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British tourists set to face Europe’s Covid-19 travel ban from January 2021

Tourists from the UK look set to be included in the EU's ban on non-essential travel after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st, unless the European Council decides otherwise.

British tourists set to face Europe's Covid-19 travel ban from January 2021
Photo: AFP

At present the EU's external borders are closed to non-essential travel for all countries apart from those on the short list of 'safe' countries, which includes Australia.

So, for example Americans have not been able to have holidays in Italy or visit family in France since March, and there seems little sign that this will change in the near future.

Travel within Europe, however, is allowed for any reason – taking into account individual countries' lockdowns and rules on quarantine/testing for new arrivals.

The European Commission currently says that travel is allowed for any reason between EU and Schengen zone countries.

At present that includes the UK, but once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st, the UK will become a 'third country', not part of the EU or the Schengen zone.

The Local asked the Commission last month what that means for people travelling from the UK after January 1st and we were told that no decision has been taken yet.

The final decision is for the European Council to make.

A Commission spokesman said: “The current Council recommendation on the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the EU and the possible lifting of such restriction is applicable to the United Kingdom during the transition period established until 31st December, 2020 on the basis of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community.

“At the end of the transition period, the Council will have to consider the addition of the United Kingdom to the list of third countries exempted from travel restrictions.

“This is a decision for the Council to make.”

On December 14th a source at the European Council told The Local a decision was set to be made on the new “safe list” “in the coming week” but no exact date was given.

It may all depend on the ongoing Brexit talks between the UK and the EU.

The source added: “I can therefore not confirm at this stage what the status of a country will be on 1 January. The review and updates to the list take place following an overall assessment based on the criteria included in the recommendation.”

In theory EU states can override the Council's decision and decide to allow in British holidaymakers after January.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on decisions that could be taken by other states on public health.”

The EU's rules on essential travel say that people from outside Europe can enter the bloc for the following reasons;

  • Citizens of an EU country
  • Non EU citizens who are permanent residents of an EU country and need to come home
  • Healthcare workers engaged in crucial work on the coronavirus crisis
  • Frontier workers and in some circumstances seasonal workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Diplomats, humanitarian or aid workers
  • Passengers in transit
  • Passengers travelling for imperative family reasons
  • Persons in need of international protection or for other humanitarian reasons
  • Third country nationals travelling for the purpose of study
  • Highly qualified third-country workers IF their employment is essential from an economic perspective and cannot be postponed or performed abroad

Find more details on the exemptions here.

The rules are based on the country you are travelling from, not the passport you hold.

Anyone who is a permanent resident in an EU country is allowed to return to it – so for example any EU residents travelling to the UK for Christmas will be able to return home after January 1st, regardless of what decision the Council makes on the UK's status.

 

Member comments

  1. So the obvious loophole would be to fly from the UK into Switzerland, then you’d be free to leave Switzerland and travel within the Schengen area (and therefore, most of the EU).

    “The European Commission currently says that travel is allowed for any reason between EU and Schengen zone countries.”

  2. Apart from the fact that airlines cancelled their flights from and to Geneva when we tried to do that 2 weeks ago when we needed to return to the U.K. for exceptional resulting in a hell of a drive from Provence to Bristol and back over 4 days….

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Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Over the summer people living in France have received their tax bills, and some Brits who are residents here will have noticed that their bill is larger than usual - here's why.

Why some Brits in France are facing bigger tax bills since Brexit

Brits who live in France and make a tax declaration here, but have income from the UK, may have noticed that their tax bill has increased this year – here’s why and whether you can challenge the increase. 

Brexit

Yes, this is Brexit related and it refers to social charges on non-French income. The standard rate for these charges are 7.5 percent for income from an EU country and 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country.

The tax bills received over the summer relate to the annual French tax declaration filed in April 2022, covering the 2021 tax year. In other words, the first year after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Social charges

Social charges are levies with a social purpose introduced in France in the 1990s to finance the country’s complex social security system.

If you have a French payslip you will already be familiar with them, and they actually make up the bulk of deductions from salaries, significantly more than income tax.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip

One of the big questions is whether France’s social charges are actually a ‘tax’ – the government repeatedly insists they’re not, for all that they look like a tax and are paid like a tax. 

The position on French social charges has changed several times in recent years, sometimes in response to court action all centred on whether this money that government deducts from your income can be called a ‘tax’ or not.

Katey Murray, at The Spectrum IFA Group, explained: “Article 29 of the amended Finance law of 2012 extended social charges to rental income from French properties and capital gains on properties for people who are not French tax resident.

“In 2015, a Dutch national challenged the fact that he was paying social charges in France and social security contributions in the Netherlands. The case went before the ECJ, which ruled these levies were similar to social security contributions and therefore contrary to European law.”

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, confirmed the ECJ’s ruling. “French tax offices then, if a claim was made to them, reimbursed undue social charges,” Murray said.

“However, the French Government stated that these claims could only be made by someone covered for their healthcare by the system of another European country (EU, EEA or Switzerland) and not someone covered by a non-European health system. 

“This was confirmed by the ECJ for a French national living in China in a case in January 2018.”

Foreigners in France

And it’s this ‘healthcare system’ distinction that has become the key detail for Brits in France, clarified by a court ruling from March 2022 on the details of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

Social charges are currently set at 7.5 percent for income from an EU country, or 17.2 percent for income from a non-EU country. So income from the UK jumped to the higher rate at the end of the Brexit transition period.

However the ECJ ruling on healthcare cover is the key bit – essentially if you are already contributing to another European country’s social security system, you benefit from the lower rate.

This mainly affects two groups – Brits living in the UK (and therefore covered by the NHS) who have income in France, and Brits who are living in France and who have an S1, which states that their healthcare costs are covered by the NHS.

S1 holders are mainly British pensioners living in France, but the scheme can also apply to other groups including students and posted workers. 

Brits who are living in France and are covered by the French health system pay the higher rate on income from the UK. 

Technically the 7.5 percent rate is a ‘social levy’ rather than the prélèvements sociaux.

The ‘social levy’ is not charged on pensions, so if you are an S1 holder who receives a British pension, you will not have to pay any social charges at all, while certain types of property income may also be exempt from social charges.

Tax

As we stated above, social charges are not a tax (although they are deducted from your income by the tax office).

Taxes on income from the UK is covered by the bilateral dual-taxation treaty between France and the UK, which states that you don’t have to pay tax in France on income that you have already paid tax on in the UK. 

So the first thing to check on your tax bill is whether deductions relate to impôt (tax) or prélèvements sociaux (social charges).

Challenge your tax bill

So what to do if you think you have been incorrectly charged on income from the UK?

If you are an S1 holder, it’s a case of telling the tax office that you benefit from the lower 7.5 percent social levy, rather than the 17.2 percent social charge.

Murray said: “You can state that you are not subject to social charges by ticking boxes 8SH/8SI on your tax form (2042 form) or, if you have been charged at the higher rate, you can claim them back on your personal page on the impots.gouv.fr website.”

If the over-charge relates to a different issue – for example you have been charged both tax and the social charge or charged on exempt income – your first step is talking to the tax office, either in person or over the phone.

READ ALSO How to challenge your French tax bill

This article is a general overview of the tax rules and is not intended as a substitute for financial advice, if your financial affairs are complicated you are always better off getting professional help from an accountant who specialises in international taxation.

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