Monday, 2 October 2017

Major tax reforms in France

A new 30% flat tax rate will be introduced for investment income from January 2018, and a new version of wealth tax will only apply to real estate, lowering tax bills for many expatriates in France.

As part of his election campaign, President Emmanuel Macron promised various tax reforms, particularly on how investment assets and income are taxed. The aim is to encourage people to save more by simplifying taxation on financial income as well as aid business growth.

The draft French budget for 2018 was presented to Parliament on 27th September 2017. A balancing act of tax and spending cuts, it includes the promised tax reforms. The budget will now work its way through parliament before being approved at the end of the year, so changes are possible.

The main measure affecting expatriates in France are summarised below.

Flat tax on investment income

Investment income is currently taxed at the scale rates of income tax, but from 1st January 2018 it will become liable to one fixed rate of 30%.

This 30% rate includes both income tax (12.8%) and social charges (17.2%).

It will only apply to investment policies over €150,000 (per person, so €300,000 for a joint policy), whether in an assurance-vie or not. Lower income households can continue to opt for the progressive income tax rates, so that they do not have to pay more tax under new system.

Note that for assurance-vie, the new system will apply to all policies set up on or after 27th September 2017, but the 30% flat rate system will not start to be applied to withdrawals until 1st January 2018. This is because the French Constitution states that 70 days have to elapse between the budget being proposed to parliament and it being approved.

While most of the reforms were expected, this early date for assurance-vie was a surprise. However, the flat rate can actually be more beneficial for individuals with a higher marginal rate of tax.

If your assurance-vie policy was set up before 27th September, the old fixed rate system is still available, as is the ability to elect to use the scaled tax system.

Policies held for more than eight years will continue to benefit from the €4,600 Prélévement Libératoire allowance (€9,200 for married couples / PACS partners).

Your assurance-vie policy will no longer be subject to wealth tax (see below).

There are no changes to the succession tax treatment of assurance-vie.

Wealth tax

From 1st January 2018, wealth tax will be abolished and a new real estate tax will be applicable. Savings and investments, including assurance-vie policies, will be exempt from this tax.

If you own or are thinking of buying investment property, it may be worth considering moving the funds into capital investments instead.

The current threshold of €1,300,000 will stay in place; the wealth tax scaled rates will apply to property, and main homes will still enjoy the 30% abatement. The 75% limit will also continue to apply.

Social charges

Social charge for all forms of income are increasing by 1.7%, as follows:

- Employment/self-employment income from 8% to 9.7%
- Pension income from 7.4% to 9.1%
- Investment income (including rental income) from to 15.5% 17.2%

Taxe d’habitation

This property tax, currently paid by most French households, will only apply to the 20% with the highest incomes.

Not yet approved

Remember that all these reforms still need to be debated and approved by parliament, and so changes are possible.

Article provided by courtesy of Blevins Franks - Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss how these reforms affect you personally or for tax planning advice. The tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Luxury Property Show 27-28 October 2017

In partnership with key sponsor Foremost Currency Group, I am delighted to let you know that Allez-Francais will be attending the Luxury Property Show at London's Olympia 27-28 October 2017.  We've also got a limited number of free tickets to give away so please contact me if you would like to register!

Once an investment niche, luxury property is now a rapidly growing market with recent data from Christies International Real Estate revealing the world’s top ten reported property sales were all priced above $100 million for the first time in the year to May 2017. Riding the wave of excitement surrounding this emerging market, the Luxury Property Show returns to London Olympia this Autumn – headed by ever-knowledgeable Director Eddie Sikora.

The show, now in its 11th year, runs from Friday 27th to Saturday 28th October and will play host to more than 50 exhibitors from around the world presenting investors with opportunities ranging from Mediterranean villas to beachside apartments in Thailand via alpine retreats in Northern Europe to luxury lofts in New York.

The exhibitors and sponsors list is long and distinguished as usual, and includes St James Place Wealth Management, Remax, Almanzora, Baker Woods, Mansion Global, Yamaha Music, Corcoran Group, Prime Properties, the International Property Awards and many more.

Alongside a wide range of exhibitors and stands the show also includes an in-depth schedule of seminars offering real world investment advice for investors ranging from those exploring the market for the first time, to seasoned professionals with global portfolios. The seminars will tackle key questions around the market including where to find the next global property hotspot to how to mitigate political risk and uncertainty. Among those delivering seminars are key industry figures and property funds.

As one key sponsor explains: “We live in a globalised world and leading investors increasingly recognise this, and build investment strategies appropriately. By taking a big picture approach – and factoring in the political and economic trends that can impact property values – those willing to do their research can make some healthy returns.

“Events like the Luxury Property Show have an increasing role to play in sowing the seeds of this market, and are a great opportunity to bring together some of the sharpest investment minds under one roof.”

Commenting ahead of the show, Eddie Sikora, Director of the show said: “Investing in property has always been a good option and, over the long-term, property investments continue to outperform other asset classes.

“With many domestic markets saturated however, and housing becoming an increasingly political concern, investors now are looking globally and focusing attention on the more exclusive end of the market – which carries less risk and where returns can be greater. Our show at the Olympia has gone from strength to strength on the back of this trend and we expect this year to be our biggest yet, bring investors and opportunities together to explore the potential of this market.”


The Luxury Property Show runs from 27th – 28th October at the London Olympia. For further information visit .

Monday, 28 August 2017

Britons continue to move to Europe – Are you one of them?

Moving to Europe is a dream for so many Britons. Some aim to retire abroad, while others cannot wait and move over while still working, or take early retirement to start the dream sooner rather than later.

What about you? Around 900,000 UK citizens are currently long-term residents of other EU countries, according to the Office for National Statistics. But will this trend continue after Brexit? The referendum led to uncertainty over whether Britons already living in Europe would keep their current rights, and also whether it would mean less new people moving over if they chose to wait until after Brexit negotiations were concluded.

In fact, we have noticed a surge in interest from people who want to leave the UK, and as soon as possible. With offices in Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, we are also getting enquiries from people who have not yet chosen a country and are investigating their options – but most are pretty sure they do want to leave the UK and preferably before Brexit.

Residency rights

Reassuringly, both the UK and the EU have confirmed that securing citizens’ rights is a top priority. Both sides have committed to recognise existing residency rights. So if you are already fully resident within the EU – or gain residency before a certain date – you should keep the right to stay there permanently. What we do not yet know is what the cut-off date will be, or what the residency rules will be for those who arrive after Brexit. Following the negotiations, new mutual agreements should lay out how processes like acquiring residency, visas and permits will work in a post-Brexit world. We anticipate that most countries will continue to welcome British expatriates, but the procedure may be less straightforward than today. If you want to live in the EU but are still a UK resident, you may want to secure residency soon – under current rules – rather than waiting to see what happens.

Which country?

For many people it is an easy decision; they have visited a country a few times and can happily picture themselves living there. But could the tax implications put you off? Others are still weighing up a few different countries. In this case you need to think about which country will suit you best, but also research the tax regimes as one of the factors to consider. For most of us, lifestyle is more important than how much tax you pay, but tax does play a part and tax burdens vary across countries. Some countries, like Portugal and Cyprus, have regimes in place to attract new residents and these could potentially save you considerable amounts of tax. What we suggest you do is list the countries you would like to move to in order of preference, then discuss your choices with a cross-border financial advisory firm like Blevins Franks.

You may be surprised to find that, with effective, compliant tax planning in place, the taxes in your preferred country are not as high as you imagined. With a deep understanding of the local tax regime and planning opportunities you may be able to significantly reduce your tax liabilities. This is particularly the case if you are retired and have pension and investment income, as how you hold your assets can make a big difference to how they are taxed.

Tax and estate planning tips

This is not an area for do-it-yourself tax planning. However much research you do on the internet, it will not match the knowledge and experience you get from a specialist who lives in the country and has been working with the local tax system for years and knows how to use it to your advantage. The answer for you may even be to move to one country initially to take advantage of their tax breaks, and then later move to your preferred country. You will need specialist, highly personalised advice to establish the best course of action for you.

You also need to think about when to sell assets. Weigh up whether you would be better off selling UK property and investments while still UK resident, or waiting until you are resident in your new country. It is also important to consider estate planning when moving, as each country has its own succession laws and often some form of inheritance tax, typically with very different rules to the UK. Again, these rules can often be overcome or mitigated with local knowledge and careful planning.

Cross-border financial planning can be complex at the best of times. The new global automatic exchange of information regime makes it even more important to get this right, preferably from the outset, and Brexit now adds further considerations. Specialist advice from a firm that can advise on a few countries and the interaction between regimes will be invaluable as you navigate this new world.

Article courtesy of Blevins Franks. Blevins Franks has been providing specialist financial advice to British expatriates across Europe for over forty years.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Should I have a survey report?

Some buyers – not many it has to be said, think about demanding a survey when they find their dream French house. They feel that it is the norm in the UK, and seek that extra reassurance.

Do you need that comfort blanket? Before answering, if you have a reasonable knowledge of houses you will probably back your own eyes and experience. Some agents offer the alternative of a local builder to express an opinion. The 'expert' in the bar is usually a bad idea, in our experience. If you have serious concerns you need a professional answer.

Ask the “surveyor”, (but beware they are not all surveyors), what they will report on, perhaps more importantly what is likely to be excluded and if you have any special worries, that they look at anything of particular concern or interest to you. Do ask in advance of the survey, rather than after it has been requested. In the grand scheme of things, a pre-purchase survey is a relatively small cost, typically a few thousand Euros for a medium size house. But that is a lot of money towards that new bathroom or other project that needs doing.

The Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT) – the compulsory set of reports required before you can sign a Compromis de Vente (CdV) offers a wealth of information for a buyer. Some of it is limited, and some can be a little “over the top”, but very detailed information, a good base to start with. Remember though that these reports are measurements against new build standards for today, not a diagnostic of a C18th Manoir…….. So, use with caution.

Vendors are often wary of buyers requiring surveys. It is not common practice in France, and is frequently seen as a tool to try to renegotiate the price, therefore treated with suspicion. A good agent will take time to assure their vendor that requesting a survey is in fact a positive sign, since this is an investment on your part, an indication of serious interest. But it can create friction if not handled well. Negotiation is always a skill of diplomacy and good agents will broker a deal that suits all parties, the “win / win” scenario.

So, should you have a survey report? Yes, if it gives you peace of mind when confirming your choice of property purchase. But, as a warn of caution, many buyers who request a survey, then report back to us that they are proceeding in any case, as they were aware of everything highlighted in the report ...

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