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.