While things are generally wonderful here Paris, be assured that life isn’t always free fancy hotel stays and croissants every day. Tyler and I recently went through our first foreign tax-filing experience. I spent quite a few weeks stressing out about it, but we found the people at our local tax office to be surprisingly helpful to us newcomers.
Please note that I’m not certified in any way to give professional advice about tax-filing; this is just my experience on the topic. If you have questions, please direct them to your local office in France (more information below).
Here in France, we don’t file taxes until the proceeding year, which is why despite having moved to Paris January 2016, I haven’t filed until now. This complicates things for me as a US citizen, because I’m still required to file in the States (but will receive deductions for taxes paid while living in another country). US taxes were due April 17th, but the French tax deadline is May 17th. The first thing my US CPA advised me to do was extend my US filing date, which can be pushed to October 15th. I’ll receive my tax return for France mid-August, just in time to complete my US tax-filing.
Once I had those logistics out of the way, I had to find out how to actually complete the filing. Thanks to the help of my friend Dan and other expat colleagues at work, these were the main forms I needed:
- Déclaration des revenus 2016 (2042): the main form everyone needs to fill out, which includes attachments of your RIB (French bank account details) and housing lease
- Déclaration des revenus encaissés à l’étranger (2047): needed if for example, you have dividends from your company
- Déclaration par un résident d’un compte ouvert hors de France (3916): every foreign bank account (including those with stock awards) must be declared on a separate 3916 form
Of course, all the forms are in French. Since I’m not completely fluent yet and this was my first time filing, I made an appointment with my very friendly bank representative who volunteered to help translate and give an overview of what was needed. Microsoft also offered a few information sessions to its expat employees. Since I had a more complicated situation with US accounts, my bank manager referred me to check with the official French tax office to double-check that things were correct. You’ll have to pay a fine if your forms aren’t filled out the right way.
Via the site https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/contacts, I answered a few questions about my situation and address and it directed me to the nearest tax office. As with other government-related appointments, I’ve found it’s always best to go first thing in the morning or right after lunch when the queues aren’t backed up.
When we first arrived at the tax office, a clerk called us up to get an overview of our asks and triaged us to the appropriate line. We waited about 15 minutes to be called into an office with the agent who specialized in helping residents from foreign countries.
TIP: Arrive at the tax office as prepared as you can to make things go smoothly. The people there will greatly appreciate it and be more willing to help you. We printed out multiple copies of the forms and brought in any additional material we might have needed (details on all our accounts, apartment leases, payslips, IDs, stock purchases, etc.). We even made our best attempt to fill in what we could with pencil. And of course, we made copies of EVERYTHING!
Tyler and I spent about an hour and a half with the agent who reviewed all our papers. She told us she needed to do some extra research for Tyler’s situation (since he owns his company based in the US). We then returned the next day and were able to submit the papers right at the office. The agents we worked with spoke very little English, so if you aren’t comfortable with your French, bring along a friend to help translate.
Even if you don’t earn income in France like Tyler (and probably won’t have to pay any taxes), you’re still required to file if you’ve been a resident for at least 183 days (half the year). It also probably makes applying for French citizenship easier if we decide to do that in a few years.
Next year, I’ll probably hire someone to file both my US and French taxes for me since my financial situation will become a bit more complicated. However, if you have a straight-forward financial portfolio, I didn’t find the process extremely difficult once I sat down and worked through what I needed to complete.
People often complain about France’s bureaucracy (just read the “What challenges do you face in Paris?” responses on Our Paris Stories). I do find paperwork to be more complicated compared to the States, but I remind myself that millions of people have been doing it for years so everything is doable once you get yourself organized.
UPDATE August 18: I am happy to report that I received my avis d’impot mid-August in the mail. The form told me to create an account online which required three pieces of identifying information, one of which first-year tax payers don’t have, the numéro d’accès en ligne. Kind of important, right? My nice colleague from HR helped me call the office, which wasn’t any help. I went to the tax office this morning, and they told me that I won’t receive my numéro d’accès en ligne until the second year… but I can pay by credit card or check (the latter of which has a small tax fee). However, when I tried to pay by credit card at the office, the payment was rejected because it was greater than the limit enforced by my bank (even though I had enough funds.) I called the bank, but learned it would take one day to process my request to raise the limit… so instead, the tax officer told me I could actually still pay online my first time via this site with my bank info (RIB). Et voilà all done. Next year, I’ll receive my numéro d’accès en ligne which will allow me to create an online account and choose to have taxes automatically deducted from my paychecks moving forward.