Renunciation of British Nationality

Martin Phillips's picture


“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.  So wrote Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, and still true today, but the big question for me is “Where to pay my taxes?”



A few years after arriving in France, I wrote to HM Revenue and Customs querying if I could have the income tax on my UK pension deducted here rather than in the UK.  I still have their written reply saying that provided I was permanently resident in France and a French National, I could receive my pension gross and declare it here for taxation.



So, after five years I took the family on a long and complicated bureaucratic journey culminating in our gaining French Nationality as well as retaining our British Nationality.  In short I have both a French and a UK passport.  I should emphasise though that the tax issue was only an incidental reason as I wanted us to have nationality anyway.



Next stage, I again wrote to HMRC enclosing  copies of their letter and my nationality papers, but another setback ......... because my pension is government based, i.e. a police pension, I would have no choice than other to pay income tax in the UK.  They did apologise for their previous misleading information, which I accepted graciously.



Now I appreciate that taxes are inevitable, but as my and my children’s present and future rest in France, I would prefer to pay into the French system, but until recently, I accepted that this could not be.   However, the double taxation agreements have been updated and the rules now include government based pensions.  As I am now a single parent, with two dependant children I would be be considerably better off under the system here.



Well, I’m taking a pause right now, so what’s stopping me?



I discovered a rather disturbing condition relating to my dual nationality, in that one must be French and no other.  So, if I am to go ahead, I must renounce my British nationality at the British Consulate (£229).  A fairly simple procedure, but what a big step to take.  Being born and bred in Britain it would seem like severing a cord, but practically why not?



Is being British whilst living in France just a feel-good idea, or are there any practical reasons for me to hang on to the status?   

Brian Milne's picture

I think you need the advice of somebody who really does understand European Law. I was told by a lawyer, who is unfortunately an academic and not in practice, that double taxation and several other things such as social security, pensions, maternity benefits and similar were originally intended to be not exactly merged but made transferable between member states. Only some of those things has ever happened and double taxation, according to him, should not happen. I asked him because I hold trust fund savings in a UK bank for my two daughters which are tax free because of their ages, but under my name. The bank warned me to keep shut up here because since those accounts are in my name and earn quite a bit of interest they would want to tax me. So I asked my lawyer friend and he invited one of his colleagues along for a beer who knew and said that several things including double taxation or taxation of a trust fund should never happen since such and such a treaty has been in place. I am not sure where you should start with seeking advice, but because there is so much contradictory information from the public services of both countries I think you need it.

Martin Phillips's picture

No Carol, absolutely you do not have to renounce your British nationality as a matter of course.  Only if you receive a UK government pension and you want to be taxed at source in France.

Robin Hicks's picture

Interesting comments.  Nationality has nothing to do with taxes - as far as the UK revenues is concerned they will tax any property income, government service pensions which sometimes includes local authority pension schemes and the military pensions in the UK.  All other sources can be taxed in France - if that is what you decide.  Oddly they do not tax the Old Age Pension. All other UK income can be taxed in France but they do talk to each other and thus you cannot get personal allowances against tax in both countries.

Terry Williams's picture

My local tax-man queried earlier this year whether I wasn't being taxed at source on my UK state pension in which case I shouldn't be declaring that income here. I told him so far as I knew I was, and have been for most of my working life, non-resident for tax purposes in the UK and therefore no tax would be deducted at source. Anyone know if that is right?

As for the nationality issue, every time I bitch to French people about not having the right to vote despite the fact that I live and pay my taxes here, someone says "Why don't you just take French nationality?" To which the basic answer is that I don't want to. Dual nationality is tempting, I must say. My son has both and so does my grandson. But renouncing my UK nationality is a step too far.

As to whether there are practical drawbacks, I could see there might be problems with my UK bank accounts and credit cards but as Brian said from the word go, this is one where you need solid professional advice.  

David Rosemont's picture

Be vey careful. I was told by my Prefecture and my Mairie that if I wanted French nationality I would have to renounce my British one. However others have told me that is incorrect (which doesn't surprise me as I have had similar problems before which required an avocat to sort out (nice fees natch)). However another problem has emerged that if I want to write a "British" will to have effect after 2015 I must still be British when I write it. Therefore I think that if i want to do a will like that I will have to wait for an application for French nationality until after 2015. Incidentally I have also been told that if you are British by right you can always re-apply for British nationality after receiving French nationality. Like Brian I have cross border investments in a trust (but not one originated by me) and this is causing huge but to an extent avoidable difficulties with the new French tax laws. I am fully resident in France but any UK assets must be included in all French declarations and in addition the law now states that any trust outside France must be declared annually. You only pay tax on any income taken but there are ISF issues.

Robin Hicks's picture

No need to renounce - france and the UK accept dual nationality.  However - if "they" want you to pay tax it does not matter what your passport says - not the same thing at all

Chrissie Ott's picture

I was talking to HMRC yesterday on similar topic. 

Two private pensions have recently kicked in and, subsequent to taking my tax-free lump sums,  I received a letter from HMRC advised me that future paymets would be taxed at source.   

I'm tax resident in France so I contacted HMRC to ask whether it would be possible to receive the pension payments tax-free as I would have to declare them on my French tax return and didn't want to end up paying tax twice.   The HMRC employee didn't mention anything about having to be a French national and simply directed me to this form: 

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr/france-individual.pdf

I haven't filled it in yet but I blame that on my allergy to forms!

Robin Hicks's picture

Chrissy - my info was on "funded" pension schemes.  Not sure about private pensions.  The double taxation treaty between France and the UK means you cannot be taxed twice - but it takes time for "them" to accept.  Every 2 or 3 years someone in HMRC demands tax on one of my pensions - I simply give them my code, ID and tax office and respectfully ask them to look at my file.  Result ALL of my pensions are taxed in France - only property income, civil and military service pensions and most local authority pensions MUST be declared and taxed in the UK

Brian Milne's picture

Martin, looked through that form from Chrissie and there is your solution. Don't be daunted by 18 pages, it is half in English, half French, giving a choice of language and then several pages give you the 'school rules'. It looks simple enough to me. At worst it is part of your solution.

Chrissie Ott's picture

Not a choice of languages, Brian... the first bulleted point in the box on page 1 states that BOTH versions have to be completed.  It also has to be signed by the French impots so hope my friendly French tax guy is au fait with these forms... !

Brian Milne's picture

Whoops, sorry, didn't read that. However, one is a repeat of the other to all intents and purposes, as is the blurb. Nonetheless, no worse than most other forms anyway.

Maria Warren's picture

Icompleted and signed both sets of forms, took them to my local Impots and voila....they got lost, misplaced, misunderstood so 1 year later I repeated the form filling took them again to the Impots and this time it worked but I'm not sure what has actually worked??? Had letter from HMRC saying that we had been accepted for double taxation rules but what does that mean??? We have a rented house in England and my NHS pension. We are only taxed on our state pensions here in France so what will be different???

timothy willis's picture

 f you travel a lot, or intend doing do in the future, then I would suggest that you hang on to your British passport.

 

There are very few countries that will not issue a visa on arrival to a British passport holder, and many more who do not require a visa if you have the British passport.

 

TIMOTHY

Brian Milne's picture

Timothy, where do you get that from? For many years my passport has been full of visas. I work with people from many nations. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever between a UK and French (amongst others) passport in that respect. If anything, the least desirable would be a USA one - a lot of people want visas from them. Getting in on borders where visas are required, even with a UN service card whenever I have held one, is chancing one's arm. Read the lists of countries requiring (exemption lists are few and far between) and I assure you that if you read UK you will read France as well.

Christine Munday's picture

India issues visas on arrival to French, Spanish and Russian passport holders (amongst others) but NOT British - you have to apply for them at least a month before to be sure of getting your passport back in time to travel.

Brian Milne's picture

That's a change in the right direction then. Paris Embassy website says submit beween 0830-1030 one day to receive back same time next day - again much better than I knew it a very few years ago. Even with Indian Government supported work we, including French colleagues, needed to submit over a week in advance everywhere.

Christine Munday's picture

That's if you are a french national and live locally - you can add a week on if they have to check with your country of origin (even if you have supplied proof of residence).  Then you have to add on the postage time and you have to lie about your date of leaving France otherwise your application goes on the backburner. We had to phone up when 3 weeks had gone by only to find out that they hadn't even  started work on it. They've outsourced the visa issuing service and the last time we applied in France it was €50 for the visa - €30 for faxing UK (even with proof of residence) €12 admin charge, €15 for a certified bank cheque for each individual application, €21 for Chronopost there and €21 for supplying them with a  chronopost envelope for the return. The last time we travelled to India in Jan this year we applied in UK and it cost £50 plus £9.50 for the ret postage and took one week door to door and no proof of residence required.

Brian Milne's picture

Oh great - not good news. My OH may need to go to Kolkata at the start of September IF she gets the contract, but then I guess we should look at whether the Swiss also get entry on arrival, being 'neutral' and all that.

Brian Milne's picture

Thanks Chris, you have made me look for OH. It has changed and French, Spanish and Russians are no longer listed. On the Indian Government website, visa question 2:

Q.2 Can I get a visa on arrival to enter India?

No, you must obtain a visa before taking a flight to India. You cannot obtain a visa on arrival in India, and immigration authorities will not permit any foreigner to enter the country. As per the new Visa on Arrival policy, nationals of Japan, Singapore, Luxembourg, Finland and New Zealand can obtain the visa on arrival for 15 days.

For a bit of work, 12 days at most (on a tourist visa, of course), she may well not be able to get it on time. A new regulation appears (it is a bit ambiguous) to say that visas can now only be obtained from country of origin! It used to be easier when we knew it was a case of taking it to the High Commission in London, queueing to get it in, queueing again after umpteen phone calls to find out four to six weeks later and collecting. Now it seems like the lottery!

Christine Munday's picture

The tourist visa doesn't allow you to work - you have to have a work visa.

Brian Milne's picture

I know, but for short visits we never bother, takes far too long to get work visas.

Martin Phillips's picture

Finn, you have taken me out of context......."Martin, where did you read that if you are French, then you can hold no other nationality? We need a source of authority, not just some rumours on the Internet."   I was talking only in terms of if I want my UK police pension taxed at source in France, I have to be French and no other.

This I read on the UK Gov website.

Vivien Chapman's picture

No comments on the nationality but I've made an effort to sort out the taxation issues and found some help from HRMC Cardiff last year. My contacts were

02920327293 Rob Dawson Linda Jones

My conclusions were: French can't tax my civil service pension They will tax all UK bank interest so it will be exempt from tax in UK, however not all banks will allow this To get interest paid gross use Form R105, use R43 to get it paid back at end of year They will tax my State Pension Ring Cardiff a month before I leave to do P85 form.

Also need to do Form France Individual downloadable from Fr website and attach a note to the P85 saying I don't need

them to send me one.

May experience double taxation for 4-5 months.

The advantage of moving to France is that I then have two personal allowances - one against my Civil Service pension

in UK, one against State pension in France. Plus CC pension is not added to my joint household income in France

I will be taxed in England until resident and a Fr citizen (i.e. Renounced UK passport)  DTA Subsection 2, Article 19

Now this is theory for me at this stage, so I'll be interested to hear how it has worked out for people. Sorry about the formatting, I cut and pasted in.

Roger Bruton's picture

(as an aside) .... those buggers at the consulate seem to charge 200+ to do ANYTHING!!!

julia woodthorpe's picture

Keep you r British Nationality, Attention, danger! You can get you and your children out if there is a war, for example.

I believe your children will have to renounce their British nationality to have access to the Bacc, driving lessons etc. I find this suspect!

Martin Phillips's picture

Not at all Julia.  Firstly if I do renounce my British nationality, the children can still keep theirs.

Second the only circumstance they would have to renounce their British nationality is if they joined the military, i.e. a loyalty issue.

As for me what do I lose?  The right to vote in UK elections, and the right to hold a British passport.  That's about it for me.  Anyway, I would have the right to reclaim British nationality (just over £800) the first time, then at the Home Office discretion if I went through this again and wanted it.

Andy Shepherd's picture

Regarding the nationality issue - I think in fact you will find that what most people have 'acquired' is not nationality but 'French citizenship'. They sound the same but I'll bet there is something in the small print! OH went through the hoops a couple of years ago, got her ID card etc and is entitled to a French passport if she wants one (not much point - UK Borders Agency seem to be happy with a French ID card). But at no point has she had to renounce British nationality.

On the taxation issue, the important point is that you are taxed in France on the basis of your world-wide income, wherever it originates and whether or not it is subject to 'double taxation' treaties. You cannot escape paying taxin the UK on UK government/local government pensions. You can, however, opt to have bank interest, etc paid gross - note that a separate form must be completed for each source, submitted to your French tax office who will (after about 6 months or more) forward it to the UK. UK state pensions (old age pension) can be paid into a french account, and are sent without tax deduction, and you can have private pensions treated similarly.

The French tax authorites calculate your world-wide income, determine (after your various allowances) what tax would be payable on the total in France: they then (under current rules) deduct from that sum the amount of tax you would have paid in France, under French rules, on that portion of your income that has been taxed in the UK. (This may be more or less than the tax you have actually paid in UK). What is left is what you pay them (they hope!).

Brian Milne's picture

Sorry chaps, but I am going to butt in on this bit of discussion. I have a book I have been writing for several years on citizenship in the hands of a publisher at present, very academic and boring for most people and roughly 300 pages to get to the point. Citizenship is acheived with age of majority and full social, economic and political rights. Nationality is by birth. One can change the latter and therewith obtain the other.

It does not matter in which civil code one looks, that is it with perhaps a few variances on age, some exclusions - some would say women in a sizeable list of countries as the best example, but also in penal law where political rights are withdrawn or sometimes political and economic rights. Dictionary definitions are too little detailed to really say anything, so forget them.

Aside from economic rights, there are such things as fiscal rights and duties which include taxation, they have nothing specifically to do with citizenship or nationality. Do not get confuse by disinformation from officials who are talking out of the seat of their pants. I can recommend a sizeable list of books on the topic if you wish to bore yourselves totally silly. For myself, in the context I was writing in it is fascinating stuff.

Andy Shepherd's picture

Your usual excellent analysis, Finn!The last sentence is particularly important - declaration is vital!

And, Brian, a good distinction there. Makes sense to me but, as you say, probably not to fome functionaries (depending on which ones one has the misfortune to encounter, of course!

Regards!

hilary rich's picture

and is anyone clearer on the dual nationality question for the UK & France? I had been told I would have to renounce my UK nationality if I wanted to  to take french nationality which interested me in order to be allowed to vote for all elections. However not being here because I ws dischuffed with the UK I dont really see any desire/need to bin the UK passport etc.