Most people accept that when you live in a country you have to pay local taxes. Equally, most people can understand the fact that in order to get social benefits such as unemployment benefits and healthcare, you have to pay social security contributions. France, on the other hand, has another tax: social charges, which isn’t actually called a tax, but in fact operates very much like a tax.
Social charges were first introduced in 1991 and have been much grumbled about by French tax payers and expats living in France. It is not one social charge, but is made up of various types of social charges, the rates and combined rate of which has increased progressively over the years. Social charges are taken from all types of income, but where they have caused the most problems is the social charges on capital and rental income, especially for non-resident tax payers.
In 2015, following a challenge by a Dutch national, Mr De Ruyter, the European Court of Justice held that the social charges on rental and capital income were not a tax but a social security contribution and that an EU national should not be required to pay social charges in France when they are paying or have paid social security contributions in their own Member State. The French Administrative Court, the Conseil d’Etat then confirmed that decision and orders were issued to the French tax offices to reimburse the social charges paid to non-resident EU nationals or resident EU nationals who were covered for their health insurance by another EU system (under the S1 form, for example). This led to hundreds of thousands of pounds being reimbursed for the tax years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
In an effort to resolve the problem of the drop in funds being collected, in 2016 the French government changed the allocation of the social charges from rental and capital income so that they were no longer paid to the social security body, but to the Old Age Solidarity Fund and the Social Debt Depreciation Fund. Therefore, claims could not be made on income earned in 2015 taxable in 2016 or on capital gains from 2016 onward. This was a bit of last minute shuffle to seemingly comply with the European judgment, however the legal grounds of this abrupt turnaround were questionable.
On 31st May 2018, the Nancy Administrative Court of Appeal held that even these social charges should not apply to those covered by another EU Member State social security scheme. This meant that the major part of the social charges (14.5%) should be refunded. Although this decision has been referred to the European Court for a ruling and has yet to be confirmed by the Conseil d’Etat, claims for 2016 and 2017 should be made now to avoid being time barred later (2015 is time barred as of 31st December 2018).
Whether or not it is because the French government is expecting the European Court of Justice to rule against them again, the Law on Social Security Financing of 2019 has now entered into force, stating that tax payers who do not rely on the French social security system for their healthcare, but on a healthcare system of another EU Member State, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein or Switzerland, are exempt from the CSG and CRDS on capital and rental income. Social charges in general have been reorganised so that, as of 1st January 2019 there are only the CSG and CRDS. However a new social charge has been introduced called the “Prélèvement Solidaire” at a rate of 7.5%, which means that the total amount is the same as last year at 17.2%. Under the Social Security Financing Law of 2019 those not reliant on the French State for health cover, as described above, only have to pay this 7.5% social charge.
An Order published on 7th February 2019 by the French parliament on the situation of Brits in France in case of a No Deal Brexit has stated that all current healthcare arrangements would be maintained for a period of 2 years following the Brexit. Although this is good news, it is subject to the UK reciprocating the same rights and guarantees.
Whilst no one knows what the final Brexit outcome may be, it would still be worth getting in touch with a financial adviser to review your investments and see how you can benefit from these new tax changes.