All ready for a move to France? Before you finish packing your bags, here are a few things you can do to make your financial life a lot easier when you get here.
1. Scan your most recent utility bills and mortgage or property tax bills
Why? Because you might very well need to prove to a bank, landlord, leasing agent or government authority where you lived prior to coming to France. Tax bills and utility bills, rather than leases and U.S. ID, are the preferred documents for showing residence in France.
2. Arrange your French lodgings
This one sounds fairly obvious. But if you are going to be in temporary accomodation for a while or don’t expect to be named on any utility bills, ask if someone is willing to sign a document that shows where you are staying. The French authorities provide a model of that document, called an Attestation d’hébergement, here.
3. Choose a U.S. address
If you have U.S. retirement accounts, investment accounts, credit cards or bank accounts that you hope to keep open, you will need to provide those institutions with a U.S. address. A virtual address mail service is a great place to start. But many financial institutions will insist on an actual street adress. Most expats make arrangements with a friend or family member for this purpose. But If you don’t want your retired mother to be inundated with piles of your junk mail, we suggest paying for the virtual service and using the family address only when necessary.
4. Keep a U.S. phone number for texts
There are plenty of ways to call someone from abroad these days. But you also need to be sure you can receive all those text messages you now get asking you to authenticate your login to a financial website. Some will let you use authenticator apps as an alternative, but you will likely wish at some point you had paid for the ongoing U.S. plan on your phone.
5. Close out old accounts
Most expats keep at least a few accounts open in the U.S. Make a list of your investment accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards and even store credit cards. Alongside your first French tax declaration, you will need to file a form reporting the existence of each one of these along with the name of the account holder, account number, institution, type of account, when it was first opened, and when you closed it. This information is a lot easier to come by before you stash everything in a storage box in your sister’s garage.
6. Check on your bank’s currency exchange rates
Many of you will be transferring money to France from the U.S. And while just about any major bank can do an international transfers and currency conversion, not all conversion rates are equal. A higher exchange rate can easily cost you thousands over time.
7. Splash out on gifts!
Not all of you will want to do this. But if you are in the habit of making significant gifts to other people or were planning on doing so, you might want to make some of those gifts in advance. One of the biggest differences in taxation between the U.S. and France is the gift and estate tax systems. In many cases, you will find it easier to give large sums to distant family members, friends, and often even children and parents under the U.S. system. And that means giving before you officially become a French tax resident.
8. Make a plan for your primary home
If you own your home and are planning an indefinite move, talk to a professional early. Keeping a primary home too long can have a significant on your taxes in both countries. But so can selling too early in certain circumstances. And for property in the U.S., you need to consider both federal and state tax issues, which are often very different. A professional can help explain the tax consequences for each of your options while you still have time to make a decision.
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