Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Selling a house in France is quite different to the UK, or so most people believe. Agency fees are much higher here, and are paid for by the buyer, whereas of course they are paid for by the seller in England. But be honest, if you are selling a house in the UK, don’t the prices reflect the fact that the vendor is going to pick up the tab for say 2.5% fees, and therefore this is built into the price in any event. The main difference here in France is the general lack of exclusivity delas for agencies, so that a property will often be with 4 or 5 agencies and perhaps advertised privately as well. Inevitably, these agencies will all have differing fee structures, so the house appears in marketing at different prices, confusing the buyer. Since they are not paying, some vendors decide to place there property with numerous agencies, with the end result that none of them go out of their way to make a special effort to sell the property, and the house appears on dozens of websites, giving the appearance of a desperate vendor, with a problem property. Going down the private sale route is fine if you can present your property professionally, but many adverts are frankly awful, and you then end up dealing with serial viewers who are not in a position to proceed even if they feel inclined. You also face the thorny issue of negotiating face to face with the buyer, and even if you are up to the challenge, they may not be comfotable! Buyers are also suspicious of how an owner arrived at the asking price for a private sale. The natural assumption is that the owner is being hopeful and this then attracts a significantly reduced offer. In our admittedly biased opinion, there is no substitute for using a professional agency with good internet presence, (since 95%+ of searches start this way), and restricting your choice to 3 or at an absolute maximum of 4 agencies to work with. Feel free to offer photographs that show the property in the best light, and offer to work with your agent rather that against them, and you will enjoy the rewards sooner rather than later.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com

Taxing news

Gîte owners Please note – a little publicised law was passed in France at the end of last year – and according to article L. 324-1-1 & D. 324-1-1 of the tourism code, anyone offering furnished accommodation for tourists must make a declaration to the maire in the commune where the property is situated. Previously those offering Chambre d’Hôtes have been required to register. Since there are tax breaks that are enjoyed by gites and holiday rentals, notably deductible costs of 70% as opposed to 50% and a much higher income allowance of around 70,000 €uros instead of 32,000, it might be the case that these benefits will only be available in the future if you have completed and registered these forms. You can download the PDF file by clicking on the following link :- https://www.formulaires.modernisation.gouv.fr/gf/cerfa_14004.do Financial Planning On the 15th February 2010, a new UK HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) statutory instrument came into force, creating a new type of trust known as Qualifying Non-UK Pension Schemes (QNUPS) - which should not be confused with Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS). Both schemes create significant opportunities for British expatriates to save local taxes in the country in which they are tax resident as well as UK inheritance tax (IHT). Allez-Français have a formal Introducer arrangement with a leading firm of International Independent Financial Advisers, and they will be holding a seminar on how best to arrange your financial affairs in May. Please e-mail me for an invitation at allez-francais@wanadoo.fr U K Budget 2010 While Chancellor Alistair Darling’s last Budget under the current administration contained few direct tax increases, it was nonetheless a budget designed to increase tax revenue. Darling pointed out that 60% of the tax increases will be paid by the top 5% of earners, saying that those who are better off should pay their “fair share”. Although he failed to mention personal income tax allowances in his speech, they have been frozen, a move described in the press as ‘classic stealth tax’. While British expatriates may have been relieved to have escaped the UK tax regime, the situation is not much better in other European countries and we could see more tax rises or stealth taxes coming our way. The UK budget and its ‘tax raid on the middle classes’ is a good example of why it is worth reviewing your financial planning to see what steps you can take to legitimately lower your tax bill. The IHT measures will hit thousands of expatriates as it extends beyond residency and is charged on worldwide assets. As an expatriate you may however be able to use one of the new QROPS or QNUPS pension arrangements to free your investable wealth from this tax, as well as some local taxes. These options will be discussed at the seminar outlined above. See our highly acclaimed website http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 21 March 2010

QROPS pensions

It is estimated that there are currently around 200,000 British expatriates living in France and most have a UK pension that is worth a considerable amount of thought and planning. In recent years the option has arisen to allow UK expatriates to transfer their UK pension into a QROPS fund, thereby allowing them to gain from the many benefits that come with having your pension transferred into a QROPS.
There are many types of pension that can be transferred which include personal and occupational pension schemes and this includes pensions that are in draw down (even if currently in payment) and protected rights can also be transferred.
It is often a great option to transfer your UK pension into a QROPS since UK pension schemes are not very flexible and there are many restrictions on when and how you draw down your benefits. The majority of expat pensioners in France are also forced to buy an annuity at age 75. Consequently this means that you cannot then leave any balance of your remaining pension fund to your heirs on death. However, if your pension is transferred into a QROPS this is something which becomes a possibility and is just one of the many benefits which makes relocating your pension into a QROPS something really worth considering.
You are not able to transfer a final salary pension, or a scheme if you have already purchased an annuity.
Our business partners (fully registered IFAs), with offices in Niort would be pleased to talk to you about your requirements. Please note that a fund of at least £100,000 is normally required to access this facility. Please contact us for further details.
Peter Elias (Agent Commercial) http://www.allez-francais.com/

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Politics & the market

The political uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming election is doing nothing to help the volatility surrounding the £ currency, both against the € and the $. UK buyers are facing an exchange rate of around 1.10 € to the £ if they wish to buy a home in France. Not great when you compare rates over the past 5 years or so, but who knows what will happen if there is a hung parliament? This weakness in the £ does present itself as an opportunity for any ex-Pats looking to sell up in the Eurozone and return to the UK. Sensible vendors are using this as a chance to lower prices, generate more interest leading to a sale, and then pocket the gain in currency. Peter Elias (Agent Commercial), http://www.allez-francais.com

Monday, 1 March 2010

Xynthia

This past weekend, the Poitou Charentes and the Vendée have been blasted by an exceptional storm – called Xynthia with winds of up to 159 Km per hour. The storm has caused devastation, particularly on the coasts, with serious flooding, partly also due to Spring tides. The centre of La Rochelle was especially badly damaged by this freak storm. Unfortunately, over 50 people from this area have lost their lives, and inevitably the damage caused to property has been significant. The last serious storm of this magnitude was at the end of 1999, between Christmas and the New Year, when a serious storm on a similar course to this one, (en-route from Spain & Portugal), caused havoc over a 72 hour period. As a nation France has declared the event a “national disaster” and promises have been made to release funds to help communities rebuild. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has today visited the storm-battered Atlantic coast. Many of the casualties on the French coast drowned, while those elsewhere were hit by parts of buildings or falling trees. Peter Elias http://www.allez-francais.com/