Taxing Times

Taxing Forms

Wherever you live, death and taxes are inevitable (except in Greece it appears, where it’s only death). We have just gone through the mental gymnastics required to complete our annual French tax return. This is one of those tasks that must be done by a certain date but strikes horror into my heart. I am always happy to let my feminist principles slip here and get the SF do the bulk of it.

If you live in France for more than six months per year, you are normally liable for taxation in France. This means that every year you have to complete a tax return (déclaration des revenus) in arrears. In your first year you have to ask for it or get one off the Internet. Once you’re in the system the tax office (Impôts) should automatically send you one every year. A warning: the website does not appear to be navigable in English.

Normally the form has to be returned by 31st May by post (hence our burst of activity last week). Sometimes they’re on strike so the forms are sent out late, in which case you get a stay of execution. If you complete it on the Internet you are allowed some extra time depending on the number of your département (7th June for nos. 1-19, 14th June for nos. 20-49, 21st June for nos. 50 and upwards). We have never been able to trust doing it that way and so send it off by post. We also send it registered post, since we don’t trust the snail mail, either.

The French taxation regime covers your worldwide assets. So, in addition to the blue form, on which you have to enter your income regardless of source, you also have to complete a pink form, which covers income arising only from abroad. To complete the pink form you need a doctorate in astrophysics. In fact, for many years we ignored it completely and simply sent in a separate sheet helpfully itemising all our income and its various sources. Then it turned out that the Impôts ignored our separate sheet completely so we realised our tax assessment was consistently wrong.

We tootled down to the Hôtel des Impôts in Montauban, were given a number and told to queue. It was a bit like at the supermarket fish counter where you wait until your ticket number appears on a screen. Knowing the reputation of the UK equivalents, we entered the taxman’s office with some trepidation. In fact, he couldn’t have been nicer. He explained carefully how to fill in the pink form and then translate the numbers onto the blue form. Voilà. We just had to remember how to do it the following year.

Since tax evasion is something of a national sport in France we concluded that the Impôts welcomes with open arms anyone who voluntarily admits that there has been a mistake. We did, however, on one occasion meet a woman tax inspector who made Rosa Klebb look like Mother Theresa. Luck of the draw, I suppose. In fact, even she was quite helpful in the end.     

The tax system differs in a number of important respects from the UK one. First, of course, the rate of taxation is different and there is more of a sliding scale in France. It’s too complicated to go into here. Second, the tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December – not, as in the UK, to the 5th April. This can cause continuing headaches if you receive UK bank or other interest, since the annual statement doesn’t coincide with the French tax year. Third, you are taxed as a household and not as individuals.

Happily, though, the Impôts do allow you to complete the tax declaration in your maiden name. Since I have never taken my husband’s name this pleases me no end.

By the way, I should add a disclaimer here. I am no expert in financial affairs so you should always take advice from those qualified to give it and check the rules governing your own circumstances.       

Copyright © 2012 A writer’s lot in France, all rights reserved


  1. So now I can’t pretend I didn’t know about the Pink Form… ooooohhhhh dear. I suppose I’ll have to have a little chat with the kind folks at the Vienne Hôtel des Impôts as I’m retiring and will receive pensions from both the US and France. The French one is going to be taxable (imposable) and I’m hoping the US one won’t be.


    • I must say they keep the existence of the pink form a secret. I don’t think we found out about it for a couple of years. And quite right, do take proper advice tailored to your circumstances.


  2. It seems i’m lucky to be in 76, I get to the end of June! I noticed on our tax form this year that there was a box with ‘income that we know about’ which had been entered by the impôt. That made it easier. Since we’re employed by french companies, a final year ‘bulletin de paie’ arrives about a month before the deadline from the companies in question and its just a matter of checking it against the ‘bulletin de paie’ and then transferring it to the impôt form. My only problem was the company sent the bulletin to Nigeria and not to France despite knowing the impôt form is always sent to the home address. And do I trust Nigerian post…..


    • Well, your situation seems to be particularly complicated. And, as Steph has pointed out in another comment, if you have income from a country outside France it seems you can’t submit your declaration online because the pink form has to be sent in in hard copy format. Oh God, will I ever get my head around all this?…

      So, PLEASE DO check the rules for your own circumstances and don’t go on what I say in this post.


  3. Different to the UK but very similar to Spain: dates, queues, numbers, strange forms, nice tax people! – also we can also download an official tax program and pay at any bank in 2 installments.


    • Interesting that you also have nice tax inspectors in Spain. All desperate to get the money in, no doubt. We pay in three instalments in France – BUT it’s upfront based on the previous year’s assessment, so it’s not till the third instalment that it gets sorted out. Tough if you earned more two years ago than in the previous year.


  4. Yes, I too have found that when you ask for help, the tax people are very patient, although we did have one guy at Lannemezan who hated the English and made it quite plain. Atcually we have very little to declare so it’s easy – one of the benefits of not having much money.


    • Generally we have found them to be very accommodating. I’m sure there are some who don’t like foreigners of any description – and I daresay one finds that in the UK too. We are complicated since we have income from France, UK and Sweden, although none of it adds up to more than a row of beans these days!


  5. I’ve been hugely impressed by it all after Italy. The people at the Impots couldn’t have been more helpful and when I rushed into them in a panic, because I had made two crossings out (you get fined for this in Italy), the lady looked at me in a bewildered way and said I could have a new form if it worried me. In Italy you buy your form and you can’t possibly have another if you mess it up. Vive La France! ……. but maybe they’ll charge like a wounded bull on my small income. I will have to see.


    • I was pleasantly surprised by their attitude, considering that when it comes to administration in France you are always in the wrong. As I said n the post, I think they are just happy to get in what they can…


  6. I hate the end of May! I put the tax return off as long as possible. Even after doing it six times now, there’s still an element of guesswork on my part as to what goes where! My approach is to shove in supporting documentation for everything and let them get on with it. I’d like to do the return online but I think that if you need to fill in the pink form then you can’t make an online return. Maybe that’s changed? I’ll have to find out before next year.


    • The problem is that they don’t do it unless you have completed the pink form correctly. Whatever supporting documentation you include is simply ignored. However, I didn’t realise that you can’t make an online return if you also have to complete the pink form. Since we have never made an online return I have no idea if they have changed it or not. AHHHHH


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