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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.

Wealth Tax in Catalunya

By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wealth Tax
This article is published on: 3rd August 2017

03.08.17

We understand the need to pay tax. It gives us hospitals to treat our family, care in later life and many other services. Yet it is also easy to feel unhappy about some taxes. Some seem just downright unfair.

Wealth tax is the first of these. Having worked hard and paid tax on our earnings, we have then also paid tax on our savings. Despite this we have managed to build our savings, have become less of a burden on the state and yet we are now taxed again with Wealth Tax for having saved. Fortunately, it is possible to pay what is due but also to manage the amount due.

Wealth Tax in Catalunya – How it works
Wealth tax ( Patrimonial ) is applied if your worldwide assets are more than 500,000€ with an additional allowance of up to 300,000€ for your main residence. The tax is based upon your net wealth; assets minus liabilities.

In Catalunya the rates of tax start at 0.21% and rises to 2.75% depending on your wealth. Each year!

Your wealth as at 31st December is declared as part of your Declaración de la Renta, your annual tax return and the payment of the tax made on the 30th June in the following year.

How to manage the amount due
There are some assets that are excluded from Wealth tax. Surprisingly, some of these are mainstream investments. It may be possible to reduce your Wealth Tax by using an exempt investment.

In addition, the amount of tax due is capped at 60% of your income tax base, subject to paying at least 20% of the total tax based on your wealth. It is often possible to adjust your income so that you are limited to the 60% of your income tax base. Typically, this is done by using investments which are not assessed for tax each year. However, there are several methods of planning to achieve a reduction in Wealth Tax.

Who would inherit your Assets if you die without a will?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Wills
This article is published on: 26th May 2017

26.05.17

You might be surprised to know that 59%, that’s over half of UK adults, have not written a Will. And if you are over 55 there is a 36% chance you haven’t either. The main reason for this…….most people believe they are not wealthy enough to need a Will, or they are too young to make one. But what would happen to your assets if the worse did happen?

Is there a living husband, wife or civil partner?

If you are married, or have a civil partnership then it’s actually very straightforward and they would inherit your entire estate. But would you want that? And how about if by some awful miracle both of you departed this happy land, what would happen to your assets then? But let us put those to one side for now; imagine you have children, whom decide where they will be raised and who with? If you are living away from the UK this makes it even more complicated. If you don’t have a Will, you are leaving all of this to the authorities and not planning to protect yourself and your loved ones for the sake of a simple document.

Imagine you have a partner, but are not married and not in a civil partnership, would you be surprised to know they have no right to your assets? How would that affect them?
Let’s imagine, as more people these days are for various reasons not having children, that down the family line to Great Aunts/Uncles there is no one related to you. You might not be very happy to know that ‘The Crown? Inherits your assets, that is the Royal Family. In fact fewer people in the UK have Wills than a year ago.

Back in August 2015 the Wills laws changed in Europe, with the main different being you can CHOOSE which laws you wish your Will to follow. The choice is either your country of domicility (usually where you were born/hold a passport for) or the country you reside in now. If you are British most people choose the UK as the laws are easier, you have more control and less complex than those in Spain.

Find out here who would inherit your assets by clicking on this link:
www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will

To enquire about making a Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can arrange for you to talk this through with a Will writer so you know:

  • The process involved
  • The costs
  • How it works
  • There is no charge for this peace of mind

Sources:
HMRC website
*unbiased.co.uk research conducted by Opinium Research between 19 to 23 August 2016, among 2,000 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+

Inheritance Tax Planning

By Derek Winsland - Topics: Estate Planning, France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning, Tax
This article is published on: 18th April 2017

18.04.17

In my everyday dealings with prospective clients and ex-pats looking for advice generally, I’m finding myself dealing with increasingly more complex personal and family situations. From re-structuring of UK investments such as general investment accounts and Individual Savings Accounts (ISA) to make them French tax-friendly, analyzing occupational pensions to assess the suitability of transferring way from the UK and into QROPS, through to financial planning for the future, every case is varied and different, requiring bespoke advice.

One area I find particularly common is how best to address the impact French succession laws have on those of us used to the fairly flexible UK Inheritance Tax laws. In the UK, its fairly simple: you can leave everything you own to your spouse free from inheritance tax. On the surviving spouse’s subsequent demise, the first £325,000 of that person’s estate can be passed on without tax liability. Since 2007, the deceased partner’s allowance can also now be used by the surviving spouse, thereby ensuring that £650,000 of the combined estate is free from taxation. In addition, there is an additional property nil rate band that can boost the tax exemption even further. Furthermore, with the exception of the spouse, there is no discrimination in who benefits in terms of tax treatment. The tax rate in UK is 40% on the excess over the £325,000 threshold.

In France, assets passing to the spouse have also been tax free since 2007, but this is where the similarity ends in terms of potential taxation. Taking its lead from Code Napoleon, French succession laws put the children of the deceased at the forefront when determining who inherits, giving them Protected Heirs status. Who inherits, and that person’s relationship to the deceased, also determines what tax free allowance is available and following on from that what tax is payable.

Sons and daughters, both natural and adopted, can receive €100,000 each from the deceased’s estate free from tax, thereafter there is a sliding scale based on the amount inherited. But here’s the rub: step-children are not blood related, so the children’s allowance doesn’t apply to them and they fall into the category of ‘unrelated person’. As such they can only inherit €1,594 free from inheritance tax. The balance is taxed at the eye-watering rate of 60%.

Protected Heirs are entitled to receive the major share of the deceased’s estate, at the expense of the spouse, so structures need to be put in place to protect the spouse, such as wills, marriage regimes, family pacts etc. Generally, these relate to the property, but can also include more liquid assets such as bank deposits and investments.

When addressing the issue of shielding step-children from the severest level of taxation, at the same time ensuring the surviving spouse is properly looked after, one weapon in our armoury is the assurance vie, or life assurance investment bond. On the death of the bond holder, any beneficiary can inherit without discrimination. In the holder of the assurance vie was below age 70 when the policy was taken out, each beneficiary can inherit €152,500 without a tax liability. For amounts above €152,500 the tax rate is 20% or 31.25% if the amount inherited is above €700,000. This is per beneficiary and not per assurance vie. But what if I don’t want my money to pass to my children or step-children on my death, but rather to go to my spouse?

This is where it gets clever! By inserting a Demembrement Clause within the assurance vie policy, your spouse can be granted usufruit or life interest in the assets held in the policy, thereby ensuring protection to him or her.

And there’s more. By drawing capital out of the deceased’s policy, the spouse is creating a debt that will be repaid on the spouse’s subsequent death, paid for out of his or her estate, thereby further reducing the amount of any inheritance tax liability. This is what we call true financial planning, and this forms the bed-rock of what we do here in Spectrum.

If you have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at derek.winsland@spectrum-ifa.com or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.

Spanish Succession Tax (Inheritance tax)

By Chris Webb - Topics: Catalunya, Estate Planning, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 16th March 2017

16.03.17

If you are a resident of Spain it is important to understand that there will be liabilities due to the Spanish government in the event of a death. Whether it’s you that is inheriting part of an estate or it’s your estate being distributed the taxman is going to want his share.

Many British nationals don’t realise that depending on the asset and its location there may also be a claim from the UK taxman. Just because you are a non UK resident it does not eliminate the requirement to settle taxes in both the UK and Spain. Spanish succession tax will be due either when the assets being inherited are located in Spain, such as a property, even if the recipient of the asset lives outside of Spain OR if the assets are based outside of Spain but the recipient lives in Spain.

For example: if you leave your Spanish property to your children who are now UK residents they will be liable to pay succession tax to the Spanish government. On the flip side if you receive an inheritance from the UK and you are a Spanish resident then again you have to pay tax in Spain.

As mentioned above, if you are a British national and are resident in Spain you could be liable to UK inheritance tax as well as Spanish succession tax. In the UK they require all worldwide assets to be declared, as you will be considered “UK domiciled” by the government. It is almost impossible to be considered as anything other than UK domiciled, even if you haven’t lived in the UK for some time.

There is no double tax treaty signed between the UK and Spain when it comes to inheritance, however if tax has been paid in the UK the amount is usually deductible against the Spanish liability.

To complicate matters further, Spain have a standard set of “State Rules” which lay down the rates and allowances for succession tax as well as individual “Autonomous rules” which means things are different from one community to another. Detailed below are these state rules:
The tax rates differ depending on the value of the amount inherited. These range from 7.65% on the first €7,933, up to 34% on €797,555 and over.
Beneficiaries are graded into four different groups and the more remote the beneficiary’s relationship is to the deceased the lower the tax allowance and the higher the tax rates. These four groups are:

  • Natural and adopted children under 21
  • Natural and adopted children aged 21 and over, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses
  • in-laws and their ascendants/descendants, stepchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts
  • all others including unmarried partners

Allowances are available between husband and wife or direct line ascendants/descendants, but this is set at just short of €16.000. If an inheritor is also a direct line descendant under the age of 21, there is an additional allowance of €3,990 for each year they are under 21. The total of this additional allowance is restricted to €47,858 per child or grandchild.

For more distant relatives (e.g. cousins) the exemption is set at €7,933. There is no exemption for beneficiaries who are not related.

A main home in Spain may be virtually exempt from Spanish succession tax provided the beneficiaries are either your spouse, parents or children and they continue to own the property for ten years from the date of death.

The exemption can also apply where the beneficiary is a more distant relative over the age of 65 and they have lived with you for at least two years before death. If these conditions are met, the value of the house can be reduced by 95% in calculating the tax base liable, subject to a maximum reduction in value per inheritor of €122,606. It is important to note that this is only applies principal private residence and is owned by a Spanish resident.

Some examples of where the Autonomous rules differ from the state rules:

In Valenciana, spouses and children receive an allowance of €100,000 each. They can also benefit from a 75% reduction in the amount of succession tax payable.

In Murcia, the taxable inheritance for children under 21 is reduced by 99%, while older children and spouses get a 50% reduction.

In Andalucía, spouses and children can benefit from a 100% exemption for inheritances up to €175,000, provided they are not worth more than €402,268.

Cataluña offers a 99% allowance for spouses. Other Group I and II relatives receive a relief depending on the amount of their inheritance. Personal reductions are €100,000 for spouses and children (more for those under 21), €50,000 for other descendants, €30,000 for ascendants and €8,000 for other relatives. The 95% main home relief is up to a property value of €500,000, with the amount pro-rated among the beneficiaries (minimum €180,000 limit each). The property need only be kept five years rather than the 10 year state rule.

To summarise the key points of succession tax:

  • Tax is paid by each recipient, rather than by the estate
  • Spouses are not exempt
  • Allowances under the state rules are very low – just €15,957 for spouses, descendants over 21 and ascendants, €7,993 for other close relatives and nil for everyone else
  • Under state rules, tax is applied at progressive rates from 7.65% (for assets under €7,993) to 34% (for assets over €797,555). However, multipliers depending on the relationship between the two can increase this rate
  • If you leave assets to your spouse, who then passes them on to your children when he/she dies, succession tax will be due again on the second death
  • Succession tax also applies to pension funds
  • Tax is paid at the time of the inheritance, even if the funds are not accessed at the time. There is a six-month period to pay the tax after the death, although it is possible to apply for an extension in certain cases
  • Succession tax is governed by both state and local autonomous community rules; each community has the right to amend the state rules
  • Whether the state or the local autonomous community rules apply for each case, depends on where the beneficiary and the donor are resident and where the assets inherited/gifted are located
  • If you are UK domiciled you need to consider both the UK inheritance tax rules as well as the Spanish succession tax rules

Whilst the Spectrum IFA Group are not tax advisers, we can help to put you in touch with the right people. It is important to understand the various succession tax rules and how they apply to your situation, as well as how they affect any UK liability. You need specialist advice to understand the intricacies of the two tax regimes, and how to lower both tax liabilities and potentially save your heirs a considerable amount of tax. You can often combine your estate planning with your personal tax planning.

*Sources: Advoco, LegalforSpain, Globalpropertyguide, GovUK, AILO

French Tax Changes 2017

By Spectrum IFA - 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.

Dread and Brexit

By John Hayward - Topics: BREXIT, Costa Blanca, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 24th October 2016

24.10.16

Fear causes thousands to hold off making decisions pre-Brexit

Uncertainty over what will happen once the UK has left the European Union has led people to make one important decision. Not do anything until it happens. This means delaying actions for around two and a half years. This could be a really disappointing, if not dangerous, decision to make. As much as we intend being around in two and a half years, there is no guarantee we will be. Who knew two and a half years ago what was going to happen next week?

Brexit is another event in our lives. None of us, not even the politicians, know exactly what is going to happen but you can plan for all eventualities. If there is a full-on Brexit, then you need to be in a position whereby your money is not exposed to future monetary restrictions. You need to do this BEFORE the shutters come down. Waiting two and a half years may be too long and too late.

If there is a “soft” Brexit, as I suspect there will be, with deals being done over a gin and tonic in Le Chien et Le Canard, it will still be important that your investments are recognised as being tax compliant in the country you live in. It will also be important that any financial planning advice you are receiving is coming from a company registered in your country. Some financial advisers in Spain are allowed to operate using a UK licence because the UK is in the EU. The professional indemnity insurance which they (may) have could become invalid.

Another change likely to cause a big problem post-Brexit is Spanish inheritance tax. UK inheritors are benefiting from Spanish rules introduced in 2014. These rules only apply to EU residents. Therefore, it is now time to look at how to distribute wealth in readiness for these changes.

Interest rates are low and will stay that way for some time to come, probably for at least two and a half years. The pound has collapsed in value meaning that income in euro terms has reduced dramatically. Banks have little or nothing to offer. We can help you with this NOW. We do not charge for a chat, or even for investigating what you have. We tick all the boxes regarding licences and compliance and we live in Spain.

 

French Inheritance Planning

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Inheritance Tax, Le Tour de Finance, Succession Planning, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 9th September 2016

09.09.16

In May, I wrote about tax-efficient savings & investments in France, including Assurance Vie (AV), which is the most popular type of investment in France for medium to long-term savings. If you did not see the article, you can find it at www.spectrum-ifa.com/tax-efficient-savings-investments-france/

I had intended to return to discuss the benefits of AV for French inheritance planning, in the following month. But then we had the result of the Brexit vote and that caught my attention just a little more!

So now I am getting back to basics of what works for successful French inheritance planning for financial assets – regardless of whether the UK is in or out of the EU – and regardless of nationality. Without a doubt, this is the AV, as this is an excellent planning tool for protecting the survivor, providing you with freedom of choice about who you can leave your financial assets to, as well as mitigating the potential inheritance taxes for your beneficiaries.

In France, there are strict rules on succession and children are ‘protected heirs’, each being entitled to inherit a proportion of their parents’ estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is half; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

However, for a quirk of historical reasoning, the death benefits paid from an AV fall outside of your standard estate. Therefore, you can leave the proceeds of your AV to whoever you wish and so get around the French ‘forced’ succession rules. I know that there will be many out there who are saying that you can do this anyway now, as a result of the EU Succession Regulations. Well that’s true, but maybe it’s not quite as straightforward as one might think – or at least hoped!

The problem is that even though the EU Regulations have been in place for more than a year now, these have not been widely tested. Notaires and cross-border legal specialists are still trying to get to grips with how these Regulations actually work in practice. So I, like many other professionals, still hold the view that if there is a tried and tested ‘French way’ to achieve your objectives, then this should be used. Early articles that I wrote on this subject can be found at www.spectrum-ifa.com/the-eu-succession-regulations/

The EU Succession Regulations do not change the potential French inheritances taxes that are payable, but an AV does. Whilst there are no French inheritance taxes between spouses and partners who have entered into a legal civil partnership (known as a PACS, in France), for other beneficiaries, the tax rate varies according to their relationship to you. For example, step-children (and other non-blood beneficiaries) are taxed at a punitive 60%!

For amounts invested in an AV before age 70, each beneficiary (whatever their relationship to you) is entitled to a tax-free allowance of €152,500. Taxation is limited to 20% on amounts paid above the allowance up to €700,000, and at 31.25% for amounts exceeding €700,000 per beneficiary). There is still no tax between spouses and PACSd partners, whatever amount is transmitted.

There is no limit to the number of beneficiaries that you can name. Hence, whatever your family situation, it is possible to pass on your capital to whoever you like, without them suffering excessive rates of French inheritance tax. Thus, the survivor can be fully protected and then the capital can subsequently pass to your other beneficiaries, following the death of the survivor.

For amounts invested after age 70, the inheritance allowance for all your beneficiaries combined is reduced to €30,500 (plus the investment return on the total amount invested). In effect, therefore, it is only the amount invested that exceeds €30,500 that would be taxed at standard French inheritance tax rates.

Sadly, social contributions are now charged on any gain in the policy paid out as a death benefit. Even so, when the above inheritance planning advantages are taken into account together with the personal tax savings, this makes the AV a very attractive proposition.

Inheritance planning is a highly specialised and complicated subject. Everyone’s family situation and level of wealth is different and it is very important to seek professional advice, so that the best course of action for you can be established.

The benefits of AV and tax-efficiency is a subject that we cover in our popular financial seminars across France – “Le Tour de Finance – Bringing Experts to Expats”. Overall, our industry experts will be presenting updates and outlooks on a broad range of subjects, including:

  • Financial Markets
  • Assurance Vie
  • Pensions/QROPS
  • French Tax Issues
  • Currency Exchange

The date for the local seminar is Friday, 7th October 2016 at the Domaine Gayda, 11300 Brugairolles. Places are limited and must be reserved, in advance. This venue is always very popular and with less than a month to go, the event is likely to soon be fully booked. Therefore, you should contact us as soon as possible if you would like to come to the seminar. I will be at the event with our other advisers in this area, Rob, Derek and Sue.

In practice, financial advice is needed more than ever in uncertain times. Doing nothing can often be an expensive mistake. Hence, if you are not able to attend the seminar and would anyway like to have a confidential discussion with one of our financial advisers, you can contact us by e-mail at limoux@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 68 31 14 10 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an advisor is available immediately for an initial discussion.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of the investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.

Making a Will and EU Succession Planning in Spain/Europe

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Inheritance Tax, Spain, Succession Planning, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 15th June 2016

15.06.16

The Laws on making a Will in Spain/Europe changed on the 17th August 2015. These changes could greatly affect what would happen to someone’s estate/inheritance when they die and it’s therefore important you understand what these are and how they could affect you.

The reason for these changes in that is essence European states have differing laws on who inherits an estate. Many of these are complicated and unclear, making it uncertain who will inherit exactly what.

For this purpose, EU Succession Regulation introduces common rules on which State’s laws apply if there is a conflict between countries’ succession laws.

The following countries are bound by the new regulation:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
Notable Absentee’s are the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

Where you are ‘habitually resident’ that country’s laws will apply

To give you an example, a person dies leaving assets in France, Spain, and Germany and resides here in Spain. Due to the fact they are resident in Spain, the assets will be governed by Spanish law.

So what are the rules of Habitual Residence?

How long you are in and how often you visit a state/country as well as the conditions and reasons for you being there. Simply put, for most people, more than 183 days in one country, living or retired there makes it your main residence.

Making a Choice of Law

This default position can be overridden if you choose to apply the law of your nationality via a Will. For example – a German national dies leaving assets in France, Spain, and Germany. They are habitually resident in Spain but have stated in their Will that German law will apply to their estate. All of their assets will be governed by German law.

What about the UK?

As the UK is not bound by the Regulation, UK assets can never be governed by the law of another EU state. However, those states bound by the Regulation have to allow the application of UK laws to assets in their state if someone so chooses.

How might this affect me?

Many EU states have laws of ‘forced heirship’ under which certain assets (such as holiday property) can only be inherited by certain people. The inheritance laws in England and Wales allow you greater freedom to leave your estate to whomever you wish when you die. If you have assets in any of the states bound by the Regulation it may affect which laws will apply to them.

Who does it affect?

All foreigners who have their habitual residency in Spain and die on or after the 17th of August 2015. Spanish nationals may disregard these changes as they are unaffected by the changes.

Examples of which Will you may need

• I am a British/Irish national and NOT resident in Spain. I Don’t Plan to become Resident in Spain.

In such a case this Regulation does not affect you. It only affects existing residents in Spain or else those who at some point in the future plan to take up residency in Spain. There is no need for you to make a new Spanish Will.

A WORD OF WARNING HERE! If you are not truly a resident in Spain i.e. spend less than 183 days a year here, then that’s perfectly ok and you have nothing to worry about. However, if you are PRETENDING you are not resident in Spain, be very careful. More and more people are getting caught out by various means, and fines can be punitive. The reasons for wanting to be UK resident are currently negligible compared to being a Spanish Resident. Inheritance tax is almost nothing if anything in many cases here in Catalonia at present, and the other taxes you pay here are again currently very similar to that of the UK. Why run the risk of getting caught?

Examples of who this may affect?

• A non-resident Scottish man who inherits Spanish assets will also pay Spanish inheritance tax.

You cannot opt out or choose your own national Inheritance tax laws on inheriting assets located in Spain. You have to pay Spain’s IHT.

Other potential questions might be:

• Can I choose my own national tax law besides opting for my national succession law? The short answer is no

The regulation entitles you is to choose freely the Succession Law of your own nationality (i.e. England and Wales or Scotland’s) in lieu of Spain’s compulsory heir rules which, following this new Regulation, applies by default if your habitual residency is in Spain at the time of your death on or after the 17th of August 2015.

VERY IMPORTANT – PLEASE NOTE!!!

You CANNOT choose which Inheritance Tax Laws apply to your Spanish estate. It is mandatory to pay Spanish inheritance tax on Spanish Assets, still.

For example, an Englishman resident in Spain and inherits Spanish assets will pay Spanish inheritance tax.

To clarify on Wills……
You are simply choosing the rules of which country you wish the Will to follow. Either way, Spanish assets will STILL be liable to Spanish Taxes.

For example, in Spain assets left automatically go to certain relatives, whether you want them to or not e.g. the husband dies, 25% of any Property goes to any children, whether you want it to or not. This could then cause problems with selling properties, realising assets etc.

What do I need to do?

It is essential to co-ordinate Wills and Tax Planning (look no further) in each country concerned to ensure that your estate will pass to your chosen beneficiaries in the way that is best for you and your estate.

Chris, a partner of the Spectrum IFA Group, makes sure that not only are his clients assets managed correctly, but they are kept up to date and given the best advice for most eventualities that affect many people almost daily, that they do not think about or aren’t aware of.

Where there’s a Will

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Inheritance Tax, Residency, Spain, Succession Planning, Tax, Uncategorised, Wills
This article is published on: 7th June 2016

07.06.16

Many people avoid drawing up wills because it requires them to contemplate their own mortality. If you are a foreigner with property and/or other assets in Spain, you should make a Spanish will.

You should also have a will for each jurisdiction within which you hold assets. For example, if you have a bank account in Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Jersey etc, you also need a will in that country.

Each of these wills needs to clearly state that they are for the disposal of assets in that country only and that you want your will to be governed by UK/ other EU country law. Only if you state this, will that disposal of assets be governed by your own national law and not that of Spain.

It is now possible to have your Spanish will made out in two columns. One side in Spanish and the other in English. This is checked by a Notary Public and signed by you, the Notary and your interpreter, if your Spanish is insufficient for you to read the Spanish side of the document yourself. The Testamento Abierto (Open Will) is kept by the Notary, an authorized copy will be given to you and the Notary will send a notification to the Registro Central de Ultima Voluntad in Madrid.

It is important to discuss with your legal or financial adviser in Spain, details of the heirs named on your Spanish will. The more direct descendants that are named in your Spanish will as heirs, the less the Inheritance Tax you should have to pay.

Unlike the UK and many other countries, in Spain it is the person receiving the inheritance that is taxable, NOT the deceased person’s estate.
There are many differences between the UK law and Spanish law on Inheritance and Gift tax and although the UK and Spain have many reciprocal arrangements for double taxation, there is no such arrangement for Inheritance Tax.

To die intestate (without a will) in Spain, makes the process of sorting out the deceased’s estate much more time consuming and costly. For the sake of a small amount of money and an hour of your time, you can leave your affairs in order, to help those left behind.