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BREXIT and French Residency

Friday, 17 July, 2020
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CHFTS BREXIT BULLETIN SERIES

BREXIT AND FRENCH RESIDENCE: GETTING YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER BEFORE THE END OF TRANSITION.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many British households in France – particularly those with a UK only source of income - are claiming nominal UK tax residence but, in fact, are taking advantage of unrestricted freedom of movement and are living in France.  

If you are one of such households you need to read on.

Meanwhile, those readers who are thinking about making the jump really do need to act fast now if they are to squeeze in to France under the pre Brexit Freedom of Movement rules which are likely to be better than the post Transition position.

Often, whether or not it has made financial sense to do so, (the French tax and NI system for those past retirement age is often less burdensome than the UK), it has been possible to “get away with it” by a combination of local tax office complacency and – if asked – by providing copies of UK self-assessment returns as justification of their UK tax residence, when usually no further probing is made.

With the advent of Brexit and the loss of freedom of movement that comes with it, all this is about to change to such an extent that those who have muddled through with such a policy really need to get their affairs in order with the French administration well before the end of Transition – currently  31/12/2020 - if they are not otherwise to find themselves either restricted to spending much less time in France, illegally resident or being required to apply for a residence permit on the much more challenging terms applied to nationals of third countries rather than the much easier process open to those who have established French tax residence beforehand..

There are three primary motives for putting the French tax residence house in order before the end of Transition:

1). To benefit from an entitlement to permanent settled status as a de facto French resident prior to Brexit

2). To continue to benefit from UK sponsored access to healthcare if this is currently appropriate.

3). To benefit from EU rules governing the cross-border recognition of professional qualifications

 

This short essay briefly expands on these 3 items

There are other, secondary issues not discussed here, (e.g. the treatment of UK driving licences), that add to the list of niggles that will make successful post Transition settlement in France that much more of a challenge

 

1). The benefits of permanent settled status when French resident prior to Brexit.

 

Individuals and their household who can prove that they are formally French tax resident prior to the end of transition will, under the Withdrawal Agreement, retain the right to continued residence in France for as long as such residence is not broken by temporary absence of more than 2 years.

Whilst a Titre de Séjour “Article 50 Accord de Retrait” will need to be applied for by 30/06/21 the qualifying criteria for continued residence are those applicable to EU citizens based on EU Freedom of Movement of the individual regulations: essentially the requirement to demonstrate only modest financial self-sufficiency and healthcare provision.  

 

Those who have not established formal residence by the end of transition and are not joining a family member who has already done so will have their previously almost unfettered freedom to remain in France severely curtailed:

Instead, they will only be allowed to spend a maximum of 90 days in every 180 in France without otherwise needing to apply for a standard third-party country citizen Visa de Long Séjour followed by a Titre de Séjour. The qualifying criteria for these are established under stand-alone French national Law and are much more challenging than the EU citizen route.

 

2). The benefits of UK Sponsored healthcare access.

 

For individuals already formally French resident by the end of transition, existing EU regulations regarding cross border access to healthcare will continue in full.

For a UK national resident in France, this means that any existing or deferred S1 based access to French healthcare will continue for as long as there is no change in their professional status.

For example:

  • Being in receipt of a UK state pension and no deferred French state pension rights exist
  • Being employed or self-employed solely or predominantly in the UK and in receipt of a renewable working UK issued S1 and such sole or dominant UK based employment continues.
  • Holding deferred UK S1 entitlement pending reaching UK state pension age but no longer in employment or self-employment, remaining professionally inactive through to UK state pension age and no deferred French state pension rights exist. 

Not only does the UK S1 provide an easy route to accessing healthcare but the fact of remaining subject to UK National Insurance legislation under EU rules, (which is what the S1 certificate is all about), means that the scope for Prélèvements Sociaux to be applied is severely curtailed.

For individuals not already formally French resident by the end of transition, in the event of absence of any reciprocal agreement between the EU and the UK or the UK and France alone, then the S1 route will be closed.

Instead, other than the rare circumstance that a UK national French resident has S1 cover from another EU member state, then access to French healthcare will be through permanent affiliation to one or more obligatory French social security regimes.

The fact that a UK State pension may be being received or employment or self-employment continued in the UK will be irrelevant.

The biggest “out of pocket” consequence of this new state of affairs will be to broaden the scope and rate of Prélèvements Sociaux: more than doubling the charge rate on most investment income and gains from 7.5% to 17.2% (at current rates) and from 0% to as much as 9.1% on most pensions. 

 

3). To benefit from EU rules governing the cross-border recognition of professional qualifications

 

Relevant for the intending migrant of working age, most professional activities, from teaching to skilled trades, from engineering to medicine, from law to accountancy, are subject to regulation in France. These will often require French qualifications and/or attendance to a foundation business management course.

Fortunately, the EU has a series of Regulations in place which provide for cross border recognition of qualifications obtained and maintained in another EU state. The effect of these regulations is to do away with or severely curtail the extent of any “gap filling” study requirements, often enabling the smooth transition to the new employment or business activity in France on the back of UK obtained qualifications

For individuals intending to arrive or register for French residence post Transition, as matters currently stand in the UK-EU negotiations, there is no provision for continued recognition of UK professional qualifications or experience.

Without any such arrangements, plans for a move with the intent to continue working professionally could easily be scuppered.

CONCLUSION

 

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate in simple and clear terms. to those readers already in France but who are doing so “under the radar” or claiming continued UK tax residence whilst actually spending the majority of their time in France, that bringing their state of affairs into line is both beneficial and urgent.

For those who are still in the UK but intending to make the leap, then moving sooner rather than later, if feasible, should be given serious consideration, particularly for those who intend to carry on working once in France, since the loss of recognition of cross border qualifications could demolish such plans entirely

Both for those readers already living in France who need to get their affairs and those considering a move, Charles Hamer provide a residency planning service encompassing preparatory tax consultancy, residence and healthcare registration support services and ongoing annual tax administration.

For an information pack and/or arrange a consultation please contact Simon Heath (tax@charleshamer.co.uk) or Alex Romaine (Alex@charleshamer.co.uk)

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