A French tax return guide for expat

This is this time of the year again, one that no one likes but that every adult has to go through…the annual tax return Being an expat in France makes the French tax return even more challenging!

I’m no tax expert. Only a professional tax advisor and the tax offices can provide adequate tax advice. They can, for exampleadvise on the specific expatriate tax regime. But I can give you some tips as I had to go through the same situation when I repatriated back to France, in addition to my 12-years professional global mobility experience. 

These pieces of advice do not replace the comprehensive support you would get from a tax advisor, but I hope they can clarify some essential and general elements.

France tax return

If you haven’t requested a tax identification number yet, you will need to request it online and it only takes about 48h to receive it by email.

  • Go to the page
  • At the last line of the page click on « Accès au formulaire »
  • Fill in the form with your details and click on « continuer ». A new section should open with the email address of the local tax office.
  • Click on the email address and it should automatically open up your email browser with a prewritten email with the details you provided before.
  • Double-check the information, attach a copy of your passport and proof of address (ie. recent utility bill), finally write your name at the end of the email and send it.
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Non-France tax resident

> Fill out form 2042: Main tax return form (for tax resident and none-tax resident)

France tax resident

> Form 2042: Main tax return form (for tax resident and none-tax resident)

> Fill out form 2047 (in the déclaration annexe tab for online declaration): to declare income that was banked abroad by a France tax resident. All types of income should be included, even though it may not be taxable in France.

> Fill out form 3916 (in the déclaration annexe tab for online declaration): to declare a foreign bank account

French incomes

At the bottom of your payslip, you will find the taxable amount. Your last payslip of the year (December or your last month in the company) will summarize the total taxable amount. 

This is the amount you should declare. If you had multiple employers, you should add up the annual taxable amounts.

Foreign incomes

If you are a French tax resident, you should also declare your foreign incomes. If there is a bilateral agreement, it will specify the conditions to avoid double taxation.
Only the foreign incomes earned after your arrival date in France should be declared.

INSIDER TIP: As of 2020, tax paper forms are not sent out anymore. Use the above-provided form links to get the form online or make your online tax return if you have already been provided with your tax ID number.

And finally, send it to your closest tax office!

French tax return

Bilateral double taxation agreements

If there is a tax treaty between France and your previous country of tax residence, it may be at your advantage to make sure this is applied by the French tax office.

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You can check the bilateral tax convention that France has signed with other countries. You will also be able to find it on the tax office website of your previous country of residence in the other language for a better understanding.

If you need further advice, you can contact the French tax office or a tax advisor. When you have determined that you want the tax bilateral agreement applied to your situation, you should send a request to the French tax office as follow:

  • Prepare a letter request.
  • Attach a copy of the tax treaty in question
  • Provide proof of employment in France (work contract+work permit if applicable)

IMPORTANT NOTE: If a tax exemption applies to your personal situation according to the tax bilateral agreement and that the exemption duration is shorter than your residence duration in France, the exemption will not apply.

The concept of tax residence

When meeting at least one of the three following criteria, you will be a tax resident in France:

  • Your household (spouse, civil partner and children) is located in France
  • Your main economics interests are in France (location of principal investments, registered business, or location where you earn the major part of your incomes)
  • Your professional activity (employer or not) is carried out in France (excluding subsidiary activities)

>>  Non-tax resident in France: File a tax return including your French incomes only.
>>  Tax resident in France: File a full tax return including your French AND foreign-based incomes

How to personalize your tax withholding rate

If you are employed in France, a ‘neutral’ tax withholding rate has been applied from your first payroll. This rate is the highest one that usually applies to single individuals. 

You can request a personalized rate to avoid overpayment that will only be reimbursed at the end of the tax year:

  • Fill out the form 2043-SD
  • Provide a passport copy for each family member
  • A copy of the visa for each family member (if applicable)
  • A copy of your marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • And a copy of the children’s birth certificate (if applicable)

You and your employer will be provided with your personalized rate within a few weeks. Your employer will, therefore, apply it to the following payroll.

The French tax calendar

Online 2021 tax return deadline

France is divided into three zones based on the department of residence:
 Zone 1 departments  01 to 19 as well as none tax residents: 26th May 2021;
 Zone 2: departments  20 to 54 and Corsica: 1st June 2021;
 Zone 3: departments  55 to 974/976: 8th June 2021.

Paper tax return (first tax return in France)

French tax notice

The tax notice is sent in September, as a welcome back from holiday present! 

If it is your first tax return in France, you will find your tax ID number that will allow you to create your online account for future tax declaration and payments.

INSIDER TIP: Keep your tax notice as it can be requested by other administration for proof of income. 

Good luck!

hope you found this information helpful. I would be happy to receive your feedback in the below comments.

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