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When moving to France, you need to assess your tax residence and planning, inheritance tax and estate planning, property ownership, investing and pensions.

If you are quite new to living in France or organising your move here, you probably have a list of jobs to get through. This needs to include reviewing your tax, financial and estate planning. Don’t let this stagnate far down the list. It is important to adjust your wealth management for your new life in France and spending a little time on it now should reap dividends and give you peace of mind.

If you have been living here for a while, when was the last time you reviewed your financial planning? Are you sure it is up-to-date and specifically designed for your life in France?

Residence

Residence has become an even more important issue for UK nationals with Brexit fast approaching.

The UK and EU27 have committed to maintain existing residency rights for Britons and EU nationals who are “lawfully residing” within either area before the withdrawal date. But what does “lawful residency” mean in practice? How close can you get to demonstrating this before the Brexit transition period comes to an end?

There are some steps you can take to support your residence position in France, such as registering with the local healthcare system, changing your driving licence, introducing yourself to local authorities, informing your UK financial institutions that you have left etc. But very importantly, you need to submit your annual tax returns in France.

Make sure you understand the rules for French tax residency and, if you meet any of them, that you correctly declare your worldwide income, gains and wealth, as required by French tax law. If you hold assets or receive income in another country, follow the double tax treaty rules so you pay tax in the right place.

Tax planning in France

While France has a reputation as a high tax country, this has improved a little with the 2018 tax reforms. It is worth reviewing your investment assets to see how you can take full advantage. In any case, the tax regime offers opportunities to lower your liabilities, from the parts system for general income, to tax-efficient arrangements for your savings and investments.

Do not presume that what was tax efficient in the UK is tax efficient in France. You may need to convert existing arrangements to ones designed for French residents. Some investment arrangements in France allow you to reduce your annual taxable income (without necessarily reducing actual income) which can make a considerable difference to your tax bill.

Download our Guide to Taxes in France

Property ownership and taxes

If you have not yet moved to France, it is worth investigating whether you are better off, tax-wise, selling your UK home while still UK resident or waiting until you live in France.

Be aware that the way you hold your property could have unexpected tax and inheritance consequences. If you opt for joint ownership, should it be en indivision, en tontine or an asset included in your marital community? Or should you buy through a Société Civile Immobilière (SCI), a special type of French company? If you have not bought property yet, explore all these options first – the best one for you will depend on your family situation and aims.

If you are planning to buy a luxury property or own a few different ones, bear in the mind that you will have to pay French wealth tax if your household’s worldwide property portfolio amounts to over €1.3 million.

French inheritance tax and estate planning

Will the right money go to the right hands at the right time? France has very different inheritance tax and succession law to the UK, so to ensure your wishes are carried out, ask a locally based specialist adviser to review your estate planning.

Succession tax can be high, up to 60% for distant or non-relatives, but there are often ways to lower this liability for your heirs.

French succession law imposes forced heirship. UK nationals can use the EU succession regulation to opt for UK succession law (but not tax) to apply to their estate, but make sure you understand how this works and the potential consequences to establish if this is the right route for your family.

Your investment portfolio

Review all your savings and investments to check they are suitable for you now. Are you holding the right spread of assets to meet your objectives, time horizon and risk tolerance? Do you need to hold more assets in Euros and diversify away from UK shares and bonds?

For peace of mind, obtain an objective analysis of your risk profile, then ensure the mix of assets you have in your portfolio is entirely suitable for you and your needs.

UK pensions in France

Retirees should review their pension funds and the options available today to consider how to maximise their retirement savings.

Living in France presents some opportunities. As a non-UK resident, you may be able to transfer your funds out of a UK scheme and into a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) which can provide various benefits. But explore all options before determining which is best for you.

Under certain circumstances, France only levies 7.5% tax on pension lump sums. This could enable you to move the capital into more tax-efficient arrangements, but this is only suitable for some people, depending on their position. Do not risk your retirement savings; take professional, regulated advice.

Download our guide “Your Pensions in Europe”

The sooner you review your finances, the sooner you can get on with enjoying life in France. For the best results, consider all the above essentials in conjunction with each other. Often one will impact upon another, so working on them in isolation could have unexpected consequences.
 
Ultimately, you want to achieve peace of mind that all your affairs are in order and designed in the best way to achieve your wishes. Taking professional guidance from a locally based adviser will ensure you have all the facts and understand your options.

Any questions? Contact your local adviser in France.

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.