Massive increase in Taxe Fonciere

We recently received a wonderfully expensive Christmas gift from the Taxe office in Albi, Tarn: a Taxe Fonciere bill of over four times what we have been paying until now!

We bought our house almost exactly 3 years ago and naturally checked out, in advance, what we would be paying in taxes for the house. At the time, the figure was €630 p.a. Which we have duly been paying monthly.

It is now €2660!!!!!

Last September we were sent a form to complete for the Cadastre office - how many rooms/how many loos/how much land etc etc. We didn't receive this. They sent another one in February, which I did complete and send off. They didn't receive it.

So they sent us a letter saying they had made an estimation on the house themselves and the bill would be €3200!! I went to the office, in horror, to ask what the increase was about and they said that as we hadn't responded (or they hadn't received the form I sent), they had just made this figure up to scare us into action (they did actually admit to doing this!

We then had a man come and measure up the house to establish officially how big it is etc etc and it was reduced to €2660.

In going through the old files on our house at the Cadastre office, it was discovered that the Taxe Fonciere for our house was based on a form completed in 1970!!! We know the French ex-owner and he says that he can't possibly understand how it can have increased so much. He had the house for the previous 17 years and while he did improve it internally, he didn't add anything - ie bathrooms/central heating. And he was never sent any forms to update information.

Why hasn't anyone from the Cadastre office visited the house for the past 40 years to ensure their records are up to date? Which has meant that we are now obliged to pay a huge amount more (we probably wouldn't have bought the house had we known the correct level of tax).

Has anyone had a similar situation? And what dod you do? Is it worth trying to fight it?

John, love your point about being prepared for France after living in Ireland. You shoud read SFN member, Kerry Dwyer's book, "Ramblings in Ireland",

I reckon attitude has a lot to do with it as well.

When first lived here, I used to get so cross with myself for not bring able to put myself accross fluently and this used to come out as crossness with thr person I was talking to. Nowadays, I put extra effort in to being nice and keeping calm and it really helps. However, whenever I go to argue my point I ensure I am

Jsuper well prepared which gives me the moral highground as I know, I know what I am talking about.

Robert and Doreen, The language and communication problem is probably the greatest reasons for misunderstanding, frustration and problems. I'm not sure if I am allowed to say this here but this language problem is exactly where a service like my bilingual helpline can come to the rescue and solve problems immediately.

Most of us have been there - you're standing trying to explain something but can't quite get it out and the person you are dealing with probably can't quite understand either, you are both trying hard and you end up with both of you thinking that you have understood what the other is on about when actually you haven't at all, or only partially. I could cite many examples where a timely intervention by an "on the spot interpreter" has saved the day. A frightening recent example was a client purchasing a property who thought he was being told the sale included the field right outside the front door because, to him, it was a 'logical' part of the property, which of course he wanted, when in fact he was being told it did not include the field.

@ Brain, you really made a point here. Laissez-faire is the system. It concerns all!

The problem is, we have 4 years after the credit crunch and such improvements at best maintain a value for the property in a stangnant market, but certainly does not add an increase in value. If basic improvements are taxed, it throws light on the state of the country.

Spot on John, Sheila and Robert with your various points.

People, please drop this 'I'm a foreigner complex' business. You are NOT being victimised for that at all because the French are treated precisely the same way. Get out and about, make French friends and talk about these things. One difference perhaps, is that having been brought up in this regime they take it as it comes and do not complain as much as outsiders and get what is right instead.

Robert, Doreen,

I fully accept what you’re saying about language skills but take heart because I first discovered this phenomenon in 1981 when I couldn't put two French words together. The person you are dealing with generally knows they are being stroppy and they are just trying it on. Confront them, even with poor French, and they will fold. On many occasions I’ve had to throw my toys out of the pram with French bureaucrats only to discover they are (once they are taking me seriously) charming, helpful and lovely people. It’s all matter of adapting.

Doreen, I too have been accused of not suffering fools gladly. However I made a promise to myself on my fiftieth birthday not to suffer them at all. Haven't looked back :-)

I think, if I may jump in here, the problem is, Doreen, that many of the officials here in France DON'T know what they are doing. They are not trained and frequently haven't got a clue as to what is the correct procedure/law, etc.

I’m with you there John.
The problem is we (Johnny foreigner) don’t know the system as we do at home, wherever that is.
I see, hear or read, the English in particular, saying what you must and mustn’t do but if I had the language I’m not sure I’d listen as much as I do. I’m just trying to wade my way through the misinformation as much as the good stuff. The rubbish you can get from Anglo-Info, which incidentally I blame on the over modified status, is laughable sometimes.
My lack of the language is the only thing which is holding me back I think. I had no idea how hard it was until I moved here.
And for the record, I also agree with getting tough with the ‘Gaelic shrug’…I’ve tried it a couple of times and it works. ;o)

I'd like to make a general point here for others to comment on. Having spent a large part of my life in Ireland where compliance with many laws is optional :-) I feel very at home here. I suspect my co-SFNers from the UK have some difficulty adapting to the French flexible approach to compliance.


Doreen, Hundreds of years ago when I was a student I had a summer job as a barman. I got on really well with all the staff in the pub except for one, the union rep. Because I was only a temp and not a member of the union he bullied me and made life difficult. At only seventeen it was hard to know what to do. For the first week I put up with it but eventually I read him the riot act in front of the other staff. From that day on he was my new best friend. That taught me a lesson.

Many interactions in France require the same tactics. One has to stand up for one’s self even though it might not come naturally. I suggest that when you’re treated with less than the respect you deserve as a client/customer go in hard and push back. Drama is not as much of an issue in France as it is in the UK. Having made your point forcibly then throttle back and flip into a totally conciliatory mode saying that you are sure it is not the fault of the person you are dealing with yada yada yada. You will be amazed. You are now playing the game the French way. They'll recognise you as a worthy adversary and will bend over backwards to help you.

As my partner says about these type of interactions “I don’t bite but I do bite back”.

Robert, we were about four or five months here and wanted to play by the 'rules', at that stage we did not yet know that 'rules' mean the ones not written 'loi' or 'decrée'!

David, there are women here in the village proper who only wash their household linen in the public laundry that is fed by a spring and the mairie has a public loo attached which is where the maire and secretary go. The indoor one is for important visitors only I think!

We learned quickly though.

Regarding loos in houses (or indeed outside) and saving money our village has residents who would rather use the central public loo rather than pay for water to flush the loo at home. Interestingly I have a French tenant who has asked me to pay for modern more efficient radiators so he can reduce his fuel bills. He doesn't seem to comprehend that the property is meant to give me an income. He's also asked for new windows, a new front door, new paving outside, curtains and starting to line up other things! It turns out his rent is being paid by CPAM too, and then four weeks late. Veering off subject I'm afraid!

I used our experiences to illustrate how wonderful it is to have individuals with experience and knowledge like Tim Abady, to guide one today. Wish we could have turned to someone like him in 2003 when our problems began. At the time we felt as if we were being punished for the wrongdoings of others! When our Maire Délégué became involved he cautioned great care, and our letter together with his supporting letter were drafted in a way which avoided language which could cause any offence being given, or accusation made. His intervention did in the end produce a new form H1 for completion, and he helped us to complete it, but that help was six years too late for us! We paid over the odds for 6 years without knowing why!

As a footnote to my contributions to this discussion, we had another experience with our ‘tax lady’ a couple of years back. The main part of our house needed a new roof. We applied for planning permission to include six Velux windows. We wanted them for two reasons; one, to provide light and air through a complete restructured roof, but exactly as before, apart from the Velux windows, and the other, it provided the possibility to consider renovating the attic space at some point in the future. The application was quickly referred to the Bâtiments de France by the Mairie, because we are close to an ancient monument, and it was smartly followed by a letter from our ‘tax lady’ concerning reassessment under article 1406-1 of the general Code of Taxes. I replied with care, explaining the previous condition of the attic, the access to it, and the fact that we had not extended our habitable space in any way, and if and when we did undertake renovations, we would naturally declare it! Perhaps I should have gone the French way and said nothing, but I was trying to be a good citizen!!

Thanks Tim for the heads up on the “fiche d’evaluation”. That sounds like exactly what I asked to see when I visited the tax office after reading my bill. Of course then I didn’t have a clue what it was called or in fact if it existed. That will prove very useful when weighing up if you paying too much or indeed too little so one can make a decision whether to inform the authorities about improvements or not.
By the way Tim, I couldn’t give a monkeys how the money is spent ;o))
Brian, I’m amazed you didn’t know that…

We had our Velux windows installed by a builder who is maire in his village. He told us NOT to get permission from our mairie, now we know why.

My French neighbours say that you should never tell anybody if you transform something in your house. This way, you will continue paying the same amount of tax (never wake a sleeping dog as we say in Dutch (let sleeping dogs lie)and for once, the French laxity is advantageous). If you do tell the marie, you will receive the form for the number of loos etc. Taxes will go up accordingly. [What amazes me is that the French still find it a luxury if you have a loo in your house. I thought they would have changed since Louis 14 who relieved himself in a corner of the room. But I was wrong. There are still two inhabited houses in our village which are not equipped with a loo!]

You do have certainly a legal expenses insurance? So I would just grab the phone's and explain the lawyer about this ambush. It is perhaps far-fetched, but still very close to official abuse. Finally, such an increase must be justified. Yep I know rationality is not the first virtue with some contemporaries... And thanks for the hint, now I'm sure to sent always by registered mail with reception confirmation. Go to court.

Doreen I beg to differ somewhat. In the UK 'the customer is always right' is not a rule of thumb at all and many of us have had endless trouble with the tax people over there. The very fact that 'jobsworth' is a very English expression in good part bears witness to that. An intransigent tax officer in the UK can be an unmovable rock whose nose one feels inclined to pulverise but never does.

In France we have found that approached the right way officials are actually very helpful. What we do not do is go to an office and plead 'sorry, we are foreigners who do not understand' we launch into what the matter is and then go through it, having done very specific homework before going. In command of correct information the 'argument' is in your hands and so far it works for us. When there is something to be amended, the Tim and Catharine have hit the nail on the head - blame somebody lower down the pecking order and, never thought of that one, but no doubt the internet is a good one too.