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French Tax Returns 2021

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax in France
This article is published on: 3rd May 2021

The right to make mistakes

There is an expression in France which goes “In May, do what pleases you” (en mai fait ce qui te plait). This refers to the fact that any frosty weather will have gone by the end of April and you can go out and enjoy the warm weather. However, there is something very important that needs to be done before we can go out and enjoy ourselves and that’s the tax return. Although the tax return is available online in early April, personally I’m not psychologically ready to deal with my tax return until May and then not even that much! As a former tax adviser I used to do around 200-300 returns for clients between March and June, but I have to admit that doing my own tax return is quite a task and requires preparation. It’s a bit like deciding to do a full Sunday roast; you need to make sure you have all the ingredients because you don’t want to get the meat in the oven and discover that you’ve not bought the gravy!

French Tax Changes 2019

If you think French tax is daunting, you’re not alone. The French themselves find their tax returns difficult and the French authorities know that it isn’t easy. Moves have been made in recent years to simplify the system with information being automatically declared by employers and banks so that it appears in the tax return, but there is still information that needs to be checked and other information (like expenses or tax credits) that must be included to calculate the tax correctly.

The preferred method of declaration is online, or even through an app on your smartphone or tablet. However, whilst the French authorities would prefer an online declaration, if this is your first year declaring or you really can’t do it online, you can submit a paper return.

Tax Calendar

The deadline for a paper French Tax Returns 2021 declaration is 20th May this year whereas the online deadlines are:

  • 26th May for departments 1 to 19 and for non-residents
  • 1st June for department 20 to 54
  • 8th June for departments 55 to 976

These dates relate to the place where you were resident on 1st January 2021.

Even though the French tax authorities are trying to make the system simpler, even introducing an “automatic declaration” this year for those 12 million French tax payers with income and expenses already known to the authorities, the Finance Minister knows that people still make mistakes. The most common of which is failing to declare a child who is in college, lycee or university. Another is that if you opted for the marginal rate on your interest and dividends before, the option is carried over and the box 2OP already ticked on the declaration but an alert message will appear if this regime is not the most favourable. The ten most common errors can be found on the website oups.gouv.fr. Costs for childcare for children under 6 years old, confusion over who includes the child when the parents are separated or divorced and tax deductions for charitable gifts are among the most frequent mistakes.

Since a law introduced in 2018 to help improve the relationship between the administration and the general public, you now have official permission to make mistakes in your declaration. You are presumed to be declaring in good faith and you have the right to make a mistake when making your declarations without being penalised from the outset. Any individual or company can amend, either voluntarily or if requested by the authorities, their mistake if it has been committed in good faith and for the first time. This doesn’t cover fraudsters or repeat offenders and whilst it means you can avoid a fine you will still have to pay any extra taxes that are due. Tax advisers and accountants are mad busy at the moment, so if you haven’t already found one to do your tax return they will be very reluctant to take you on now. However, some tax offices may allow you to make an appointment and bring your papers and information to do your tax return with them. You have an official right to make a mistake and as long as you submit something before the deadline, you can then correct it later.

The first time I did a roast dinner as a student I had to call my grandma (a former professional cook) and I am happy to say no one got food poisoning! Like many things in life, these things can seem daunting to begin with, but if you do your best and follow the instructions, you will be proud of yourself once it is done and then you can go out and enjoy the sunshine with a large glass of wine!

Article by Katriona Murray-Platon

If you are based in the Poitou Charentes, Limousin & Aquitaine area you can contact Katriona at: katey.murray@spectrum-ifa.com for more information. If you are based in another area within Europe, please complete the form below and we will put a local adviser in touch with you.

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