Idiot's Guide to Working/Surviving in France - covering all bases

Being a complete idiot, I am becoming bogged down with all the acronyms and different branches/arms/legs of the various French organisations.

If someone has a minute, could they please help me with my Idiot's Guide to Registering in France (literally, as 1, 2, 3 steps to follow so I can keep up).

I have:

1. Registered as an AE.

2. Received my SIRET number.

I will earn a minimum amount but enough hopefully for food, petrol etc. I do not want any hand-outs (never have, hopefully never will) - bought the house outright from proceeds of sale in London so no mortage, rent etc.

Is there anyone else I should register with for taxes etc separately or will that be dealt with when I declare income on the autoentrepreneur site?

I have separately taken out:

a) house insurance

b) car insurance

c) school insurance.

Any advice would be gratefully received - the last thing I want to do is fall foul of French bureaucracy because I missed someone and end up with a humungous bill at the end of the year.

Many thanks.

1 Like

Hi Valerie

As an AE, the cotisations you pay (either monthly or quarterly) are in effect like National Insurance in the UK.

They entitle you to a carte vitale for your health cover from the State which is usually around 70% of any consultation or treatment. In addition, you can choose to pay for top up health insurance with a Mutuelle. There is a confusing array of them and comparing their different offerings is pretty baffling so its best to draw up a list of what health cover you think you might need - do you wear glasses? will anyone in your entourage be needing orthodontic treatment, are you of an age to need much ongoing healthcare etc - then pick three Mutuelles and grill them as to what they offer and how much they reimburse per year for the things you might need. (Remember that emergency treatment (accidents and the like) and long term care for conditions like cancer and heart problems are fully reimbursed by the State. ie they are free)

So, back to tax. In addition to your cotisations, you will need to fill out a 'declaration des revenues' in May (ish) which is effectively a tax return. You fill this out with anyone else in your 'foyer' - partner, child, other dependents. You are all included on one return. In August, you receive an 'Avis des Impots' which tells you if you have to pay any actual tax. But if you are not earning a huge amount, the chances are you won't have any to pay. This document is dead useful for things like a bourse for school fees (if your child goes to a private school) and for the ARS which is a lump sum you are completely entitled to at the beginning of the school year to cover the massive cost of books, cartable, pens etc that French schools demand. You can find out more about this at your local CAF.

Back to tax. You need to register at your local Tresorerie/hotel des Impots/whatever it might be called in your area for Taxe d'Habitation (bins, local street cleaning etc) and Taxe Fonciere. These are billed annually and you are liable to pay them on any property you owned or lived in on the 1st Jan in any year.

Aside from that, there is this thing called CFE which is a Taxe Fonciere on your home if you use it as your office as an AE. Hopefully, you won't be liable for this in your first year (it gets billed in December) and it is unclear whether people have to pay it at all if they are not earning terribly much as an AE. It seems to depend on your area.

I hope this helps! Don't worry overly about missing something. We have found in the three years we have been living here that the folk in the offices are pretty cool and helpful, even if you miss a deadline or omit to register for something.

Bonne continuation!

Yes thank you for that. Our licences are issued by the States of Jersey, nothing to do with DVLA, so will try that thanks.

Hi David

I am sorry I do not know anything about recognising Channel Islands driving licenses. Are your licences issued by the DVLA in Swansea or by the States of Jersey?

You need to go to the office of your Prefecture which is responsible for issuing permis de conduire and obtain a form or download one from your Departement's website. You will need up to date photographs and they will also require you to provide a document from the issuing authority stating that your Jersey/UK licences are valid.

I hope this helps.

Hi Jane,

I wonder , do you know what the situation is about changing driving licenses over, if (as we are) come from Jersey in the Channel Islands. They are not officially part of the EU but only recognized thru the UK.

How do we proceed with our Licenses. Bye the way we have been here for 16 months.

Ahh, paperwork! They don't mention that in any of the moving to France programmes do they? Would love to help you out but I'm still drowning in ours, don't mind helping out over the messages if your struggling though - Creme eggs are worth a lot.

The French govt has an agency dedicated to entrepreneurs that's actually quite useful, and even has webpages in English, including a practical guide to creating yr own business in France:

You have to give two month's notice if you want to cancel your insurance.

It makes sense to have some other quotations ready to hand, as I think you actually have 20 days, but what with the post etc. it is not a lot of time to have everything ready to make the swap.

Tracy - as ever - you are an angel - i KNEW that £5ver spent on creme eggs would be worth it's weight... i will look out for my declaraton at the end of April - and if doesn't arrive present myself at the 'Hotel'... now if you could just sit by my side and work your way through the rest of my paperwork...

sorry. dreaming there

Don't forget that after 2 (3?) years you will be hit with a tax on your business. We no longer pay Taxe Professionelle but there is an Avis d'Imposition Cotisation Fonciere des Entreprises which is basically the same thing! We were hit with a 530 euros bill for my husband and a 280 euros one for me! Oh - and Taxe habitation is only paid by the person living at the property on the 1st January. The Taxe fonciere is divided by month if the house is sold in the middle of the year. ( Someone made mention of the division of payments by the Notaire, so I am just clarifying that!).

I admit I took the easiest route with the school insurance - I was insuring the car and the house with Axa so took their school policy at the same time which was about 30 euros.

Hi Valerie,

School insurance - watch out for the insurance company insurance policies - we pay €30 per year for each child, but this offers no additional cover than the €8.99 version offered through the school....

Also, as with all (or most that I have come across) insurance policies are 'auto renewable' - if you want to cancel a policy or even just NOW RENEW an existing policy, you will need to write to them, LRAR, within 15 days of receiving the renwal notification. We were advised to keep the envelope it arrives in with the actual date stamp - I've noticed the dates are often 2 or 3 days apart...I think you can cancel the renewal prior to that, but not too sure about the timescales.

Hi was discussed with JH sometime before his foray into property Development, the creation and production of 'idiots guides' ( handy help manuals in PDF format ) on a host of helpful subjects. Carte Vitale...Motoring, Taxes etc.

Clearly, amongst us all we probably have all the answers..and the capability to write, correct, assemble and even add graphics to a library of such booklets...available here on SFN or even published, profit making or otherwise to a wider audience...

Any one up for it? Admin?...could always apply The Higginson Effect

Oh dear, pour Valerie,

Taxe d'habitation is payable on the property you are resident in the 1st of January each year, you will receive the bill (for the whole year) around September to be paid about 6 weeks later. If you weren't living in France on that date you do not have to pay.

Taxe Fonciere is only paid by property owners and in the year of purchase is normally apportioned by the notaire at the time of purchase between the old and the new owner. It arrives around October and is due about 6 weeks after.

For Impots sur le Revenu, you will receive a declaration to fill in at the end of April. If you have not completed one before you need to go and register at the Hotel des Impots. You complete this for all worldwide income in the previous year - Jan 1st to Dec 31st. (so you are OK for last year Teresa).

If you are AE and have opted for the payment of tax as you go you do not have to declare this. If you do not earn much money do NOT opt for this as you will not qualify for a rebate if you have a low income. As someone already pointed out, tax is payable at a much higher threshold than in the UK, almost 50% of French people do not pay income tax!

Hope that helps a bit, the replies seemed to be getting a bit confusing!

hey, Handy tips Brian....trouble is, like don't know nothing when you first arrive, 'swhy SFN and the composite knowledge is so handy, I could have saved literally thousands!

We also got ripped by the Vendor's Notaire demanding Payment of a local tax which overlapped our respective ownerships...we paid them some 580 euros..only to discover years later this was not a requirement as the outgoing owner pays, regardless of when they vacate, and what month it is in the fiscal calendar.

The schmucks also, between compromis and completion, changed the value of the furniture, uprating it by 10k, thus reducing their notaire's fee, and their capital gain. Which in hindsight merely shifts the tax onto us in the event of a capital gain, ( were to have 2 properties ) Scumbags! Pif, I spit on your regs.

I believe that if you are driving without a valid licence you are not insured.

Hmmm. Interesting. I have been happily driving in France with my NY license for more than 25 years. I got my information about French residents needing French driver's licenses first from Vanessa Couchman's blog: Life on La Lune, so went to speak to my Mairie about it. They referred me to the Prefecture. It's all rather confusing. I went to see them with my NY license and it was rejected. I returned with a South African license and was told I needed a "certificate of authenticity", which took the South African Embassy more than three months to supply. They confirmed its authenticity, but the new government has annulled the old licenses so they declared it expired. So I am doing the tests. I need one hour of practical driving with a certified teacher but no one will give me that hour unless I sign up for seven hours, in one case, or five hours in another case, of practical driving and pay them over 300 euros. Don't know what the outcome of this will be but will let you know. Anyway its good to hear that there are conflicting messages out there in case I do have a serious prang before getting a French license. From my Code de la Route studies, I gather if one is caught driving without a valid license, one's car can be impounded and the driver fined 15,000 euros AND put in jail!

We have just changed our UK licences for a permis de conduire. One of the reasons was the expiry of our photos and the other is that the new system of EC licences will come into force in France in 2013. This means that you will have to apply for a new licence every 10 years. If you change your licence now, you will be able to use your licence indefinitely and you are subject to the french regime of medicals for driving. Much more amenable than the new regulations or those applicable in the UK.

You have to ask the DVLA for the form which the french authorities require to show that your licence is indeed valid. They can fax this to you if possible. You can call them to get this procedure started.

You apply at the departement of your prefecture which issues permis de conduire.

Excellent. Thank you.

This is a wonderful site, which always the information from experts in the field, and it is up to date.