French MPs approve law making it easier to change name

The French parliament has approved a bill which would make it easier for citizens to change their surname via a simple new procedure.

The French Assemblée nationale has given the green light to a law allowing people to change their surnames more easily.
The French Assemblée nationale has given the green light to a law allowing people to change their surnames more easily. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

In France, around 85 percent of newborn children are given the surname of their father. 

Currently, French citizens can only adopt the surname of their second parent by going through a long and complicated legal procedure via the Ministry of Justice. 

But a new law approved by parliament on Thursday will make it possible to do so, once per lifetime, via a simple form submitted at the closest mairie (town hall) to the place of birth.

A pressure group that had lobbied for the law, Porte Mon Nom, celebrated the news on Facebook, writing: “this law reminds French people that the name of the mother has the same value as the name of the father.” 

Patrick Vignal, the MP who pushed the law through the Assemblée nationale, tweeted that the legislation was “a law of liberty”. 

Who will this benefit? 

About 3,000 French people attempt to change their surname every year according to the Ministry of Justice.  

The reasons for wanting to change surname, to that of the other parent, are myriad according to the vie-publique website: “because they carry a ridiculous or difficult to pronounce surname, to make their surname more French, to avoid a surname going extinct or to reveal the identity of an illustrious ancestor.” 

Some of the motivations might be darker, including wanting to abandon the name of a parent who is “incestuous, violent or neglectful.”

The new procedure will be available to around half of all people who want to change their surname every year. Those who do not want to adopt the name of another parent, but instead want to modify their family name by removing a syllable or making it more French, will still need to go through the Ministry of Justice. 

French citizens over the age of 18 will be able to submit dossiers to the mairie independently. 

Those under the age of 18 will need both parents to give their consent – if one parent refuses, there will be a legal process for appealing the decision. Those aged 13-17 will also need to consent personally to the name change. 

This legislation has now been validated but has yet to enter into effect. You can can keep track of its progression into law here

What about foreigners? 

If you have lived in France for some time, you will be aware that the French have a strange obsession with the use of birth certificates as a proof of identity. 

For some administrative procedures, such as getting Pacsé (entering into a civil partnership) or applying for a higher education bursary, you will be required to submit a copy of your birth certificate (in the former case, this must be a new official copy of the birth certificate less than 6 months old). 

The reason you would be asked for a recent copy of your birth certificate is that French ones are updated to include things like name changes, marital status or whether you legally identify as a gender that wasn’t assigned at birth. A birth certificate in France essentially serves as the ultimate record of your état civile (civil status). 

If you use a name which is different to the one listed on your birth certificate, many French institutions will be baffled and may refuse to validate an administrative procedure. 

The only way to get around this is to legally change your name via deed poll in your home country. You will need official proof of having done so (in the UK, the process costs £42.44 and is known as an enrolled deed poll) in the form of a certificate.

You will then need to get this certificate translated by a professional recognised by the French legal system (un traducteur agréé). Once this has been done, you can submit these documents along with the rest to explain that your legal name is not the one listed on your birth certificate. 

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What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

The annual demands for property taxes have begun arriving at households across France - and many people will notice quite a difference to last year's bill.

What to expect from your 2023 French property tax bills

Every year in September and October the French tax office sends out bills to households across France relating to property taxes – these are separate to income tax bills, which arrive over the summer.

The autumn bills are usually made up of three parts; taxe foncière, taxe d’habitation and the redevance audiovisuelle.

However, system changes to all three parts mean that for some people bills will be be much lower than last year, while others will have nothing at all to pay.

Here’s what changes;

Redevance audiovisuelle – this was the TV licence and was charged at €138 per household, with some exceptions for pensioners or people who had no TV.

This year, it has been scrapped for everyone (including second-home owners) so most people’s bills are €138 less than last year.

Taxe d’habitation – this is the householder’s tax, paid by the inhabitant of the property – whether you rent it or own it. This is gradually being phased out, a process that started in 2019. It has been done based on income, with those on lower incomes having the charge scrapped first until it is gradually scrapped for everyone – with the exception of very high earners and second home owners.

So depending on your income level, you may have already had the tax phased out, or it may be phased out for you this year, or you may be paying a reduced rate this year.

These two changes are part of a tax giveaway from president Emmanuel Macron, and at the bottom of your tax bill you will find a note explaining how the charges have changed this year, and what you would have paid without the reductions.

It will look something like this;

Taxe foncière – this is the property owners’ tax and is paid on any property that you own – if you own the home you live in you may need to pay both taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière and if you are a second-home owner you will also pay both.

In contrast to the other two taxes, however, this one has been going up in many areas.

In fact, it’s connected to the taxe d’habitation cut – local authorities used to benefit from taxe d’habitation, so the phasing out has left many of them short of money. In some areas, they have reacted by raising taxe foncière.

This tax is calculated based partly on the size and value of the property you own (which is why if you do any major renovations or add a swimming pool you need to tell the tax office) and partly on the tax level decided by your local authority. 

This means that the actual rate varies quite widely between different parts of France, but in some areas it has gone up by 20 percent.

You can find more about how the tax is calculated, and how to challenge your bill if you think it is excessive, HERE.