Removals from UK before residency

We are at last getting ready to move finally to our house in the south of France. We have owned this for four years and pay the usual taxes on it. Our primary residence is now sold and we will empty its contents by the end of August. Most will go to charities, etc., but some will come with us to France.

For tax reasons that I won’t go into, we would prefer to delay our final arrival with our visas to January 1 2023. We can of course come to our house in France under the 90-day rule and would like to be able to receive the removal lorry when we are there - say, sometime in September. It may be a part load and the exact date can be up to the removers so that should be easy enough. If we organise the removals ‘within’ 12 months of our becoming residents, then we are able to do so tax-free. I asssume ‘within’ means ‘after’ and does not include ‘before’ - is this the case, or is it at least arguable? If it means ‘after’, then we may be liable to tax on our household goods (nothing special or valuable) as we will be deemed to be moving goods to our second home. The allowance is €430 each but everything above this is taxed at 20% plus 1-2% customs duty. It all depends on what the value is. Everything is UK-bought and relatively old. Can I put a low value on this and avoid too much taxation?

The alternative is to put the stuff in store but then there is a cost of storage for three months or more which might be more than the French tax.

Has anyone met this or had to value their belongings before, please? Or are there any suggestions as to how to avoid the tax altogether?

It occurs to me that you are in your house in France in September together with all your worldly goods, and you no longer have a house in the UK, you might be on thin ice arguing that you are not yet resident in France.

Frankly, one persons “goods and chattels” is often another person’s rubbish.

From my own experience of the number of times stuff ends up at the tip or donated to charity shop after a death/moving-home… I would say that unless it’s a bona fide antique/collectable it has no value.

I take your point but we will not have applied for a French visa. Selling and vacating our house in the UK does not automatically make our house in France a primary residence. We will probably be staying with friends in the Uk at this time. But thanks for the thought.

But can I expect M. le douanier to take the same view?

£10 for a bookcase, £4 for a chest of drawers… etc etc… see how that mounts up.
Second hand mattresses/beddings/clothing are often chucked or treated as rags.

Yes I was just thinking about the fact that the visa waiver is for tourism only and tourists do not normally take their household furniture with them.
Given that everybody has to have one primary residence, how easy would it be to argue that your house in France with your furniture in it is your second home and your friends’ home in the UK is your primary residence? Of course it is unlikely that you would need to make your case but it is as well to be prepared in case you are.

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As a child my Gran fascinated me. We discussed so many things… and I recall her explaining that she always stocked up with her favourite cologne when she visited her parents who lived near Paris.
On the journey home to UK she had to ensure the bottle was opened (with the seal broken) so it was “obviously” for her personal use and thus the Customs Folk would let her through without paying charges … :crossed_fingers:
I loved that cologne… it meant “Gran” to me… and if I could smell it now, I would not be surprised to find her standing behind me… :wink:

Seems to me, the clock has gone backwards… and UK folk now have to figure how best to sort things with the Customs, once again … on whichever side of the Channel.

Hmm. Maybe we should take the bull by the horns and just go, accepting that we will be liable to tax, albeit at a low level, especially as we get a double allowance for the two of us. Thanks for your comments.

as suggested in similar threads… a list of items and their zero or low values… might be useful to convince anyone who asks that you are actually prepared… and not just winging it…

but whatever you decide… keep calm, fingers crossed and… good luck.

If I was taking the view that my residence begins on a particular date then I would make sure there was a public train, bus, plane or ferry ticket, evidence of which can be retained into the far future, proving travel and arrival on that very date.

The issue is that we want to import our belongings before the date of residence. There is no problem about the date of the start of our residence - the immigration computer will see to that!

Surely no law against taking furniture to your holiday home?

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No but whatever you take to your holiday home is potentially subject to import tax.
Whereas when you move countries you have a grace period within which you can take your personal possessions with you tax free.
At least that is how it works when you move from other third countries so I am assuming it is similar for people moving from the UK.

Vous pouvez être exonéré de droits de douane et taxes sur vos biens personnels si vous les possédez depuis au moins 6 mois (avant le transfert de votre résidence et à titre privé).

Il peut s’agir de biens achetés TTC ou HT, sauf pour les véhicules, dont les taxes doivent avoir été réglées dans le pays d’origine ou de provenance.

Attention : ces biens ne doivent pas être destinés à meubler votre résidence secondaire en France. Si c’est le cas, vous devrez régler les droits de douane.

Vous devez remplir les 3 conditions suivantes :

** Vous résidez dans un pays hors UE depuis au moins 12 mois*
** Vous transférez votre résidence principale (c’est-à-dire normale) en France*
** Vous importez vos biens dans les 12 mois qui suivent votre installation en France.*

Hi. We sold our former UK home October last. I considered removals companies, but in the end for various reasons decided to organise it myself. As a result I have made two trips so far via Calais with vehicle and trailer full, emptying the lock up I then rented. When packing everything up we decided the easiest way to record contents (which were a mix in some boxes) was to photo each layer, using a card index card with a unique number.

I wanted the reassurance of having the inventory covering all the loads accepted by the Douanes. I prepared a spreadsheet for the Douanes with the following headings:

the numbers for the boxes of paperbacks are those written on the boxes and on the index card inside. I have the photos on a memory stick etc, just in case there is a challenge and I need to show what is in the load (ideally without unpacking).

(I used a few more headings, but did not print them for the Douanes… these included my estimate of insurance/replacement value [more than the value I put for the Douanes] and dimensions). I made sure that there was a header and footer on each page of the inventory with date, page number, signature, place signed etc, as well as a heading “inventaire de XXX {address of property sold}.”
I read fairly extensively and did find references to the need for the costs in the inventory to be realistic (or the Douanes will estimate the value themselves) but I took these in the end to be the price I would get in a fire sale, not the replacement values or insurance values!

I came Dover - Calais.

Customs at Dover also regularly check vehicles, particularly if they look laden, so there is a delay if you are signalled to go via their shed. They appear a bit reluctant to open things if there is a risk that everything will fall out! Confirming that risk seemed to speed the process :slight_smile:

The Ferry operators confirmed to me that its the responsibility of the Customs and of the Security staff at Dover to alert French Customs. So trying to drive through Calais port without reporting in is probably an unnecessary risk, although it seems quite feasible.

The customs post in Calais port is not simple to find, but is signposted (mainly for commercial trucks), and the lane is currently marked in yellow. The area is cluttered with parked lorries. There are some sheds for unloading lorries backed up to them, with roller shutter doors, then an office up stairs and accessed by an open balcony. With Covid restrictions, they limit the number of people at a time, so there are often drivers hanging around the steps, waiting, (nicer if its warm and not wet!). The douaniers sit inside behind a glass screen, in booths. Once inside you wait for the next one to become available and notice you! They do use a mini translation device, but it helps to explain to them in French what you are doing there and why. They are not accustomed to this process, and spend some time looking it up online. That in my view actually helps, because they are so absorbed in the mechanism they do not query much provided the paperwork is correct.

The first trip across I provided the complete inventory, clearly distinguishing between the things I was bringing on that date, and the things to be brought later.

For later trips the Douanes made it clear they only wanted the items listed that were being brought over in that trip, so I made clear it was a part of the whole: “une partie seulement de l’inventaire complet remis le 22/03/2022”. This was attached behind a copy duly completed of form Cerfa 10070 “DÉCLARATION D’ENTRÉE EN FRANCHISE DE BIENS PERSONNELS EN PROVENANCE DE PAYS TIERS À L’U.E. EXPEMPLAIRE DESTINÉ À L’IMPORTATEUR” available at: Déclaration d’entrée en France en franchise de biens personnels en provenance de pays tiers à l’Union Européenne (Formulaire 10070*03) |
Its a simple form, and apart from Name, Prenom, Address in France, and signing and dating it, it just required a few ticks in the requisite boxes.

Additional necessary documents were: 1) Proof of the sale of the UK property (I used the sale document sent by my solicitor): 2) proof of residence in France, (EDF attestation or similar); 3) Passport; 4) French residency card; and 5) an attestation that you are not going to sell the stuff on arrival (non-cession). I adapted an attestation I found online:
Microsoft Word - ATTESTATION NON-CESSION.doc (

You need two copies of all the above for the customs, and should keep one for yourself. I printed all 5 documents above, including passport and Id card, since it made life easier for the customs officer.

Even if you use a removals company you will require all the above, and will have to identify the agent acting for you on the Cerfa form.

I found the Douanes at Calais very quick to respond to email:

The annoying thing is that each crossing, they want a fresh set of all the documents (triplicate again), signed and up to date, including the Cerfa form, and the specific inventory for the items in the vehicle. Queuing and being processed takes best part of an hour. However each time I have received a duly stamped copy of the Cerfa form with attached inventory handed back, on which the Douanier has listed all the documents provided.