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How becoming a French resident can bring tax and travel benefits

Partner article: If the 90/180 days rule is restricting visits to your second home then consider residency, says Robert Kent of Kentingtons

Almost two-thirds of Britons surveyed have considered selling their French second homes due to the post-Brexit 90/180-days rule Pic: beboy / Shutterstock

In 2021, one second home in every 10 was owned by a person residing outside of France, according to national statistics body Insee.

For Britons and Americans who own a property here, however, spending any length of time enjoying their homes in France can be problematic, due to strict rules about visiting the Schengen Area.

These state that non-EU citizens are permitted to stay only 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.

You can, of course, apply for a long-stay visa. However, many clients tell me they are considering selling their dream holiday homes, bored with the paperwork involved in obtaining visas and, in the case of British owners, frustrated that they are using their properties less and less since Brexit.

Read more: Immigration bill amendment for non-French second-home owners expected

Keep your home in France and become a resident

A recent survey by The Connexion confirms that almost two-thirds of Britons have considered selling their French second homes due to the post-Brexit 90/180-days rule. Some have already sold up, or put homes on the market.

Many admit they are doing so despite loving their properties, having made friends in France and feeling part of the community.

As someone who has been giving international financial advice for a quarter of a century, the solution seems simple. 

If you feel comfortable being in France and enjoy using your home here, why not become a French resident?

With a residency permit, or carte de séjour, entry into France becomes easier and untimed, with no stamp required on your passport.

You may return to the UK and spend up to six months there before your French residency is lost, and my understanding is that this is the same for US nationals who wish to return to America for extended periods. 

Data released this summer by the French Interior Ministry showed Americans are now the largest group of foreign nationals obtaining new residency cards, apart from people from North Africa.

Meanwhile, residency permits issued to Britons spiked in 2021, when 99,954 were issued following Brexit. This number is down to around 11,000 residency cards in 2022.

Having established that French residency solves the problem of access and liberty, when it comes to spending time between two countries, what are the downsides? 

Read more: Number of Americans moving to France triples

Is France not a high-tax country?

The answer is that it depends on your situation. 

Most people who have the liberty to split their time between two countries at will tend to be retired. And most retired couples moving to France can expect their overall weight of tax to drop significantly compared to, for example, the United Kingdom.

This comes as quite a shock to many. Most people ask the question braced for bad news. Their reaction is usually delight, disbelief, or a mixture of the two.

There are many reasons for this drop in tax, such as the parts system for income tax, as well as certain exemptions and allowances.

Essentially, the parts system, known as the quotient familial, helps ensure that families with more members pay less tax per person.

How does quotient familial work for a couple? 

As a simplified example, if one person has no income and the other brings home €50,000, the tax office calculates any tax due as if there are two people earning €25,000 each. 

This means that both people automatically get the allowances and low tax bands that would otherwise be lost.

In the UK, we commonly see self-employed people hire their spouses and pay them a wage to ensure similar income benefits from the allowances and lower tax bands. 

This is not necessary in France as this split, and sharing of allowances, is automatic.

The system also means that large families (including any disabled adult dependents) get considerable tax reductions.

French residency is an option worth exploring

If you enjoyed spending time between France and the UK prior to Brexit and lament the loss of your freedom of movement, then taking up French residency is certainly an option worth exploring.

Take professional advice from a well qualified French tax consultant first, and plan your move carefully.

All being well, your French holiday home should stop being a source of worry and return to the exciting adventure you always hoped it would be. 

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