EXPLAINED: Who has to make a tax declaration in France in 2021?

EXPLAINED: Who has to make a tax declaration in France in 2021?
Photo: AFP
The French annual tax declaration is approaching, so here is a look at who needs to fill one in and who is exempt.

It's no-one's favourite job – a lengthy and complicated form covering your finances for the previous year, but for most people the annual déclaration des revenues remains compulsory.

Here's who needs to fill one in and who is exempt in 2021:

Residents in France

If France is your full-time residence then you will most likely need to fill in the declaration.

Many people assume that if you have no income in France then you don't have to make a declaration, but in fact this is not the case.

France has dual-taxation arrangements in place with a large number of countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia so if all your income comes from abroad – for example if you have a pension paid from the UK – then you will not be taxed on it again in France, but you still need to fill out the declaration.

People who are salaried employees and have their income tax deducted at source also sometimes assume that they don't need to fill in the declaration, but for most people this is not the case. If your only income in France is your salary and your taxes have already been deducted then you won't have to pay any extra, but you still need to fill in the form.

If you think this sounds totally crazy, it's because France is in the middle of a major reorganisation of its tax system and income tax only began being deducted at source in 2019 – before that employees only had social charges deducted from their salary and then got an annual bill for income tax.

The new system is known as prélèvement à la source, which is sometimes confusingly translated as 'withholding tax' but it means pay-as-you-earn.

READ ALSO How to understand your French payslip


The eventual plan is that declarations for employees will be scrapped, but at present most people still need to fill one in.

Exemptions – as mentioned, France is in the middle of a major shift in tax declarations and some employees whose only income is their salary were in 2020 moved on to 'automatic declarations' where you simply declare that all the information you supplied last year is still correct. 

This is being extended to more employees this year – if you are eligible you will receive an email from the tax office or a message via your online tax portal, if you are not contacted, assume you need to complete the declaration as normal.

Rebates – for some people filling in a tax declaration might result in the French government giving you money, rather than the other way round.

There are a lot of tax rebates available in France, from specific professions who are exempt from income tax on a proportion of their salaries due to historic union agreements to deductions available for parents on costs like childcare and domestic help.

READ ALSO The French tax breaks you don't want to miss out on

Second-home owners

For most second-home owners who keep their main residence in another country, a tax declaration will not be necessary in France, but if you rent out your French home and therefore have income in France you may need to fill in the declaration. Find out more at the French government's international taxpayers section HERE (in English).

If you own property in France you will be liable for two types of property tax – the property owners' tax taxe foncière and the householders tax taxe d'habitation – but these are billed separately from the annual declaration which is concerned with income.

Working in France

If you are working in France but not living here you may also have to make a declaration, depending on your status.

Cross border workers – people who live in another country but cross the border daily to work in France are mostly covered by treaties.

France has signed treaties with Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy that states that salaries are taxable in the worker's country of residence, even if the wages are earned elsewhere. Eight Swiss cantons have similar agreements with France, but not the Canton of Geneva (although the great majority of cross border-workers there are working in Switzerland and living in France rather than the other way round). Find out more HERE.

French employer – if you live outside France but have done paid work in France for a French company you may need to fill in a French tax declaration, even if your salary has had tax deducted at source. Find out more HERE.

Make the declaration

The declaration is due in April and covers the time period January 2020 to December 2020.

If you live in France you need to declare all your income, wherever it comes from (although if you have already been taxed on it in another country you won't need to pay more tax in France). This includes income from renting out a property in another country, pension income and income from shares and dividends.

You also need to declare all non-French bank accounts on your declaration – even if they are dormant and empty.

If this is your first year declaring tax in France you need to register first and you may need to make the declaration on paper – everyone else can declare online.

Find out in more detail how it works HERE and HERE.


Member comments

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  1. It says the declaration is “due in April” but that’s not the case. The online declaration forms will become available starting on April 14. The due dates vary depending on department, and whether you are filing electronically or with paper. They range from May 18 to June 2.

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