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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel to France: Will there be French border delays this summer?

Amid strikes and fears of a shortage of French border control agents, plus infrastructure problems at UK ports, we take a look at travel into France this summer.

Travel to France: Will there be French border delays this summer?
Photo by Ian LANGSDON / EPA POOL / AFP

Delays at passport control at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport have hit the headlines amid fears of problems at the French border during the peak summer travel season.

Problems experienced so far have not been major – they only affected Terminal 1 of the airport, lasted for a couple of hours during one morning and queues were about 60 minutes for arrivals and departures.

But it’s caused concern because we’re not yet in the peak travel period so there are worries about how systems will cope during the much busier summer season.

Hear the team at The Local talk about the summer travel forecast in the Talking France podcast. Download it here or listen on the link below

Border control agents

Aéroports de Paris – which runs Paris’ Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports – blamed a shortage of French border control agents for the problems in May.

Passengers seemed to back that up, with several tweeting pics of just 2 border guards dealing with all arrivals.

The border agents are under the control of the French Police aux Frontieres, and they admit that since last year they have had about 300 unfilled vacancies.

This is a nationwide problem, so it potentially affects all French airports, as well as land border crossing points, ports including Dover and Folkestone and rail terminals including London St Pancras.

They are, however, having a pretty major recruitment drive – both to be ready for this summer peak tourist season and for the Paris Olympics next year, when around 10 million visitors are expected for the Games.

Police aux Frontières say they plan to recruit 255 additional agents for the Paris airports by June and 500 before the end of 2024. For the whole country, the PAF wants to recruit 1,200 staff by the summer of 2024.

PAF director Fabrice Gardon, said that it was important to ensure security, but added: “It is the whole image of the country that is at stake, all the more so in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup and the Paris Olympics.”

So what can we expect for summer 2023?

French airports 

French airports say they have now largely resolved the staffing problems that they struggled with when travel reopened after the pandemic – although this does not include the border control agents.

At Charles de Gaulle airport a new space has recently opened up in Terminal 1, which passengers are reporting is more spacious and less chaotic.

On border control, as well as those extra border guards, the airport is installing 17 new Parafe automated passport gates.

Several French airports are also testing new systems such as allowing certain groups of non-EU passengers to use the automated passport gates, in order to speed processing times.

In addition to what is expected to be a busy summer for tourism, the rugby World Cup take place in France in September and October, and travel bosses will be using the high passenger numbers as a test for several systems that they hope to use during the Paris Olympics next year. 

British ports

Travel to France from the UK has an extra complication since the end of the Brexit transition period.

A shortage of French border control agents was also blamed for long tailbacks in the UK Port of Dover at the start of the 2022 holiday period, although subsequent further tailbacks would suggest that the problem is more complicated.

Long waits to get through passport control for people leaving the UK by ferry are more to do with infrastructure and Brexit.

Since Brexit, passport controls to enter France are stricter and therefore take longer, and the infrastructure of the Port itself means that it is difficult to expand the passport control area. The Le Touquet agreement means that both British and French passport checks for passengers departing the UK take place in the Port of Dover, while checks for passengers coming the other way take place in Calais.

There were reported problems at the start of the summer holidays last year when several French border guards were late for work, but since then there have been repeated bottle-necks at peak times such as the start of the UK school holidays.

The beginning of the Easter holidays saw long waits for coach passengers.

Although port managers are working on making things run smoothly at peak times, they are hampered by a lack of space.

New EU checks

The EU’s enhanced passport checks – known as the Entry & Exit System or EES – were due to come into effect this year, and many travel experts had sounded the alarm that the more complicated checking process would lead to longer waits.

The EU has now announced that the introduction has been postponed until 2024, with France lobbying hard to make this in the autumn or winter – after the Paris Olympics.

Strikes? 

One thing that can never be ruled out in France is strikes, and the summer holidays are usually peak times for airline or air traffic control strikes, as unions take advantage of their opportunity to cause havoc and push their claims over pay and conditions. 

The nationwide strikes over pension reform have largely ended, but a one-day action on June 6th saw around 20 percent of flights in and out of France cancelled. There are currently no further pension strikes scheduled, but it’s not impossible that unions will call for further action.

You can find all the latest strike announcements and calendars in our strike section HERE

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PROPERTY

Who is exempt from France’s 2024 property tax declaration?

The deadline is fast approaching for property-owners to have completed the property tax declaration - here's a look at who needs to do this, who is exempt and the penalties for missing the deadline.

Who is exempt from France's 2024 property tax declaration?

The deadline to have completed the déclaration d’occupation, also known as the déclaration de biens immobiliers, this year is June 30th. 

If you’re declaring online, you have until 11.59pm to have completed the form, if you’re declaring on paper you need to ensure that your form reaches the tax office by June 30th (which is a Sunday, so you will need to factor that in if you are returning it by mail).

After a raft of technical problems last year, French tax authorities have promised ‘improvement’ to this year’s declaration, and have also made the form available in a paper version for those who either don’t have internet access or who aren’t confident with online processes. 

Who has to do it?

The declaration must be completed by anyone who owns residential property in France – whether or not they are French residents. This therefore includes foreign second-home owners.

The declaration must be done regardless of what you use the property for – whether it is your main home, a second home or is rented out on a long or short term basis.

However, unlike the income tax declaration (déclaration des revenus) this is not an annual task – if you filled out the declaration last year and nothing has changed, there is no need to do it again.

READ ALSO Vocab guide for the French property tax declaration

What about if I have bought or sold a property in the last year?

The property tax declaration concerns your situation on January 1st 2024 – if you have bought a property in France since that date there is no need to do the declaration this year, although you will have to do it next year.

Property taxes are also charged based on the situation on January 1st, so if you have sold your property since January 1st you will receive one last property tax bill (which usually arrive in the autumn).

If the use of your property has changed in the last year – ie your second home is now your full-time residence or vice versa – you will need to fill out the declaration again detailing the current situation.

READ ALSO How to fill out the 2024 property tax declaration

Vacant property/ renovation projects

If your property is vacant you won’t pay taxe d’habitation, but you may be liable for one of the two ’empty homes tax’ charges – taxe sur les logements vacants (TLV) and taxe d’habitation sur les logements vacants (THLV) – depending on your local authority rules.

Be aware that ‘vacant’ has a specific meaning in tax terms – it is a property that is both unoccupied and unfurnished. A second-home is not unoccupied, even if you haven’t visited it for months or even years.

If you have bought a property as a renovation project, you have the option to declare it inhabitable (uninhabitable) which can see your two property taxes reduced or excused altogether for a period of up to two years. This would normally apply in cases of very derelict properties, for example where there is no water or electricity, no functioning bathroom or a roof with holes in it.

The easiest way to do this is to visit your local tax office to find out what rules are in place in your area.

Why do I have to do this?

The property tax declaration gives tax authorities the information that they need to set your property tax bills.

Property taxes in France come in two types; taxe foncière which is paid by all property owners – bills for this usually arrive in September – and taxe d’habitation, bills for which usually arrive in October or November.

Recent changes to the tax system mean that only second-home owners now pay the taxe d’habitiation – which is why the tax office needs to know what you use the property for.

READ ALSO How much should I expect to pay in French property taxes?

What if I miss the deadline?

There is a flat fine of €150 for missing the deadline. However, if you don’t provide information to the tax office they will likely send you a bill anyway, based on an estimate.

These estimates can be much higher than your real bill, and challenging them will require some complicated conversations with the tax office.

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