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Tax warning for second-home owners with French carte de séjour

British second-home owners in France who have acquired a post-Brexit carte de séjour are being warned of potential tax problems.

Tax warning for second-home owners with French carte de séjour
Photo: Sebastian Bozon/AFP

The post-Brexit carte de séjour was intended for Brits already living in France before the end of 2020 as a relatively easy way to regularise their status. However in the case of some second-home owners, this could lead to trouble with the French tax man.

Who’s affected?

We’re mainly talking second-home owners here, but it covers anyone who spends a significant amount of time in France without actually living here.

Brits who are not full-time residents in France but who visit regularly must now either get a visa or limit their visits to 90 days in every 180. 

EXPLAINED How does the 90-day rule in France work?

The post-Brexit carte de séjour is intended for people who have France as their full-time address. However it seems that some second-home owners – perhaps after receiving misleading advice or through a misunderstanding of the system or even the belief that they have found a loophole – have acquired a post-Brexit residency card.

Those who live full-time in France are perfectly entitled to get a carte de séjour – indeed it is now a legal requirement to have one.

Slightly confusingly, there is also a different card known as a carte de séjour visiteur which is open to second-home owners – find out more about this here.

But the post-Brexit card, sometimes referred to as a WARP (withdrawal agreement residency permit) or referred to by the French authorities as an Article 50 TUE (referring to article 50 of the Traité sur l’Union européen or EU treaty) is only for people who have had their full-time residence in France since at least December 31st 2020.

There’s no official data on this, but various Brexit-focused Facebook groups have reported that some second-home owners have been able to get a post-Brexit card and The Local has also been contacted by people who have either done this or know someone who has.

How has this happened?

When the time came to regularise the situation of the roughly 200,000 Brits living in France before Brexit, France opted for a fast-track system that made the process as straightforward as possible.

Many long-term residents were surprised at how simple the process was and how few supporting documents were needed – but this was a deliberate choice by French authorities, intended both to make the process simple for their own administrators but also to ensure that vulnerable residents – such as pensioners on low incomes – were not incorrectly denied the right to stay in a country that had become home.

Very few residency applications were turned down. Those that were denied were almost all on the grounds of serious criminality.

But while the system came as a great relief to many who had been desperately worried about being able to remain, it did also mean that people who owned property in France – and therefore had documentation like French utility bills and bank accounts – were also able to register for residency.

Is this a problem?

It could eventually become a problem. The post-Brexit carte de séjour, is a residency card so by requesting it the person in question is telling French authorities that they are resident in France – which is why they are no longer constrained by the 90-day rule.

But if that person is in fact a second-home owner, then they are in reality a resident of the UK.

So what could happen?

Ultimately, Brits who own second homes in France and own a carte de séjour are telling different governments different things. They are telling the French that they live in France and the British that they live in the UK. This is likely to cause some problems in the future.

It’s not a question of French authorities breaking down doors and snatching back the carte de séjour, but interactions with officialdom will likely eventually become a problem if you’re telling different stories.

And the first issue could be with the French taxman.

Taxes

All residents in France are legally required to file an annual tax declaration – even if you do not earn any money in France. 

READ ALSO Who has to make a tax declaration in France?

By acquiring the carte de séjour, you have told France that you live here, so by not filing the annual return you are breaking the law.

People who realise they have made a genuine mistake and go to the tax authorities are generally treated pretty leniently, but if you continue to not do the declaration despite declaring yourself as a resident you could be facing fines and a lengthy investigation by the tax office.

When making the tax declaration you also make a sworn declaration that your main address is in France (non-residents who have income in France use a different form). Making a false declaration is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a €15,000 fine. This penalty can increase up to three years in jail if the false declaration is made to a public official.

It’s perfectly legal to file tax declarations in both France and the UK – indeed it’s required for many people who have economic activity in both countries – but remember that providing false information on a tax return is a criminal offence in both France and the UK.

Find full details on the French tax declaration HERE.

It’s important to note that being ‘tax resident’ of a country is not the same as having residency for immigration purposes.

Other issues

Car registration – plenty of Brits who move here from the UK bring a car with them, but once you are resident in France you need to change your registration for a French one. If you are presenting a carte de séjour at the border and yet driving a UK-registered car, you can be fined for not registering your car properly. This type of check doesn’t happen often but there are already some reports of fines being issued

Time out of France – you can lose your residency status if you spend too much time out of France. This is not generally an issue for full-time residents, but if you don’t really live here then your time in the UK could end up disqualifying you. Different cards have different limits – full details here.

Healthcare –  If you are, according to French authorities, living in France then you should apply for a carte vitale in order to register in the French health system. This requires another sworn declaration that you live in France in a “stable and regular manner” or work in France. 

All in all, if you own property in France and want to spend time here, it’s better to either stick to the 90-day limit, get a visa for longer visits or make the move to France so that you are genuinely resident here.

People concerned about their situation would be advised to seek independent advice.

Member comments

  1. I question if it’s necessary to be “full-time” resident, as stated above, to qualify for a CDS. For the “50-50” people, making the French home the primary residence, getting the CDS and spending 183+ days a year in France seems a valid way to go. But yes, logically it would also mean paying taxes in France instead of the UK.

  2. The article above is helpful but when you write 10 months max time outside France in the link I presume that doesn’t mean 10 months total in 5 years?! It is consecutive? The 183+ rule was what I was aware of but I have not seen this anywhere in black and white and in French relating to withdrawal agreement residency. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Thank you.

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

How do the French really feel about the English?

Deadly enemies, friendly rivals, sporting adversaries or the butt of jokes? While 'French-bashing' is an established trend among certain British communities, how do the French really feel about their cross-Channel neighbours?

How do the French really feel about the English?

As France prepare to take on England in the football World Cup, there has been plenty of mostly good-humoured banter on both sides, but in general this is a complicated relationship.

First let’s get one thing clear – while we are aware that English and British are not the same thing and that the UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, French people tend to be pretty vague on the difference between les anglais and les britanniques. What we’re examining here is largely an English phenomenon, but media or politicians who at least nominally represent the whole of the UK will also be making an appearance. 

Listen to the team from The Local discuss the French-English relationship in the latest episode of Talking France – find it on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts, download it HERE or listen on the link below.

Saturday’s World Cup football clash is making headlines on both sides of the Channel with French sports paper l’Equipe getting in early with the franglais headline ‘God save notre king’ – their king being, of course, star striker Kylian Mbappé.

Over on the other side of the Channel there were reports of English fans boycotting baguettes and croissants ahead of the big match, while the French commentator Julien Hoez found himself the subject of a UK newspaper article after making a flippant comment on Twitter about an (objectively revolting-looking, it must be said) fish-finger and cheese croissant on sale in England.

Hoez is far from the first Frenchman to be less than flattering about British food, with former president Jacques Chirac once remarking: “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”

But away from banter about food and football, English ‘French-bashing’ can be more serious.

In the midst of an actual war in Europe, British MP (and, briefly, prime minister) Liz Truss remarked that “the jury is out” when asked whether French president Emmanuel Macron was a friend or foe of Britain.

Her remark is part of a long tradition of British politicians who have decided to make verbal attacks against France or the French, usually to try and distract from problems at home.

It goes way back to British portrayals of Napoleon Bonaparte (did you know that it was British cartoonists that created the myth that Napoleon was short? In face he was of average height for a man of his time) right through to tabloid headlines over Covid travel rules.

Interestingly, this is a trend that’s much less prevalent among French politicians and media, where tabloid headlines about the UK – where they exist at all – tend more towards teasing than vitriol.

Political commentator – and a Brit who has lived in France for 25 years – John Lichfield told us: “I think when British politicians engage in a bit of French-bashing they assume that their people will like it and their media will lap it up and therefore there is a sort of constituency for that type of French-bashing in England, not necessarily in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“It’s not something that French politicians really go in for because there’s not much of a constituency for it, I don’t think there are many votes for Macron or anyone else in seeming to be anti-British.”

He added: “What’s interesting at the moment – with the England v France match – is that it focuses attention on where this ‘French-bashing’ is coming from – and it is an English thing, not a British thing. Most Scottish or Welsh people, certainly the ones that I know, don’t tend to be particularly anti-French.

“It comes from England and particularly from the English-based British media. There is of course a certain amount of teasing of Britain and British people in the French media, but nothing like as insistent and as vicious as you get from the other side of the Channel.

“I think it’s partly that we are an island and when we look out on the world France is what we see, so it’s the French that we pick on, whereas France is continental so when they look around they have lots of neighbours that they like to tease or to dislike – they don’t have the same obsession with England or with Britain as the English have with the French.”

But politicians and media and one thing, while ordinary people are another.

It’s rare for Brits living in France to report any verbal attacks or aggression from the French because of their nationality – although of course teasing and banter, particularly around sports events, are par for the course.

READ ALSO The French phrases you will need for France v England football banter

John said; “I always find that French people who don’t know Britain have a quite weird view of it – they think that we’re either all old people in bowler hats and pinstriped suits or we’re punks with purple hair and razor blades hanging off our ears who are smashing up pubs. They don’t seem to think that there’s much in between, so you do get a kind of cartoon view of Britain – as there is a cartoon view of France in England.

“In 25 years of living in France I’ve only once ever been attacked for being British – and that was by a farmer during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that had come over from Britain, so he had an axe to grind. 

“But on several occasions I’ve had rude comments and signs made at me while driving through Britain in cars with French number plates

“I think there is still a lot of warmth towards Britain in France because of two world wars and that is not forgotten. We tend to have a rather cartoonish view of both word wars and not recognise the huge contribution made by the French towards their own defence in World War I and more of a contribution at the beginning of World War II than we ever give credit for as well, whereas I think a lot of French people – especially older French people – do remember what happened in 1944 and 1914-18.

“So there are many reasons why there are different attitudes going across the Channel – but really the British and French are very similar in many ways. I’ve said before that our two countries are like sisters who live next door to one another, constantly looking over the fence to see what the other is doing (the British more than the French it should be said) but there is this type of sisterly quarrelsome relationship in which both countries admire each other more than they would like to admit.” 

You can listen to the team from The Local discuss French-bashing and their experiences as Brits in France in the latest episode of Talking France – find it HERE.

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