ASK THE EXPERTS
Whether you’re planning your move to France, or are already living there, our panel of professionals aims to keep you fully informed with the best advice for every eventuality
Our experts give their advice on pensions, civil partnerships and moving with chickens
I am moving to France with my five chickens and duck and would like to know what the current restrictions are. The differing opinions I’ve come across online have been more confusing than helpful! Stephanie Richie
It is quite a complicated business, what with chickens not being classed as ‘pets’ alongside dogs, cats, rabbits and even ferrets, but I hope my answer gives a little food for thought.
Yes, the websites can indeed be confusing, but it might be worth taking a look at the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs website: (gov.uk/ government/collections/guidance-onimporting-and-exporting-live-animals-oranimal-products) and it’s worth contacting them by telephone. Your local vet ought to be able to advise too.
Forms may need to be completed and maybe even vaccinations given or blood tests taken before travelling, and your birds will need to be seen by a Defra vet immediately prior to departure. On the French side, the authorities there may need extra information, particularly with the current bird flu concerns.
Bringing your chickens and duck with you is possible, but the process can be so complicated that many decide to give their birds to trusted, reliable friends or relatives in the UK and start afresh with birds bought in France once they are settled into their new home and lifestyle. Others have done the same but, not wanting to lose a particular strain/bloodline or just a connection to their old birds, have arranged to take fertile eggs over to France and hatch them in a small incubator.
The French are quite keen poultry keepers and there are plenty of pure- breed enthusiasts but, if you are only after egg-laying garden pets, once any bird flu restrictions have been lifted, it should be easy enough to buy good-quality laying birds at your local market.
I’m sorry not to be able to give you more specific, positive advice, and I wish you well with your move. JEREMY HOBSON
PENSION POT Q
I plan to start drawing out from a UK pension pot and I’m trying to work out the amount that I’ll have left, after deductions. I’ve been a French tax resident for many years. I think I’d be better declaring it as normal income and I know it carries an automatic 10% rebate, but I can’t work out the social contributions liability, or if there are any. John Byrne
The first issue is to understand the definition of a ‘pension pot’, as this could be almost any form of retirement savings and there are many kinds of these; far too many than is possible to cover here.
The most common form of pension pot, which has a ‘draw’, however is a SIPP or self-invested pension plan (or it could be a SSAS, which is a company variant). This offers the ability to draw down income, as and when you need it, as opposed to a regular income.
If it is a pension, then there is no choice as to how to declare it; it must be declared as such. Indeed, there is a 10% allowance applied to pensions, including UK ones, but there is a celling of €3,715 on this.
As for social charges, the EU prohibits the removal of social charges for those who are of state retirement age (thus under the care of the UK via the S1 system). You can draw from a personal pension from the age of 50, so if you retired early then, in theory, social charges may be applicable. I say ‘in theory’ because many early retirees are not asked to pay it, as the local tax office has misunderstood EU law where it states that social charges are not applicable to pensions and applied the ruling to all pensions.
This is becoming rarer as high-profile cases against the French government, like the de Ruyter ruling, have raised awareness of social charges for foreigners, so tax offices are becoming more informed with regard to social charges.
Of course, what will happen to British citizens and their ability to access the S1 system will be uncertain once the UK leaves the EU.
In conclusion, you have a 10% allowance on the income and, if you are of state retirement age and have an S1, there are, currently, no social charges to pay. ROBERT KENT
EQUAL RIGHTS Q
My partner and I entered into a civil partnership in the UK a few years ago. We own a house in France and are hoping to move there on a full-time basis this summer. Does our partnership have the same legal status in France as it does in the UK, and what does this mean in terms of our tax liabilities? Colin Rooney
A couple having completed a Civil Partnership (a CPA) in the UK, in accordance with the terms of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, will have similar rights recognised in France. A CPA can be assimilated to a French PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité), the only difference between the two being that a French PACS is available equally to same-sex and heterosexual couples, while a CPA is only available for a same-sex couple in the UK. (At the time of writing, this apparent discrimination under English law has been considered by the Court of Appeal, which found that it was not unlawful. However the case is likely to come before the Supreme Court, so the situation remains as yet uncertain.)
The consequence of recognition of a CPA in France is that a couple should enjoy various social and financial benefits, upon which it is always prudent to speak to health and welfare experts, and pensions and investment professionals.
The couple should also be able to submit a household income tax return, which should generally result in an overall reduction in the income tax burden. It is important to note, though, that when moving to France permanently any UK income will still need to be included on a French tax return, albeit with credit being given for any tax already paid in the UK (the same situation arises in reverse, for any UK residents with French income). In this respect, it is always wise to seek the guidance of local accountants.
In addition, the survivor of the couple would benefit from an exemption from French inheritance tax on any legacy passing between them. In the absence of a CPA or PACS, an unmarried couple leaving anything between each other would be imposing a 60% inheritance tax liability on his or her partner.
Finally, it is also important to note that even when a couple has completed a CPA or PACS there is not necessarily any automatic right of inheritance in favour of the survivor. They should therefore ensure that they give good consideration to drafting wills. In this respect, there is really no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and therefore advice from solicitors experienced in French and English inheritance law is important. It is not even necessarily the case that choosing to declare that English law would apply to a person’s estate on death is always the most suitable option, despite the EU succession regulation that is now in force. MATTHEW CAMERON