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We don’t have a crystal ball but we know how to prepare for the unknown

By Alan Watson - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 10th November 2020

For most of 2020, nobody in France has been able to escape the misery of the daily Virus update; even as I write this article, it gets worse by the day. From a financial planner’s viewpoint, and thinking of my family, long term Rhone-Alps based, it can spin one’s head wondering, “how much, and for how long, will our children be paying extra taxes and social charges to balance this black hole.”

President Macron has certainly not been slow in pressing his Eurozone political colleagues to secure a massive support package for France (so all those excessive Urssaf charges have clearly not been enough!) Did anybody analyse, offer some statistics as to how this will be paid back? If so, sorry I missed it, but we all know the harsh reality is payback time will be long and heavy.

Many of my clients in the Alps are either retired, considering it, or working hard in their business to secure a tidy financial future, not only for themselves, but for their families also. It’s a part of life’s pattern that many of us become beneficiaries of a family estate, and being a French fiscal resident, this brings up potential questions and complications, “what are the limits I can receive before the tax man becomes an unwelcome beneficiary?”, “my children deserve a portion of this, but the bank offers a derisory return, not even Eurozone inflation proof,”, “our young daughter dreams of studying in the US, how much will that cost?”

gifts

So how do we approach such matters ? You may be surprised and relieved to hear that the French fiscal system can be both generous and highly tax efficient when it comes to financial planning for ourselves and our families. For example, a gift of €100,000 can be made every 15 years from parents to children, free of tax and social charges, which could be used for that far off house purchase, a highly regarded study program, or even setting up a business. A lower, but still highly valuable, allowance of just over €30,000 applies for gifts between grandparents and grandchildren.

Currency is also an important consideration. French banks are always happy to offer short and long term saving vehicles. The wording of the contracts, terms, and fund choices, even for somebody who has spent over 30 years in European financial services, can be rather bewildering, plus they always insist on converting your Sterling to Euros, and currently this is not a sensible proposition. In the last year alone we have seen swings between the two currencies of 10%; the Pound is still a global currency and will return to its former glory, so a far better facility is to be able to choose your exchange date, then take advantage whenthe currency is stronger to move to your new Euro based need. This flexibility coupled to tax efficiency, could make a gift for your loved ones a very sensible and well planned move.

As a financial adviser, I meet many people in sometimes complex and misunderstood situations, “I have actually lived in France for the last two years, is it now time to declare fiscal residency?”, “My children have UK ISAs set up by their grandparents, so living here as a family, is this tax efficient?”

A no obligation meeting may help to unravel the complex French reporting system, and allow you to enjoy all the things that brought us here in the first place.

Article by Alan Watson

Alan WatsonIf you are based in the Rhone-Alpes area you can contact Alan at: alan.watson@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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