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All this talk of a flat tax

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Retirement, Tax, tax advice, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

The current political environment in Italy is one which I find very interesting, notably in how it is perceived in foreign media and presented to us through the usual media outlets. In particular, I reference the constant use of the word ‘Populism’ and ‘Populist Government’. I confess that I had to have a quick look at the definition of populism before writing this Ezine and was interested in finding out that the exact defintion, according to Wikipedia, is:

‘Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite’

I have a confession to make that if I can pick and choose only this broad defintion of Populism then I think I can fit myself into a part of the populist ideal. (Clearly it is more complicated than this but I am merely trying to make my point, and as a regular reader of my E-zine’s you will understand my usual approach!)

However, I think it is worth exploring the idea that the Lega and M5S coalition have put together of a flat tax. Although a flat tax for eveyone, no matter how rich or poor is completely obscene in my opinion the ‘flat tax’, proposals, which will launch at 20% for businesses as of July 1st 2018 and 15% – 20% on 1st Jan 2019 for individuals, assuming the Government holds together, actually make a lot of sense to me.

A radical reform of the Italian income tax system is about to take place, and one which is long overdue in my opinion. Not for any populist reasons, but for more practical reasons which I will expand on below.

The proposed flat tax regime
If you want to have a look at the Contratto per il Governo di Cambiamento, then you can do so HERE. It makes interesting reading, if not full of more blurb than actual facts at this stage. However, its a start.

So, going back to the issue of the flat tax. The proposal, soon to be put into force, is to reform the tax regime into 2 flat tax rates, namely 15% and 20%. This sounds very new and certainly will win a lot of those populist votes. But first let’s take a look at how income is currently spread in Italy and the following chart shows just who it would affect:

It’s quite interesting to note from this chart that 80% of the tax paying population of Italy earn up to €29000. The median declared income is €19000pa. Those may sound strange numbers but when you consider the current Italian tax rates (see chart below), you can start to form an idea that there is probably a little bit of fiddling of the figures. After €28000pa in reddito complessivo the tax rate jumps from 27% to 38%. With this in mind, the proposal of a flat tax could potentially bring in alot of, currently, undisclosed (let’s call it what it really is: ‘in nero’) money to the Government coffers.

A QUICK REMINDER OF ITALIAN INCOME TAX RATES
(IRPEF – Imposte sul reddito delle persona)

€0 – €15000  = 23%
€15000- €28000  = 27% (€3450 + 27% on the part over €15000)
€28000 – €55000  = 38% (€6960 + 38% on the part over €28000)
€55000 – €75000  = 41% (€17220 + 41% on the part over €55000)
over €75000  = 43% (€25420 + 43% on the over €75000)

How might it work in practice?
The new proposal is to have a flat tax of 15% on a combined ‘reddito famigliare’ of upto €80,000pa. If your ‘reddito famigliare’ is above €80,000pa then the flat tax rises to 20%.
A proposed maximum tax of €3000 would apply for every member of the family where they have a individual ‘redditto complessivo’ of no more than €35000pa. This would be limited to families where the ‘redditto famigliare’ is between €35,000- €50,000 pa.

In short, the most generous tax deductions are for those who have a ‘redditto famigliare’ between €40000 and €60000pa.

A straniero example……
This all sounds very exciting and some what overly generous for a country which has historically taxed its citizens up to the eyeballs. However, let’s use an average straniero example to see what difference it would make.

Let’s assume that we have a retired couple, with state pensions (€8000pa each) and private pensions of €18000 and €3000 respectively. They also own a property in their home country which generates a UK income of €8000pa (jointly owned). They have investments and savings, but for the purposes of this example they are not relevant as the proposed measures are for income tax only.

Under the current regime the income of each individual would be subject to taxation.

Spouse 1: €8000 + €3000 + €4000= Total €15000pa The tax rate applicable would be 23% therefore the tax would be €3450

For the purposes of this example I am not including any benefits, or credits that might be avaiable to any one individual or another

Spouse 2: €8000 + €18000 + €4000 = €30000pa Spouse 2 exceeds both band 1 and 2 and will enter the higher rate tax bracket creating a taxable liability of €7720

THE TOTAL INCOME TAX BILL WOULD BE: € 11170 per annum

Under the new proposals both spouse 1 and spouse 2 would pay a flat tax of 15% on their combined income , meaning a total tax bill of €6750

A SAVING OF €4420pa

Let’s take a breath and calm down for a moment
So, before we all start getting very excited we all know the Italian Government is not the most coherent at the best of times and we are in an unprecedented era. It may be that this proposal is watered down yet and we get a half way house offer, but I expect that simplification and lower tax rates are on the cards. In the end the country still has to balance the books and attract foreign investment. If they don’t have enough money coming into the Government coffers to keep the system running smoothly (for lack of a better word :0)) then the money will soon dry up and punitive tax rates will have to be imposed to reap that which has been lost.

My soap box moment
And so I move onto my favouritie part of this E-zine. My soap box moment. You see, I have been wanting to write this formally for a long time but never really had the opportunity to do so. I would go on record as saying that I am actually in favour of this radical overhaul of the Italian tax system and whilst I see this proposed flat tax regime as being a little unequally distributed, I do think its necessary and despite what the bankers, economists and bureaucrats tell us, I actually think it would be a good thing for Italy.

The entrepreneurial zone
I have always waxed lyrical that, what I like to call the entrepreneurial zone, in Italy, is completely dead. Any good economics book will tell you that 80% of employment and growth in a society comes from small to medium sized businesses. That is the shop that opens and gets so many customers that they need to employ a young person to manage the business in the mornings, or a new online business which grows rapidly and needs to employ 5 new people to manage operations. It’s worth repeating that 80% of growth in an economy and job growth comes from this area. Not the Vodafone’s of this world or the multitude of other multinational businesses that pop up on the high street. It’s the small businesses and one man bands that grow into medium sized firms that cumulatively turn over billions in revenue each year. This is real growth. And this is what Conte ( the new Prime Minister) talked about in his first address to Parliament when he said that he wanted Italy to grow its way out of debt and not have to impose more austerity. He is absolutely right. The economics speak for themselves.

Which brings me back to the entrepreneurial zone. This is the area which I think is the most important. To take a business from nothing: an idea, a start up, to revenue of €50,000 each year and onto €250,000 each year you need incentive. It is in the Governments’ interest to incentivize you because you are going to employ the people and pay the taxes that will contribute towards 80% of the running of that country. And from there you may have the skills to turn that business in a multi million euro revenue business employing hundreds of people and contributing back even more into the running of the society. The problem with Italy is that after €28000pa in revenue they effectively chop you off at the knees (the tax rates rise astronomically + there is the dreaded social security contributions to pay. INPS) and let you see if you can hobble along and survive whilst they come running after you to chop off your arms, and then take the rest. It’s like being chased by a mad axe man without your legs and seeing if you can hobble faster than he can catch up with you before he hacks the rest off. It just doesn’t work. In my opinion, this is one of the main problems in Italy and why I think both Di Maio and Salvini have got the right idea when it comes to taxation. (The rest of their policies are open to debate, although some of those also have a lot of merit!)).

I am reminded of the conversations I regularly have with clients who recount stories of their children who set up businesses in Italy and either struggle on barely being able to keep the businesses afloat and or eventually closing down. A young business needs all the revenue it can get in that ‘ entrepreneurial zone’, that area between €0 and €100,000 pa. If a business is going well most of that income is going to be re-invested anyway and used to employ people or purchase goods and services. Europe has to support Italy at this time and allow that zone to flourish and provide opportunities to young and old entrepreneurs alike.

So who is responsible for change
There is always a counter argument for every case and clearly in this case, given the cultural back drop to Italy’s tax collection issues there will be economists who will argue that if income tax revenue were to drop drastically by lowering rates so much then how will Italy, ‘The State’, balance its books, after all there is nothing to say that people will suddenly start declaring all their income because the tax rate is more favourable. That is why the proposed tax regime has to be followed by some hardline clampdowns on tax evasion. Otherwise, it just won’t work.

I am going to follow these proposals closely, and feed back to you, to keep you abreast of any legislation changes. (Watch out for the summer months as they like to slip new laws in whilst everyone is on holiday). I am completely in favour of a total overhaul of the Italian tax system and dispute what the media, economists, and supposed experts say (I sound like a Brexiteer). I think drastically cutting tax rates in Italy, whilst having a short term impact on Government revenue would attract foreign investment in droves ( I mean if you had the chance to set up a factory in Huddersfield or one in Umbria, which would you choose?), it could increase investment rapidly, create jobs, create subsidiary businesses servicing the bigger ones, incentivize larger business to relocate because of the tax rates and could create a new economic boom for Italy. That being said, if it isn’t put into place with some heavy Governmental supervision then it could all fall apart and Italy’s days in Europe would be numbered. And therein seems to be the folly of the whole idea. Europe, whilst I love the European project dearly, has not treated countries like Italy favourably and should it continue on its current path without allowing any kind of change and only implementing austerity, then the likelihood is that Italy would eventually decide to Italexit.

Government has to lead
Italy, like any government around the world has to take the lead in forcing through sensible change. The young business people I know who are barely making ends meet are never going to fully declare every euro they earn when they have families to feed, medical treatments to take care of and childrens schooling costs to pay. And given the choice of making a ‘few’ euros ‘in nero’ and being able to look after the family versus paying into a corrupt state which merely extracts the money from you by osmosis for its own nefarious means, the choice is simple. Most families, if not all, will take that risk. They just have to. Or they move abroad!

So I am in favour of Di Maio and Salvini’s tax plans. I hope they manage to find a solution that will help everyone, mainly the poor and the entrepreneurs who want to prosper but don’t have the ability to do so because of draconian tax measures which should have been ditched long ago. It won’t be an easy ride, but I hope it’s a success. And in the end, should it pay off it may just keep Europe together. Can you imagine Di Maio and Salvini going down in the history books as the saviours of Europe!

(You don’t need to write to tell me that my artistic licence has been abused in this article, just enjoy and let’s see what happens. I, for one, am moderately positive about the future if they can bring about positive change in the tax system in the way in which they are proposing to do).

Given the proposed changes in taxes in Italy, it will be an important time to take a look at your own tax and financial planning arrangements and make sure that they are as tax efficient as possible.

Are taxes in Italy really ‘that’ complicated?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Tax, taxation of rental property, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 30th April 2018

30.04.18

As I walk my son to school in the morning we have the opportunity to walk through the palazzo of an ‘Archivio di Stato’ in the centre of Rome. It is a real piece of classical architecture with cloister like columned walkways surrounding a central open space with a tower adorned with various statues at one end. However, it is not this amazing building which captures my attention each morning, but a plaque on the wall as we walk through the columned part. The plaque reads: Alluvione di 1870. The marker on the wall must be approximately 1 metre 50cm high. To think that the water reached that level is quite unimaginable. And thinking about this each day naturally leads me to the subject of floods. My personal flood is the annual flood of emails into my inbox, at this time of year, asking for clarification on taxes in Italy.

So this article is also about laying down some of the details of those pesky taxes that we all have to pay in Italy. Remember that the submission of your tax information should be formalised by the end of May. If you use a commercialista, even earlier, to allow them time to go through your information, ask questions and report it correctly. The first payment for the year is due on June 16th.

So, where do we start?
As a fiscally resident individual in Italy you are subject to taxation on your worldwide assets and income (with some exceptions), and realised capital gains. This means you are required to declare your assets and income and realised capital gains, wherever they might be located, or generated in the world.

Fiscal residency is going to become very important post BREXIT for Britons who reside in Italy. Questions have arisen as to what fiscal residency means. For a defintion you can read my post HERE

Tax on income
If you are in receipt of a pension income and it is being paid from a ‘private’ pension or occupational pension provider overseas or you are in receipt of an overseas state pension then that income has to be declared on your Italian tax return. If you have paid tax already on that income then a tax credit will be given for the tax paid in the country of origin (assuming that country has a double taxation agreement with Italy), but any difference between the tax rates in the country of origin and Italy will have to be paid.

** Government service, civil service and local government pensions of any kind (eg. Teachers, Nurses etc.) are only taxed in the state in which they originate, and tax is deducted at source in the country of origin. They are not taxed in Italy unless you become an Italian citizen **

It is a similar picture for income generated from employment. This is a slightly more complicated issue that depends on multiple factors. If you have any questions in this area you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com

Investment income and capital gains
As of 1st January 2018, interest from savings, income from investments in the form of dividends and other non-earned income payments stands unchanged and are taxed at a flat 26%. Realised capital gains are also taxed at the same rate of 26%.

(Interest from Italian Government Bonds and Government Bonds from ‘white list’ countries are still taxed at 12.5% rather than 26%, as detailed above. This is another quirk of Italian tax law as this means that you pay less tax as a holder of Government Bonds in Pakistan or Kazakhstan, than a holder of Corporate Bonds from Italian giants ENI or FIAT).

Property Overseas
Property which is located overseas is taxed in 2 ways. Firstly, there is the tax on the income and, secondly, a tax on the value of the property itself.

The income from property overseas.
Overseas NET property income (after allowable expenses in the country in which the property is located and taxed) is added to your other income for the year and taxed at your highest rate of income tax.

I would like to clarify what I mean by ‘net property income’. If we take the UK as an example, this means that you MUST make a tax declaration in the UK first. The UK property is a fixed asset in the UK and therefore must be treated to UK tax law before any declaration in Italy. After you have deducted allowable expenses in the UK and paid any tax liable in the UK, the NET property income figure must be submitted in your UK tax return.

Where many properties are generating all of your income this can prove to be a tax INEFFICIENT income-stream for residents in Italy. It is better to have a diversified income stream to maximise tax planning opportunities.

I will also add some comments here in that I often hear from people who are told by their commercialista that no expenses can be deducted in Italy. This is correct. What they mean (or what I am interpreting that they mean) is that you cannot deduct the UK allowable expenses directly through the Italian tax return. This has to be done first in the UK tax return, in this example. This is correct process. However, it does not mean that the expenses cannot be deducted per se. It just means they have to deducted in the revelant tax return first before reporting the NET result in Italy.

** Tax credits will be given for any tax paid in another country in order to avoid double taxation, where a double taxation treaty exists with Italy.

2. The other tax is on the value of the property itself, which is 0.76% of the value. (IVIE)
Value must be defined in this instance. For EU based properties, the value is the Italian cadastral equivalent. In the UK that would be the council tax value NOT the market value. This value is always expressed asa range of values rather than a specific one. You will find that the market value will, in most cases, be more than the cadastral equivalent value.

For properties located in other European countries, for example France, you will find that they may have a similar ‘cadastral’ value. Where this value is calculated in the same way as Italy, a tax credit is offered against any IVIE tax payable in Italy. The tax credit is not applicable to UK properties as the tax is due on the occupant of the property and not the owner.

In properties located outside the EU, the value for tax purposes is defined as the market value of the property ONLY where evidence cannot be provided of the purchase value of the property, in which case this would be used instead.

** BREXIT FINANCIAL PLANNING OPPORTUNITY**
After the UK exit from the EU, the cadastral equivalent value of a property in the UK will revert to the original purchase price, where evidence can be provided. Given that UK councils are likely to review their council tax bands in the comings years to fund shortfalls in their accounts, this could mean less tax to pay in Italy.

Taxes on Assets

1. Banks accounts and deposits
A very simple to understand and acceptable €34.20 per annum is applied to each current account you own. This includes fixed deposits, short term cash deposits, CD’s etc. The charge is the equivalent of the ‘imposta da bollo’ which is applied to all Italian deposit accounts each year.

The rules regarding whether you need to declare the account can be found on my blog post ‘IF IN DOUBT, DECLARE THE ACCOUNT

I am of the view that if you have a bank account in the UK with more than €5000 in it and/or a regular income being credited to it, then you should declare the bank account in Italy regardless of the tax reporting requirements. For the sake of the tax of €34.20, it is not worth taking the risk.

2. Other financial assets
The charge, IVAFE, is levied on other foreign-owned assets which covers shares, bonds, funds, portfolio assets, cryptocurrency, gold deposits, art work or most other types of assets that you may hold. The tax on these is 0.2% per annum based on the valuation as of 31st December each year.

Also remember that if you have a portfolio of managed assets that are NOT held in an a suitably compliant Italian Investment bond, then all the separate funds/shares/assets are considered “individual” and MUST be reported individually on your tax return each year. That also includes reconciling any income/dividend/distribution payments that have been made and also any capital gains that have been realised. A reference to the Banca D’Italia exchange must be made for each transaction on the correct date.

3. Pensions
It is worth noting here that for any UK style private pension or occupational pension arrangements, where the pension structure is an irrevocable trust, then the tax treatment is 2 fold.

a) any income that you draw from the pension each year is taxable at your highest rate of income tax in Italy.

b) the fund itself needs to be reported under ‘monitoraggio’ of trusts section of the Quadro RW. Failure to do so could result in fines. Although highly unlikely, you never can be sure.

This is a concise list of the taxes that affect most of you.

French Tax Changes 2018

By Daphne Foulkes - Topics: France, French Tax Changes, Income Tax, Tax
This article is published on: 23rd January 2018

23.01.18

During December, the French budget completed its Parliamentary process, with little change to the initial proposals. Shown below is a summary of our understanding of the principle changes.

INCOME TAX (Impôt sur le Revenu)
Income tax bands of the barème scale have been increased as follows:

Income Tax Rate
Up to €9,807  0%
€9,808 to €27,086  14%
 €27,087 to €72,617 30%
€72,618 to €153,753 41%
€153,784 and over 45%

The above apply in 2018 in respect of the taxation of 2017 income, for example, pensions and earnings.

SOCIAL CHARGES (Prélèvements Sociaux)
The Contribution Sociale Généralisée (CSG) has been increased by 1.7%. This results in investment income and property rental income (unless exempted by a Double Taxation Treaty), being liable to total social charges of 17.2%. In addition, where France is responsible for the cost of the taxpayer’s healthcare in France, social charges at a rate of 9.1% will be applied on pension income.

FLAT TAX on revenue from capital
The Prélèvement Forfaitaire Unique (PFU) – also known as the Flat Tax – has been introduced. This will be charged on the total amount of interest, dividends and capital gains from the sales of shares, received by the taxpayer. It also applies to certain gains in withdrawals from assurance vie contracts and this is covered in more detail in the following section.

The Flat Tax rate is 30%, made up as follows:
➢ a fixed rate of income tax of 12.8%; plus
➢ social charges at the rate of 17.2%.

However, the option to pay income tax at the progressive barème scale tax rates above (in lieu of the Flat Tax rate of 12.8%), plus social charges of 17.2%, is still possible, but only at the taxpayer’s specific request. In this case, the taxpayer will also benefit from the existing 40% abatement on dividends (but not for social charges).

Capital gains from the sale of shares, no longer benefit from taper relief, where the gain is taxed at the Flat Tax rate.

However, for shares purchased before 2018, where the taxpayer elects for realised gains to be taxed at the progressive barème rates, taper relief will continue to apply, as follows:
➢ 50% for a holding period from two years to less than eight years; and
➢ 65% for a holding period of at least eight years.

This relief also applies to gains arising from the sale of shares in ‘collective investments’, for example, investment funds and unit trusts, providing that at least 75% of the fund is invested in shares of companies.

Likewise, for investments made prior to 2018 in new small and medium enterprises, the higher allowances against capital gains for investments in such companies are also still provided, as follows:
➢ 50% for a holding period from one year to less than four years;
➢ 65% for a holding period from four years to less than eight years; and
➢ 85% for a holding period of at least eight years.

Similarly, the Contribution Sociale Généralisée (CSG) deductible portion (6.8% out of the total social charges of 17.2%) will only be permitted in the case of taxation at the progressive barème scale rates.

Taxpayers will not be able to selectively chose the income that is subject to the Flat Tax and that which is subject to the progressive rates of the barème scale. The default is the Flat Tax and where the taxpayer makes an election for any income from capital to be taxed at progressive rates, this will apply globally. Therefore, careful planning will be needed by some taxpayers, particularly if they intend to make a disposal of a large holding of shares and/or receive a large payment of dividends.
The Livret A, Livret Développement Durable and Livret Épargne Populaire accounts remain exempt from income tax and social charges.

ASSURANCE VIE & CAPITALISATION CONTRACTS
Premiums paid before 27th September 2017
For premiums paid before 27th September 2017, there is no change. Therefore, the taxpayer has the option to be taxed at the progressive rates of the barème scale or the Prélèvement Forfaitaire Libératoire (PFL) rates, as follows:
➢ during the first 4 years at 35%
➢ between 4 years and 8 years at 15%
➢ post 8 years at 7.5%

Social charges at the rate of 17.2% are payable in addition.

For contracts with a duration of at least 8 years, the abatement of €4,600 for a single person, or €9,200 for a couple, continues to apply.

Premiums paid from 27th September 2017
For premiums paid from 27th September 2017, the taxation rate will vary according to the age of the contract, plus for contracts older than 8 years, according to the ‘threshold’ amount of capital remaining in the contract as at 31st December of the year prior to the withdrawal being taken.

The threshold amount is €150,000 per individual person (across all assurance vie policies), which is determined by reference to the amount of the premiums invested, reduced by any capital already withdrawn, and not the value of the contract.

The threshold is not cumulative between persons and therefore, couples who are taxed as a household cannot share in each other’s threshold. Thus, one spouse may reach the threshold level, whilst the other does not, for example, where one has say €200,000 capital invested and the other only has €80,000 invested.

The reform provides for the PFU to apply for assurance vie contracts of less than 8 years, regardless of the amount of the outstanding capital. Thus, the PFU rate of 30% will be globally substituted for the pre-27th September 2017 rates of 52.2% (up to 4 years contract duration) and 32.2% (4 – 8 years contract duration)

Therefore, according to the age of the contract, the following tax rates will apply:
➢ during the first 8 years, the Flat Tax rate of 12.8%
➢ over 8 years, 7.5% up to the threshold, plus 12.8% above the threshold.

Social charges of 17.2% are payable in addition.
Insurers will be obliged to deduct the tax of 12.8%/7.5%, i.e. depending on the duration of the contract, plus the social charges. Subsequently, for contracts older than 8 years and where the taxpayer has exceeded the threshold, any additional tax due will be charged through the taxpayer’s annual declaration.

The following table summarises the situation:

Fixed tax rate applied
Gaines from premiums
paid from 27/09/2017
Deducted by the
insurance company plus
social charges of 17.2%
Additional tax payable
if threshold exceeded
Additional tax payable
if threshold not exceeded
Contracts < 8 years 12.8% No No
Contracts > 8 years 7.5% Yes, to reach 12.8% No

The post 8-year abatement of €4,600 for a single taxpayer, or €9,200 for a couple, continues to apply.

All taxpayers will have the possibility to opt for taxation at the progressive income tax rates of the barème scale, plus social charges, at the time of making their tax declaration. As the insurance company would have already deducted the PFU tax, any excess tax already paid will be refunded following the processing of the tax declaration made in the year following the payment of the withdrawal. However, taxpayers should be aware that if taxation at the progressive rates of the barème scale is chosen for assurance vie gains in amount withdrawn, then this will apply globally to all income from financial capital.

There is no change to the inheritance tax treatment of assurance vie contracts.

Examples of how the taxation will work:

Example 1
Mr X invested €200,000 in his policy in January 2017. In case of redemption after 8 years, as the premium was invested before 27th September 2017, the gain will be taxed at 7.5%, after application of the abatement of €4,600. Social charges of 17.2% on the total gain are also payable.

Example 2
Mr Y invests €200,000 in his policy in October 2017. In case of redemption after 8 years, as the premium was invested after 27th September 2017 and exceeds the threshold of €150,000, 75% of the gain will be taxed at 7.5% and 25% at 12.8%. The abatement of €4,600 will be first applied to the gain taxed at 7.5% and any balance applied to the gain taxed at 12.8%. Social charges of 17.2% on the total gain are also payable.

Example 3
Mr Z invests €100,000 in an assurance vie contract in 2007 and makes an additional investment of €200,000 in 2018. He decides to fully surrender the assurance vie in 2019, when the value of the policy is €360,000. €50,000 of the gain is attributed to the 2007 premium and €10,000 to the premium invested in 2018. Our understanding is that the tax on the total gain of €60,000 would be calculated as follows:

– 2007 premium: (€50,000 – €4,600) x 7.5% = €3,405.00
– 2018 premium: as he has only ‘used’ €100,000 of the €150,000 threshold against the 2007 premium, the balance of €50,000 can be applied to the premium paid after 27th September 2017, which is 25% of the €200,000 invested. Therefore, 25% of the gain of €10,000 relating to the 2018 premium will be taxed at 7.5% and the balance at 12.8%, as follows:

o (€10,000 x 25%) x 7.5% = €187.50
o (€10,000 x 75%) x 12.8% = 960.00

– Total tax = €3,405.00 + €187.50 + €960.00 = €4,552.50

Social charges of 17.2% on the total gain are also payable.

PROPERTY WEALTH TAX (Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilier)
Wealth tax on total assets (Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune – ISF) has been abolished and replaced with Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilier (IFI).

IFI will apply only to real estate assets and the principal residence is still eligible for the 30% abatement against its value. Therefore, taxpayers with net property assets of at least €1.3 million would be subject to IFI on taxable assets exceeding €800,000, as follows:

Fraction of Taxable Assets Tax Rate
Up to €800,000 0%
€800,001 to €1,300,000 0.50%
€1,300,001 to €2,570,000 0.70%
€2,570,001 to €5,000,000 1%
€5,000,001 to €10,000,000 1.25%
Greater than €10,000,000 1.50%

 

However, at the outset of the debates on the proposed tax changes, it quickly became clear that MPs were not entirely happy about the idea of replacing ISF with IFI. In particular, for people with substantial wealth, who would also benefit from the Flat Tax, this was considered to be a step too far! Therefore, additional taxes have been introduced on certain luxury goods, for example, yachts and sports cars.

TAXE d’HABITATION
Taxpayers who are not liable to IFI will benefit from reductions in taxe d’habitation, in respect of their principal residence, subject to certain taxable income (Revenue Fiscal de Référence) ceilings not being exceeded. For a single taxpayer, the taxable income limit is €27,000 and for a couple, €43,000.

For those who meet the requirements, their taxe d’habitation will be reduced by 30% in 2018, 65% in 2019 and total exoneration in 2020. Where taxable income is just above the income threshold (up to €28,000 for a single person and €45,000 for a couple), the reduction in the taxe d’habitation will be proportionally reduced.

ENTRY INTO LAW
The changes have entered into law following publication in the Official Journal of France.
22nd January 2018

This outline is provided for information purposes only. It does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action to mitigate the effects of any potential changes in French tax legislation.

Proposed French Tax Changes 2018

By Sue Regan - Topics: France, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Tax, tax advice
This article is published on: 25th October 2017

25.10.17

Since my last article the October Tour de Finance event has taken place at the Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles, near Limoux. As always, it was a huge success and very well attended. It was great to see some familiar faces as well as make some new contacts. Over 70 guests in all came along to listen to a number of industry experts speak about highly topical issues such as the proposed changes to the French tax system, pensions, assurance vie, discretionary fund management and, of course, the “B” word!

In this article I will concentrate on our understanding of some of the proposed changes to the French taxation regime, as published in the Projet de Loi de Finances 2018. Of particular interest to many of our clients are the proposed changes to Wealth Tax, the increase in Social Charges and the new 30% Flat Tax on revenue from capital. At the time of writing, these, and other proposed changes have still to be agreed in Parliament and then referred to the Constitutional Council for review before entering into French law. So we won’t know for sure the exact changes that will take place until the end of the year. However, below is a brief summary of the main proposals as we understand it.

WEALTH TAX (Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune)
The government proposes to abolish the current wealth tax system and replace this with Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilier (IFI).

IFI would apply only to real estate assets and the principal residence would still be eligible for the 30% abatement against its value. Therefore, taxpayers with net real estate assets of at least €1.3 million would be subject to IFI on taxable assets exceeding €800,000, as follows:

Fraction of Taxable Assets Tax Rate
Up to €800,000 0%
€800,000 to €1,300,000 0.5%
€1,300,001 to €2,570,000 0.7%
€2,570,001 to €5,000,000 1%
€5,000,001 to €10,000,000 1.25%
Greater than €10,000,000 1.5%

This is good news for French residents with substantial financial assets, including those held within assurance vie. However, there have already been some protests to the scope of the new form of ‘Wealth Tax’ being levied only on real estate, with luxury items such as yachts and gold bullion being exempt. Thus, I don’t think we have heard the last of this!

SOCIAL CHARGES (Prélèvements Sociaux)
It is proposed to increase the Contribution Sociale Généralisée (CSG) by 1.7%. This will result in investment income and property rental income being liable to total social charges of 17.2% and, where France is responsible for the cost of the taxpayer’s healthcare in France, at a rate of 9.1% on pension income.

FLAT TAX on revenue from capital
It is planned to introduce a Prélèvement Forfaitaire Unique (PFU) at a single ‘flat tax’ rate of 30% on investment income, made up as follows:

➢ a fixed rate of income tax of 12.8%; plus

➢ social charges at the rate of 17.2% (taking into account the proposed increase).

The PFU will apply to interest, dividends and capital gains from the sale of shares.

How does this affect Assurance Vie contracts?
Based on information currently available and, of course, the finer details may change before being passed into law, it is our understanding that for premiums invested totalling €150,000 or less per person (so €300,000 for a joint life policy) the existing system of withholding tax (prélèvement forfaitaire libératoire PFL). Taking into account social charges at the increased rate of 17.2%, this results in gains on amounts withdrawn, continuing to be taxed, as follows:

➢ during the first 4 years at 52.2%

➢ between 4 years and 8 years at 32.2%

➢ post 8 years at 24.7%

The first draft of the bill proposed that the new ‘flat tax’ will replace the existing PFL system but will only apply to gains on premiums invested after 27 September 2017, that exceed the thresholds above. However, the National Assembly has already decided that it is illogical to have different tax rates, depending on how long the premium has been invested, for new investments made from 27 September 2017. Therefore, an amendment to the bill has already been proposed that all new investments made should be subject to the ‘flat tax’.

It is proposed that all taxpayers will have the possibility to opt for taxation at the progressive income tax rates of the barème scale, plus social charges. Therefore, any potential gains on capital, including withdrawals from assurance vie policies, should be assessed on an individual basis to determine in advance as to which method of taxation would be most appropriate.

There is no change to the inheritance tax treatment of assurance vie contracts and the post 8-year abatement of €4,600 for a single taxpayer, or €9,200 for a couple, will be maintained. Thus, despite the proposed tax changes, the assurance vie will continue to be a very useful vehicle for sheltering financial assets from unnecessary taxes. In addition, as assurance vie policies fall outside of your estate for inheritance tax purposes, you can leave your investments to your chosen beneficiaries without being subject to the French Succession Laws of “protected heirs”.

The abolition of taper relief
The reform also proposes the abolition of the taper relief on capital gains from the sale of shares, in respect of gains from disposals from 2018.

So, if you are sitting on a portfolio of shares which are not sheltered in a tax wrapper, then now is the time to have a look at any gains you may have and, possibly make use of the taper relief of up to 65% on the total gain, while it is still available. Don’t delay in speaking to your financial adviser who should be able to identify whether the restructuring of your investments is in your best interests.

A look at tax rates across Europe

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, BREXIT, Income Tax, Interest rates, spain, Tax
This article is published on: 31st May 2017

31.05.17

In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, Patrick Collinson examines how the average burden on British people earning £25,000, £40,000 and £100,000 compares with taxes paid by similar earners in Europe, Australia and the US.

Chris Burke from The SpectrumIFA Group in Barcelona calculated the figures for Spain and explains “homeowners also pay an annual tax on the value of their property, currently around €900 on a home valued at €300,000, so slightly less than typical council tax rates in the UK. However, he says that inheritance tax has shifted enormously in recent years, having been raised to 19% during the financial crisis but now starting at just 1%”.

Labour’s plan to tax incomes over £80,000 more heavily is a “massive tax hike for the middle classes” that will “take Britain back to the misery of the 1970s”, according to rightwing newspapers. But are British households that heavily taxed?

A comparison of personal tax rates across Europe, Australia and the US by Guardian Money reveals how average earners in Britain on salaries of £25,000, or “middle-class” individuals on £40,000, enjoy among the lowest personal tax rates of the advanced countries, while high earners on £100,000 see less of their income taken in tax than almost anywhere else in Europe.

The survey found that someone earning £100,000 in the UK in effect loses about 34.3% of their pay to HM Revenue & Customs once personal allowances, income tax and national insurance are taken into account. The one-third reduction is roughly the same as the US, Australia and Spain, but a long way behind the 38% in Germany, 41% in Ireland, 45% in Sweden and up to 59% in France (though the French figures include very large pension contributions).
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Note that these figures are a rough guide only. International tax comparisons are bedevilled by large numbers of factors. We compared rates for a single person with no children and with no special allowances. Most countries tax individuals rather than households, but France taxes couples, which has the impact of reducing the burden on a high earner with an at-home partner. Autonomous regions within countries impose their own varying taxes. We converted euros, dollars and krona into sterling at a time when the pound had fallen rapidly; some earnings might have translated into higher tax bands abroad before sterling plunged.

Some countries, such as the US, raise relatively large revenues from property taxes. Others squeeze revenue from sales taxes – 25% in Sweden, 19% in Germany. While there is some harmonisation of income tax rates, social security varies dramatically. Australia imposes a small medical levy of 2%. France’s charges can be as high as 30%.

One of the most striking facts to emerge is church taxes. In Germany, individuals are expected to give 8% of their income to the church.

EU officials may look forward to the day when the single currency is teamed up with a single tax policy. But what emerges from our survey is how elaborate each country’s tax and social security systems are. Britain’s actually looks relatively simple compared with France’s. The Brexit negotiations will be a walk in the park compared with any attempt to harmonise the EU’s 27 national tax and social security systems.

France

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £17,050
Tax rate 31.8%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £23,520
Tax rate 41.2%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £40,600
Tax rate 59.4%

Spain (Catalonia)

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £20,812
Tax rate 16.7%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £31,000
Tax rate 22.1%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £65,700
Tax rate 34.3%

Germany

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £18,923
Tax rate 24.3%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £27,256
Tax rate 31.8%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £61,740
Tax rate 38.3%

Sweden

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £19,500
Tax rate 22%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £30,000
Tax rate 25%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £55,000
Tax rate 45%

Ireland

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £21,183
Tax rate 15.3%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £29,624
Tax rate 26%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £59,000
Tax rate 41%

United Kingdom

Gross salary £25,000
After tax £20,279
Tax rate 18.9%

Gross salary £40,000
After tax £30,480
Tax rate 24.8%

Gross salary £100,000
After tax £65,780
Tax rate 34.3%

To read the full article please click here
First published Saturday 27 May 2017, author Patrick Collinson

A sad time for some…….. whilst others embrace the change

By Sue Regan - Topics: Déclaration des Revenus, France, Income Tax, Tax
This article is published on: 5th April 2017

05.04.17

Now that Article 50 has been triggered, the UK has two years to negotiate its exit. There’s been plenty of speculation as to what may or may not happen and how the Brexit process will work, but the truth is no one really knows. Whatever your feelings are about the historic event of 29th March 2017, it is clear that there will be changes ahead. However, for the time being we are all EU citizens governed by EU law, and as far as we are concerned, it’s business as usual.

And, for those of us resident in France, at this time of year, it’s the Tax Return (Déclaration des Revenus) that is at the forefront of our minds.

As in previous years, the deadline date by which the declaration needs to be submitted to the French tax authority varies by department. For 2017 (income received in 2016) the dates for on-line returns are as follows:

  • Departments 01 to 19 – 23rd May
  • Departments 20 to 49 – 30th May
  • Departments 50 onwards – 6th June

If this is your first income tax declaration in France, a paper return is obligatory and these should be available from your local tax office or to print off on-line from early April. There is a single date for paper based returns, regardless of where you live in France, which for 2017 is 17th May.

For those of you who came to live in France during 2016, then you will need to make your first French tax declaration and declare all your worldwide income and gains, but only for the period since becoming resident in 2016.

Income and gains that might be tax-free in another country, for example, UK ISAs, premium bond winnings and Pension Commencement Lump Sums, must be declared, as all are taxable in France. Even for income that is taxable in another country, for example a UK government type of pension (i.e. civil service, military, police and teachers pensions, but not State pensions) and/or UK property rental income, the amount must still be reported in France and it will be taken into account in calculating your French income tax. You will then be given a tax reduction to take into account the fact that the income is taxable elsewhere.

It is also obligatory to declare the existence of bank accounts and life assurance policies held outside of France, even bank accounts with nothing in them! There are large penalties for not doing so.

Common Reporting Standards
Hopefully, many of you will now be aware of the existence of the CRS, which has been in operation since 1st January 2016 (not least because you may have been asked by your UK bank, or perhaps the institution that pays your private pension, for your French fiscal reference number). This basically means that all EU fiscal authorities and many others throughout the world (including the popular offshore jurisdictions of Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Gibraltar) are exchanging information on pretty much all things financial, concerning taxpayers living in one country who have assets in another country and/or income arising in another country. This includes investment income (e.g. bank interest and dividends), pensions, property rental income, capital gains from financial assets and real estate, life assurance products, employment income, directors’ fees, as well as account balances of financial assets.

No-one is exempt and therefore, it is essential that when you complete your French income tax return, you declare all income and gains – even if this is taxable in another country by virtue of a Double Taxation Treaty with France.

Finally, if anyone finds that they need to complete the pink 2047 form, this means that you have foreign income and/or gains to declare. If this is for any reason other than pension income and earnings, then perhaps you may benefit from a discussion to see if your financial situation can be improved by investing in something that is more tax-efficient for French residency.

Taxation of UK rental income in Italy

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Exchange of Information, Income Tax, Italy, Property, Tax, taxation of rental property, UK property
This article is published on: 19th March 2017

19.03.17

Since the recent exchange of information between HMRC and the Italian tax authorities on UK rental property owners, I have been asked the question whether rental income (when taxed principally in the UK) will be taxed again in Italy as an Italian resident.

Rental income from properties is dealt with according to the law of the state where the property is situated. This means that you can deduct your expenses in the UK, in entirety and in line with UK law, and then the NET income is declared to HMRC in the UK.

When it comes to the Italian tax declaration the NET UK rental income needs to be declared, along with the tax paid in the UK.

This income is put together with any other income you may have for the year, to be declared in Italy,and a credit is given for the tax already paid in the UK, and the tax is calculated on the normal IRPEF rates (income tax rates in Italy).

In short the NET UK rental income position is what needs to be declared in Italy.

Given the recent clampdown on people who are not declaring their UK rental income in Italy, as Italian residents, this information should help to ease any thoughts of having to pay tax twice.

Of course, all this applies to properties held in other countries as well and not just the UK.

The bottom line is get your affairs ‘in regola’ because it is unlikely to cost you any more than it would in the UK, and you can sleep easy knowing you have done the right thing.

The ABCs of Spanish taxation when investing in real estate in Spain

By Jonathan Goodman - Topics: Barcelona, Income Tax, Property, spain, Tax, tax tips
This article is published on: 8th March 2017

08.03.17

For a long time, Spain has been considered a country of interest for real estate investors. It is a Western European country with many types of attractive properties available: residential, retail, offices, logistics, industrial, and more. And all this in a place that enjoys a stable legal system, over forty million consumers, and a great climate.

The Spanish tax system, however, is one of the most complex in the world. This being the case, it is essential to know the taxation associated to each of your investments in order to avoid surprises. We have written this guide as a quick introduction for first time investors. Nevertheless, you must consider it just an introduction since every property has its own peculiarities. We would be happy to help you make your investments a success.

This article was written by AvaLaw and first appeared on www.avalaw.es

Are you thinking of selling your UK property or have you sold one recently?

By Sue Regan - Topics: CGT, France, Income Tax, Residency, tax advice, tax tips, UK property, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 13th January 2017

13.01.17

I decided on the topic for this month’s article after having had a couple of very similar conversations recently with expats relating to the sale of property in the UK. In each case they were badly let down by their UK Solicitors who failed to inform them of a change in UK legislation that was introduced in April 2015. As a result, they received unexpected and not insignificant late payment penalties from HMRC for failure to complete a form following the sale of their UK property which could have been avoided if they had been made aware of this change in the law.

Recap of the new legislation

Prior to 6th April 2015 overseas investors and British expats were not required to pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the sale of residential property in the UK, providing that they had been non-resident for 5 years. New legislation was introduced on 6th April 2015 that removed this tax benefit.

The rate of CGT for non-residents on disposals of residential property is the same as UK residents and depends on the amount of taxable UK income the individual has i.e. 18% for basic rate band and 28% above it, and it is only the gain made since the 6th April 2015 that is subject to CGT for non-UK residents.

Reporting the gain

When you sell your property, you need to fill out a Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT) return online and inform HMRC within 30 days of completing the sale, regardless of whether you’ve made a profit or not. This applies whether or not you currently file UK tax returns. You can find the form and more information on the HMRC website at hmrc.gov.uk

Paying the tax

If you have a requirement to complete a UK tax return then payment of any CGT liability can be made within normal self-assessment deadlines. However those who do not ordinarily file a UK tax return will be required to pay the liability within 30 days of completion. Once you have submitted the form notifying HMRC that the disposal has taken place, a reference number will be issued in order to make payment.

As a French resident you also have to declare any gain to the French tax authority. The Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France means that you will not be taxed twice on the same gain, as you will be given a tax credit for any UK CGT paid (limited to the amount of French CGT). The French CGT rate is 19% and any taxable gain is reduced by taper-relief over 22 years of ownership. You will also be liable to French Social Charges on the gain, at the rate of 15.5%, and the gain for this purpose is tapered over 30 years (rather than 22 years).

At Spectrum we do not consider ourselves to be Tax Experts and we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice from your Accountant or a Notaire in this regard.

There is little that can be done to mitigate the French tax liability on the sale of property that is not your principal residence. So it is important to shelter the sale proceeds and other financial assets wherever possible to avoid future unnecessary taxes. One easy way to do this is by investing in a life assurance policy, which in France is known as a Contrat d’Assurance Vie, and is the favoured vehicle used by millions of French investors. Whilst funds remain within the policy they grow free of Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. In addition, this type of investment is highly efficient for Inheritance planning as it is considered to be outside of your standard estate for inheritance purposes, and you are free to name whoever and as many beneficiaries as you wish. There are very generous allowances for beneficiaries of contracts for amounts invested before the age of 70. Spectrum will typically use international Assurance Vie policies that fully comply with French rules and are treated in the same way as French policies by the fiscal authorities.

International Assurance Vie policies are proving highly popular in light of Loi Sapin II, which has now been enacted into law. More details about the possible detrimental effects of the ‘Sapin Law’ on French Assurance Vie contracts, in certain situations, can be found on our website at www.spectrum-ifa.com/fonds-en-euros-assurances-vie-policies/. Thus, when also faced with the prospect of very low investments returns on Fonds en Euros – in which the majority of monies in French Assurance Vie contracts are invested – it is very prudent to consider the alternative of an international Assurance Vie contract, particularly as you would still benefit from all the same personal tax and inheritance advantages that apply to French contracts.

French Tax Changes 2017

By Daphne Foulkes - Topics: Estate Planning, Exchange of Information, France, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Offshore Disclosures Facility, Tax, Uncategorised, wealth management, Wills
This article is published on: 3rd January 2017

03.01.17

During December, the following legislation has entered into force:

  • the Loi de Finances 2017
  • the Loi de Finances Rectificative 2016(I); and
  • the Loi de Financement de la Sécurité Sociale 2017

Shown below is a summary of our understanding of the principle changes.

INCOME TAX (Impôt sur le Revenu)

The barème scale, which is applicable to the taxation of income and gains from financial assets, has been revised as follows:

Income Tax Rate
Up to €9,710 0%
€9,711 to €26,818 14%
€26,819 to €71,898 30%
€71,899 to €152,260 41%
€152,261 and over 45%

The above will apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of 2016 income and gains from financial assets.

Tax Reduction

A tax reduction of 20% will be granted when the income being accessed for taxation is less than €18,500 for single taxpayers, or €37,000 for a couple subject to joint taxation. These thresholds are increased by €3,700 for each additional dependant half-part in the household.

For single taxpayers with income between €18,500 and €20,500, and couples with income between €37,000 and €41,000 (plus in both cases any threshold increase for dependants), a tax reduction will still be granted, although this will be scaled down.

Prélèvement à la source de l’impôt sur le revenu

Currently, taxpayers complete an income tax declaration in May each year, in respect of income received in the previous year. From the beginning of the year, on-account payments of income tax are made, but pending the assessment of the declaration, these are based on the level of income received two years previously. In August, notifications of the actual income tax liability for the previous year are sent out and taxpayers are sent a bill for any underpayment or income tax for the previous year, or in rare situations, there may be a rebate due, typically in the situation where income has reduced, perhaps due to retirement or long-term disability.
Hence, at any time, there is a lag between the tax payments being made in respect of the income being assessed. Therefore, with the aim of closing this gap, France will move to a more modern system of collection of income tax, by taxing income as it arises. This reform will apply to the majority of regular income (including salaries, pensions, self-employed income and unfurnished property rental income), which will become subject to ‘on account’ withholding rates of tax from 1st January 2018.

Where the income is received from a third-party located in France, the organisation paying the income will deduct the tax at source, using the tax rate notified by the French tax authority. The advantage for the taxpayer is that the income tax deduction should more closely reflect the current income tax liability, based on the actual income being paid at the time of the tax deduction.

For income received from a source outside of France, the taxpayer will be required to make on-account monthly tax payments. The on-account amount payable will be set according to the taxpayer’s income in the previous year. However, if there is a strong variation in the current year’s income (compared to the previous year), it will be possible to request an interim adjustment to more accurately reflect the income actually being received, at the time of the payment of the tax.

Transitional payment arrangements will be put in place, as follows:

    • in 2017, taxpayers will pay tax on their 2016 income
    • in 2018, they will pay tax on their 2018 income, in 2019, they will pay tax on their 2019 income, and so on
    • in the second half of 2017, any third party in France making payments will be notified of the levy rate to be applied, which will be determined from 2016 revenues reported by the taxpayer in May 2017
    • from 1st January 2018, the levy rate will be applied to the income payments being made – and
    • the levy rate will then be amended in September each year to take into account any changes, following the income tax declaration made in the previous May

Taxpayers will still be required to make annual income tax declarations. However, what is clear from the transitional arrangements is that the income of 2017 that falls within the review will not actually be taxed; this is to avoid double taxation in 2018 (i.e. of the combination of 2017 and 2018 income). Therefore, to avoid any abuse of the reform, special provisions have been introduced so that taxpayers – who are able to do so – cannot artificially increase their income for the 2017 year.

Furthermore, exceptional non-recurring income received is excluded from the scope of the reform in 2017; this includes capital gains on financial assets and real estate, interest, dividends, stock options, bonus shares and pension taken in the form of cash (prestations de retraite servies sous forme de capital). Therefore, taxpayers will not be able to take advantage of the 2017 year to avoid paying tax on these types of income.

At the same time, the benefits of tax reductions and credits for 2017 will be maintained and allocated in full at the time of tax balancing in the summer of 2018, although for home care and child care, an advance partial tax credit is expected from February 2018. Charitable donations made in 2017, which are eligible for an income tax reduction, will also be taken into account in the balancing of August 2018.

WEALTH TAX (Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune)

There are no changes to wealth tax. Therefore, taxpayers with net assets of at least €1.3 million will continue to be subject to wealth tax on assets exceeding €800,000, as follows:

Fraction of Taxable Assets Tax Rate
Up to €800,000 0%
€800,001 to €1,300,000 0.50%
€1,300,001 to €2,570,000 0.70%
€2,570,001 to € 5,000,000 1%
€5,000,001 to €10,000,000 1.25%
Greater than €10,000,000 1.5%

 

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Financial Assets (Plus Value Mobilières)

Gains arising from the disposal of financial assets continue to be added to other taxable income and then taxed in accordance with the progressive rates of tax outlined in the barème scale above.

However, the system of ‘taper relief’ still applies for the capital gains tax (but not for social contributions), in recognition of the period of ownership of any company shares, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from two years to less than eight years; and
  • 65% for a holding period of at least eight years

This relief also applies to gains arising from the sale of shares in ‘collective investments’, for example, investment funds and unit trusts, providing that at least 75% of the fund is invested in shares of companies.

In order to encourage investment in new small and medium enterprises, the higher allowances against capital gains for investments in such companies are also still provided, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from one year to less than four years;
  • 65% for a holding period from four years to less than eight years; and
  • 85% for a holding period of at least eight years

The above provisions apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of gains made in 2016.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Property (Plus Value Immobilières)

Capital gains arising on the sale of a maison secondaire and on building land continue to be taxed at a fixed rate of 19%. However, a system of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 6% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive; and;
  • 4% for the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of capital gains tax after twenty-two years of ownership.

However, for social contributions (which remain at 15.5%), a different scale of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 1.65% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive;
  • 1.6% for the twenty-second year; and
  • 9% for each year of ownership beyond the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of social contributions after thirty years of ownership.

An additional tax continues to apply for a maison secondaire (but not on building land), when the gain exceeds €50,000, as follows:

Amount of Gain Tax Rate
€50,001 – €100,000 2%
€100,001 – €150,000 3%
€150,001 to €200,000 4%
€200,001 to €250,000 5%
€250,001 and over 6%

Where the gain is within the first €10,000 of the lower level of the band, a smoothing mechanism applies to reduce the amount of the tax liability.

The above taxes are also payable by non-residents selling a property or building land in France.

SOCIAL CHARGES (Prélèvements Sociaux)

As has been widely publicised, on 26th February 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that France could not apply social charges to ‘income from capital’, if the taxpayer is insured by another Member State of the EU/EEA or Switzerland. Income from capital includes investment income on financial assets and property rental income, as well as capital gains on financial assets and real estate.

Fundamental to this decision was the fact that the ECJ determined that France’s social charges had sufficient links with the financing of the country’s social security system and benefits. EU Regulations generally provide that people can only be insured by one Member State. Therefore, if the person is insured by another Member State, they cannot also be insured by France and thus, should not have to pay French social charges on income from capital.

On 27th July 2015, the Conseil d’Etat, which is France’s highest court, accepted the ECJ ruling, which paved the way for those people affected to reclaim social charges that had been paid in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This applied to all residents of any EU/EEA State and Switzerland, who had paid social charges on French property rental income and capital gains, but excluded residents outside of these territories.

However, to circumvent the ECJ ruling, France amended its Social Security Code. In doing so, it removed the direct link of social charges to specific social security benefits that fall under EU Regulations. The changes took effect from 1st January 2016.

Hence, if you are resident in France, social charges are applied to your worldwide investment income and gains. The current rate is 15.5% and the charges are also payable by non-residents on French property rental income and capital gains.

Whilst the French Constitutional Council validated the changes in the French Social Security law, it remains highly questionable under EU law. One hopes, therefore, that this may be censored again by the ECJ, at some point.

EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION UNDER COMMON REPORTING STANDARD:

As of December 2016, there are now already over 1,300 bilateral exchange relationships activated, with respect to more than 50 jurisdictions. Many jurisdictions have already been collecting information throughout 2016, which will be shared with other jurisdictions by September 2017.

However, there are many more jurisdictions that are committed to the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and so it is anticipated that more information exchange agreements will be activated during 2017.

In the EU, the CRS has been brought into effect through the EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation in the Field of Taxation, which was adopted in December 2014. The scope of information exchange is very broad, including investment income (e.g. bank interest and dividends), pensions, property rental income, capital gains from financial assets and real estate, life assurance products, employment income, directors’ fees, as well as account balances of financial assets.

No-one is exempt and therefore, it is essential that when French income tax returns are completed, taxpayers declare all income and gains – even if this is taxable in another country by virtue of a Double Taxation Treaty with France.

It is also obligatory to declare the existence of bank accounts and life assurance policies held outside of France. The penalties for not doing so are €1,500 per account or contract, which increases to €10,000 if this is held in an ‘uncooperative State’ that has not concluded an agreement with France to provide administrative assistance to exchange tax information. Furthermore, if the total value of the accounts and contracts not declared is at least €50,000, then the fine is increased to 5% of the value of the account/contract as at 31st December, if this is greater than €1,500 (€10,000 if in an uncooperative State).

2nd January 2017

This outline is provided for information purposes only. It does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action to mitigate the effects of any potential changes in French tax legislation.