The only part of moving to France that Americans find more intimidating than the language is the taxes. After all, we are well-trained to fear our own tax system, so it’s hard to imagine successfully navigating a second one in a foreign language. But it doesn’t have to be stressful! Below are seven tips to help you get through your first tax season in France.
1. You have the right to make a mistake
French law gives you the legal right to get things wrong. As long as your error was not intentional, you can correct any mistake with assistance from a local tax agent.
2. You have a local tax agent
The French Public Finance Authority (Finance Publique) has offices all over the country that you can call or visit with questions. They have also been quickly adding to the functions you can take care of online. When you get your first tax ID number, you will be given your own account login at https://www.impots.gouv.fr, where you can pay taxes, see your past déclarations, adjust your withholdings, send questions, etc.
3. Your tax ID number is not your social security number
You can get your first tax number by sending in French form 2043 to your local tax office and then stopping by the office during open hours to verify your identity. Alternatively, you can send in your first déclaration on paper without the number. You will receive a number for the next year on your confirmation. Bonus tip: your numéro de sécurité sociale is just for healthcare and other social security benefits.
4. You won’t be doing the math or sending in documents
As Americans, we are accustomed to gathering up all of our tax information, filling out the forms, and doing the calculations ourselves to figure out the bill. We then have to submit things like W-2s and 1099s to back up our calculations. Here in France, it works differently.
Expect to fill out the appropriate French forms with details about your family situation, the expenses that you think qualify you for deductions, and the amount of your income. And that’s it! The tax office will calculate the bill based on what you have submitted and send a bill and explanation for you to check over. You won’t submit any backup documents with your déclaration, but you should keep them on hand in case of an audit.
5. There is no annual tax day
Every year, the French authorities update their tax forms and let us all know when they are ready to be filled out. This is generally in mid-April. Afterward, the deadline for submitting your forms will vary depending on the départment in which you live and whether you are submitting on paper or online. These dates generally go from late May through early June (property taxes are later in the year). The authorities will send out the tax bills sometime in mid-summer, and taxpayers then have until the end of the year to make amendments online.
6. The French don’t generally use tax preparers
Thanks to a more user-friendly system, most French citizens won’t need help with personal taxes. Those that do, generally get assistance from an investment advisor, but most simply take care of it themselves. That means that if you do want help beyond the tax office staff and don’t have your own financial advisor in France, you probably need to look for a specialist in expat taxes. But be careful; American tax challenges are unique.
7. Know your tax treaty
The rules that govern how your foreign income will be taxed in France are set in the France-U.S. tax treaty. Tax advice that works well for expatriates from the U.K., Australia, Canada, or anywhere else might not work at all for you as a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
Once you have completed your first tax season, the French tax office will use pre-filled tax forms in your online account, making it easier for you to make adjustments or submit “as-is.” But don’t get too comfortable: your U.S. 1040 is still due every year, and that one has not gotten much easier.
Leave a reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *