Getting French residency

France has rules regarding residence permits which vary according to your nationality - and for other European nationals, there is no longer any legal requirement to apply for one.

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Even though you don't need a permit to live in France, you will still need to establish where your main country of residence is for tax purposes.

An individual, whether a French or foreign national, is resident according to the French tax code if:

  • They have a permanent home or principal place of stay in France
  • They spend more than 183 days in France during a calendar year or spend more time in France than any other country
  • They carry out an occupation or are employed in France, except where this is incidental to a foreign activity
  • Their centre of economic interest is in France

If you fall into one of these brackets you are considered a French resident by law, and must pay taxes on your worldwide income in France. However, if you are outside of these categories, then you are considered non-resident and would pay taxes only on your French source income. The tax authorities will decide your status at first, and you are allowed to appeal if you do not agree with their decision. If you have decided to move to France permanently then you should contact the tax authorities in your current country to inform them of your change in circumstances. They may ask you to provide evidence that you are no longer resident in your country of origin – once you have proven this you might even receive a tax refund which is always nice!

There is also the possibility that you might fall between two camps. Should this occur, the Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France comes in. This treaty provides that income that has already been taxed in one country is not liable to tax in another. For example, pensions received from the UK, except for government pensions, will be taxed in France and not in the UK. France also has taxation treaties with all other EU states as well as the USA, Australia, Canada and around 70 other countries. Residency and double taxation treaties are complex affairs and we recommend seeking professional advice to avoid any confusion.

To be ‘fiscally resident’ in France only one of the following three conditions need apply:

  • You have your main home in France
  • You carry on professional activity in France, either self-employed or as an employee
  • Your centre of ‘economic interest’ is in France, e.g. investments, business

In order to assist with the determination of resident status, the general rule that is applied is that if you spend 183 days per calendar year in France then you are deemed to be resident. But you would also be deemed to be a resident if any one of the other conditions stated above applied. In some cases you can actually be resident in both countries, and the terms of the double taxation treaty between your home country and France would determine the rules that apply in these cases.

In particular, as cross-border working and living within Europe becomes more commonplace, it has become something of a game of chance for the various tax authorities to interpret the circumstances of all cases in a consistent manner. Thus, there can be uncertainty about the status of families who relocate to France, but where the breadwinner continues to work outside of the country.

Strictly speaking, the French authorities state that if your family home is in France, then even though you may work outside of France, and spend most of your own time out of the country, you are considered to be resident of France for tax purposes.

We have found that there is a substantial variation in the way that individuals are taxed. In some cases the French tax authorities take the view that you are resident of France for tax purposes; in other cases they have accepted that you can be taxed in the country where you work and where you mainly live.

The differences are sometimes explained by the provisions of the international tax treaties in place between France and other countries, by the nature of employment, and sometimes the different treatment of employees and those who run a business. In other cases, it is simply down to the way local officials have decided to interpret each individual’s different circumstances!

What is interesting in all of this is that the EU takes the view that, in relation to social security payments, whilst your family will be considered to be resident in France, you will pay social security contributions in the country of employment. In other words, within the EU, the rules state that your social security rights and obligations relate to where you undertake your professional activities. If it is based outside of France, then that is where you will pay your social security contributions. There are currently no EU wide regulations covering the tax treatment of cross-border workers.

If you do pay social security contributions to your country of employment, but income tax in France, you probably get the best of both worlds, certainly if you work in the UK. This is because social security contributions are lower in most other European countries than France, which happens to have one of the most progressive income tax systems in Europe.

If you are based in France, but earn business or salaried income from both the UK (or another country) and France, and you are taxed outside of France on this income, you are still subject to the payment of a social levy to cover health insurance in France. The charge is 5.5 per cent on salaried income and for business income it is 2.4 per cent up to €34,822, and 9.6 per cent between €34,823 and €171,113 (2011). This rule only applies if you are affiliated to the French social security system in France, which would normally be the case if you were earning business or salaried income in France.

Even though you will pay tax in your country of employment, some local French tax offices may insist that you complete a tax return. Strictly speaking, you will not be taxed twice on your income earned outside of France, but this income will be taken into consideration in calculating your liability to tax on any French earned income e.g. rental income. 

Top Tips! 

If you have any doubts about your status, in order to minimise the risk of being considered fiscally resident in France, you should own a home in the country where you work and spend at least 183 days a year there.

In your first year, those relocating to France from the UK should complete the HM Revenue Form 85, which advises the UK tax authority that you are moving abroad, and will enable you to reclaim any overpaid tax.

When you complete your first French tax return you should also complete the Form FD5, which the French tax authority then use to confirm to the UK authority that you are French tax resident.

If you do finally relocate to France, in the year you become resident you will be taxed separately on the basis of your actual residence in each country.

The UK Customs and Excise Office have published some guidance to assist with determining the resident status of those living between two countries.

We would be interested to hear your experiences, as we are aware there is varying practice between the different tax offices in France, and by the UK tax offices!

A residence permit in France is called a carte de séjour. To obtain one, you must apply to your local préfecture, the French administrative region responsible for local administration of policing laws and regulations. 

The service that delivers residence permits is called le service des étrangers. In the provinces, the préfecture will be situated in the administrative capital of your département. If you live in a rural area, you can often process your application to the préfecture through the local town hall, or mairie. In Paris, you must apply to the préfecture de police de Paris.


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