open account, even if it is not in use or has a balance of zero, and this includes both individual and joint accounts.

Do I need to declare my Wise account, Moneycorp account, or Paypal account?

The declaration applies to all types of accounts capable of “habitually receiving deposits of money, shares or equivalents”. This includes online neobanks and mobile banks such as N26 and Revolut, and cryptocurrency accounts. A credit card in itself would not need to be declared (as it can’t hold a balance), but you would, of course, need to declare the account that it is linked too.

The only exception is for accounts “used to make payments for online purchases or deposits concerning sales of goods that total less than €10,000 a year for all accounts taken together” but only where these accounts are linked to a France-based account. A personal Paypal account linked to your French bank account that you use for small payments would, therefore, not need to be declared.

There is a bit of a grey area concerning currency accounts such as a Wise account or a Moneycorp account, but being as both do have the capacity to hold funds, it is best to declare them. You can read more about tax concerns regarding Wise accounts here.

If you own an overseas account that doesn’t fall under the above categories, it’s probably a good idea to declare it anyway. If in doubt, you can check with your local tax office or use the online messaging service in your account.

How do I declare foreign bank accounts on my French tax return?

You must declare your foreign bank accounts and insurance policies when you fill in your French tax return. There are two additional forms that should be filled in (either online or on paper): form ‘3916’, which is used to declare overseas accounts and investment schemes, and ‘3916-bis’, which is used to declare cryptocurrency accounts.

The 3916/3196-bis forms can be found in section 3 of your tax return under “Divers”. Click ‘Comptes à l’étranger’ and select 3916/3196-bis under ‘Déclarations annexes’. You will then be required to fill in the relevant form before validating your tax return. You should file a form for each bank account or policy that you hold, and you will need to enter the account number, bank details, date of opening or closing the account, and type of account.

Note that if you have already filed a 3916 for an existing account and there are no changes, you can select ‘report’ to re-file the same information as the last year.

What are the penalties if I don’t declare my overseas bank accounts in France?

Failure to declare foreign accounts and insurance policies on your French tax return will result in a fine.

The following is taken form

  • In the case of an incomplete or missing information in a return; the fine is stipulated in paragraph 2 of Article 1729 B of the French General Tax Code.
  • In the case of non-filing (Article 1736 of the CGI) ; the fine is set at €1,500 for each undeclared account. Where the filing requirement concerns a country or territory that has not concluded a tax treaty with France for the purposes of combating tax evasion, the fine is raised to €10,000.
  • Taxation of presumed earnings, under the provisions of Article 1649A of the CGI, with a surcharge of 40%.

Note that fines are often waived for a first-time offence if you rectify it yourself – with this in mind, if you realise that you have made a mistake in not declaring an account, it’s recommended to seek advice at your local tax office as soon as possible. Coming forward and being honest about your mistake is always the best approach, and more often than not does not result in any further measures. On the flip side, if it’s the tax office that comes after you for a mistake you’ve made, it’s almost certain that you will face the relevant fines and it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to appeal.

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  •  Jennifer reid
    2023-05-24 09:09:39
    Jennifer reid
    We just moved to France in April 2023. We have not found our permanent home yet. Do I need to file a French tax return now, or can I wait til next year?


  •  David Wall
    2023-03-28 09:32:26
    David Wall
    I am about to renew my Longstay visa after being here a year, but I earn my money working on Wind turbines around the world for a UK company where I am registered as a UK Limited Company through my Mothers address. Do I still need to fill in a tax form and if so, how do I get one please? Any info on renewing my visa/Carte de sèjour, would be great as it seems to be changing every day! Thanks, Dave