France are proposing to add social charges to the tax liability that non-French residents pay on their rental income and capital gains tax on sale. Until now, this charge has been restricted to French residents, as the ‘social charge’ (not to be confused with social security) has been levied to pay off a French social security debt. Social charges in France actually raise more revenue for France than income tax. The social charges are covered by the double tax treaty, and are therefore considered to be a tax on this basis.
In one way this does bring parity to the table, as non-residents have not paid as much in France as residents on their French source rental income or gains on disposals of French property. But it will add significantly to the cost of owning your holiday home if you let it out, or sell it. That said, if the property is not let, no tax will apply. If M. Hollande’s other proposals go through, if the property is sold after 22 years, tax will not be payable, and neither should social charges, and the taxable gain will be reduced from the 3rd complete year of ownership onwards.
So yes, although many people will be facing additional taxes, they need to review their position to see just how much this would affect them – it might not be quite as bad as they think. They also need to consider that if they are UK resident, they may have a UK liability – as long as the French liability is lower than this, it can still be offset against the UK liability and overall, they will not have paid any additional tax – the balance of what they have paid between France and the UK has shifted instead.
A spokesperson at Blevins Franks who specialise in tax and wealth management for UK expatriates said: "This is an interesting move in that it effectively brings non-French residents into line with how French residents are taxed on property if they let or sell their property. We plan to sit down with any of our affected clients to discuss the implications for them and their tax planning, but those who are living in France and not declaring themselves should take a look at their position, as now being a non-resident is unlikely to be an advantage. That said, because of the way French tax works, many of those not declaring themselves in France may be paying more tax than they should in any case, and should take advice regarding their positions."
By making the tax retrospective from 1st January 2012, M. Hollande is opening himself up for significant opposition.
Last year, plans to tax non-residents on their French properties by Nicolas Sarkozy had to be abandoned after a massive outcry by both French expatriates and other non-residents. What will be the fate of this new planned tax?
The tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual must take personalised advice.
Author - David Franks, Blevins Franks Financial Correspondent