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AMERICANS IN FRANCE

Law change makes it easier for Americans to open French bank accounts

Opening a French bank account has been challenging for Americans in France for quite some time, but now a legal change will make access (slightly) easier.

Law change makes it easier for Americans to open French bank accounts
Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

A lot of French administrative tasks are tricky or time-consuming for foreigners, but opening a bank account is frequently very difficult – especially for Americans.

The US law known as FATCA obliges all banks that have accounts for US nationals to share information. It was intended to stop money-laundering but for Americans living abroad it has meant that many banks simply don’t want the hassle and refuse accounts to US citizens.

Numerous readers of The Local have reported being repeatedly turned down by French banks, making daily living very difficult.

But a new law that comes into effect on June 13th will make things a little bit easier.

It’s not a perfect solution, however.

The changes to the Droit au compte bancaire (right to a bank account) state that if a person has requested an account from a French bank and not received a reply within 15 days, they can appeal directly to Banque de France.

Banque de France will then designate a bank near to the person’s home address and request them to open an account for the person.

The bank is not obliged to open the account – but it does have to explain why to Banque de France if the account is refused.

The designated bank will be expected to provide the following basic services:

  • opening, maintaining and closing an account;
  • issue of bank identity documents on request;
  • a monthly statement of transactions made to the account;
  • cashing of cheques and bank transfers;
  • deposits and withdrawals of cash at the bank’s counter or at its cash machines;
  • direct debit, interbank payment or bank transfer;
  • means of remote viewing of the account balance;
  • a credit card 

The new process does not cover people who do receive a reply within the designated 15 days – but the reply is a refusal.

Previously those refused a bank account did have the right to appeal to Banque de France, but the process was more complicated and required an attestation de refus d’ouverture de compte (certificate of refusal). Now just evidence of your request is enough.

The law states: “This procedure is open to all persons residing in France or in a Member State of the European Union, to all French citizens resident abroad and also to applicants who are banned from banking.”

Article 58 of the Banking Law of January 24th 1984 states that all French citizens and French residents are entitled to a French bank account. 

However, French banks are not obliged to open an account for you, meaning that many people whose situations are ‘non typical’ such as foreigners in France find themselves repeatedly turned down for an account.

In addition to the Banque de France route, other advice for foreigners is simply to shop around – different banks have different policies on foreigners – or opt for an international account or internet banking account. 

READ ALSO What are the biggest challenges for Americans in France?

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PROPERTY

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.

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