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MONEY

EXPLAINED: How France’s inheritance tax system works

Read our guide to the complex labyrinth of laws and tax policies governing the France's system of inheritance - one that is heavily weighted towards direct parent-to-child succession.

People attend a funeral in Marseille.
France has strict rules on inheritance that it is well-worth reading up on. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP)

French law has rules in place on who you can leave property or money to and effectively rules out disinheriting your children – find full details on how the rules work HERE.

But as well as the limits imposed by the law, the French tax system is also weighed in favour of direct parent-to-child inheritance – or succession en ligne direct in French. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

What are the current tax rates? 

The amount of tax you have to pay for inheritance depends on your link to the deceased. 

If you were married or Pacsé (in a civil partnership), you are exonerated from paying any inheritance tax. Couples who are living together but are not married or pacsé get no special dispensation and pay tax at the standard rates for non-relatives (see below). 

If you are the sibling of the deceased, you are exonerated from paying tax if you meet all three of the following conditions at the time of the death:

  • You have lived with the deceased on a permanent basis in the five years leading up to the death;
  • You are single, widowed, divorced or separated;
  • You are older than 50 years old or have a medical condition that means you cannot work. 

For children inheriting from their parents and vice versa, there is no need to pay any tax on an inherited estate valued at less than €100,000. This rule also applies to grandparents inheriting from their grandchildren – but not the other way around. 

After that, the tax on inheritance is anywhere from 5 percent to 45 percent depending on the value of wealth inherited. 

The tax rates for children inheriting from their parents differ according to the value of the estate inherited. Source: service-public.fr

The same rates of tax also applies to people inheriting from their grandparents or great grandparents – although the initial tax free allowance is set lower, at €1,594. 

For inheritance between siblings who do not meet the exoneration conditions set out at the beginning of this section, there is an initial tax-free allowance of €15,932. After that inheritance worth less than €24,430 is taxed at 35 percent. Inheritance worth more than this is taxed at 45 percent. 

READ MORE What are the rules on inheriting property in France?

Nephews and nieces can inherit €7,967 tax free but afterwards must pay an inheritance tax of 55 percent. If they are inheriting in the place of one of their parents (who has either died or has renounced their right to inheritance), nephews and nieces face the same tax rates as siblings of the deceased. 

Great nephews and nieces, great uncles and aunts, and cousins can inherit up to €1,594 tax free and then must pay a 55 percent inheritance tax on anything above this. People who are more distantly related to the deceased or not related at all have the same tax-free allowance and then must pay a flat 60 percent inheritance tax. 

If you are disabled, the tax free allowance increases by an extra €159,325. If you were injured in war (to the degree that the French state considers you 50 percent disabled), you can also receive a 50 percent reduction of the amount of tax to be paid on inheritance – although this reduction is capped at €305. 

How is the taxable value of the inherited estate calculated? 

The savings plus estimated value of the property and goods of the deceased are added together. 

Debts, outstanding loans,  taxes owed, and rent due by the deceased are subtracted from this amount – as long as they were already valid at the time of death and can be proved. Funeral fees of up to €1,500 can also be subtracted from the overall value of inheritance. These debts must be declared on the déclaration de succession – a document that any inheritor must sign. 

Then the inheritance is divided up, according to the rules outlined below. As previously mentioned, different tax rates apply depending on the inheritor’s relation to the deceased. 

There is an online simulator to help you calculate the amount of inheritance tax you will have to pay. 

What are the rules on who can inherit? 

The French law states that children of the deceased must receive a share of the inheritance. 

The share they receive depends on the number of children. One child is entitled to half their deceased parent’s estate. Two children share two-thirds, and three or more share three-quarters. The surviving husband or wife has a right to at least one quarter of the succession. Those who were in a PACS partnership or were living with the deceased as a couple (en concubinage) have no automatic rights to inheritance if the deceased had children. 

If you are the surviving husband/wife of the deceased, you normally have the right to remain living at the property, if it was owned or co-owned with the deceased. 

But if you were married to the deceased and shared ownership of a property with other people, you only have the automatic right to remain living there for one year following the death. 

If you were in a PACS partnership with the deceased, you have the automatic right to stay in the property for one year following the death if you were co-owners of the property or if the property was entirely owned by your partner (unless your partner has written you out of their will).

If you were living as a couple with the deceased (en concubinage), you do not have the automatic right to remain living at the property as the law states that inheritance must go to children or other family members as a priority. 

Special rules apply if the deceased didn’t have children. 

If the deceased was married, without children, but both their parents are still alive, half the inheritance goes to the parents and half goes to the husband/wife. 

If just one parent is still alive, one quarter goes to the parent and three quarters go to the surviving husband/wife. 

If neither parent is alive, the surviving husband/wife receives all of the inheritance. 

In the case that the deceased was unmarried and without children, the inheritance is split between surviving parents and siblings. If there are no parents or siblings, the inheritance is split between more distant family members as a priority. 

For more on the rules of inheritance, click HERE.

Rules for foreign residents and second home owners

Whether you live in France or own assets such as property here, you need to decide whether to have your Will administered under French law or the law of your home country.

If you have a Will and your main residence is in another country, your French property can usually be disposed of according to the law of that country, it is advisable to add a Codicil to your Will stipulating that you want your home country’s laws to apply.  

READ MORE Is my non-French Will valid in France?

If you decide to have your estate managed under the laws of your country of birth, you may not have to guarantee that your children receive a fixed share of inheritance. It could also potentially save you having to pay French inheritance tax – although you should get legal advice on this from a notaire or avocat.

To find out how to make sure any previous Wills are still valid in France, click here

If you want to create a new Will in France, any notaire should be able to help you do so – typically for €136. 

You can also register your existing Will with a notaire – this is free if the notaire has prepared the Will – and that ensures that everything is in place for a smooth process for the family after the death. 

Note – this is general advice only, for specific questions on estate planning or Wills, please contact a legal expert. 

The Notaires de France website also offers useful advice in English, while a list of English-speaking notaires in France is available here.

Member comments

  1. Since about 5 years ago, the Brussels IV convention under EU law provides the option for resident foreign nationals resident in France (including Brits) to stipulate succession (nothing else) under the law of their nationality. In November last year a French law was passed which withdrew or severely limited this option, creating problems for those wanting the option. There are rumours of this new law being quashed for its invalidity under EU law – but it remains to be seen! In the meantime, for those not wanting to follow the dictats of French succession rules, a Notaire’s advice on what to do might be invaluable.

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FOOD & DRINK

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “https://www.marmiton.org/” or “https://1repas1euro.com/recettes/

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.

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