Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tax Evasion

Today we received a "Lettre de Rappel" from Le Tresor Public (the French Taxman) telling me that I had not paid my Taxe D'Habitation that was due on 15th November 2005.

I very suprised by this as I was convinced that I had paid it, and that in fact I was paying it by monthly direct debit.

In France there are two types of property taxes we have to pay for our holiday Gite, the Taxes Foncieres and the Taxe D'Habitatation (which from 2005 also includes the Redevance Audiovisuelle - TV licence).

Looking in my 'french bills folder' I found the original bill for €683 which had arrived in September 2005 and I remembered I'd taken the option to pay online at the French tax office. I'd chosen to pay in installments and had completed an Autorisation de Prelevement to debit the money direct from the bank each month. I also had received a statement from the taxman telling me that the first payment was due on 16th January.
Going online to check my French bank account I could see that the first €68 payment had taken place on time.

So what was wrong ?

With trepidation there was nothing for it but to phone the French tax office and find out the problem. It's not all that often that I have to phone France, but when I need to, I really loath doing so as I feel my French isn't good enough and I'll make a mess of the conversation.

Spoke to a nice Frenchman at the other end and in a mixture of my poor French and his poor English I explained that I was confused about the reminder letter, that I had arranged to pay it, and that they'd collected the first payment.

"Vous payer pour Le Taxe d'Habitation pour deux mille sixe, mais vous ne pas payer pour Le Taxe pour duex mille cinq" I was told.

More studying of the November bill, the direct debit statement, and questioning in bad French, then revelation!

When I'd chosen to pay by monthly direct debit I hadn't noticed that this was to pay in advance for next year's (i.e. 2006's) bill - the 2005 bill could only be paid in full by cheque or direct debit.

So now I was offically overdue with my 2005 bill, and to cap it all, as I hadn't paid on time I was being surcharged an additional 10% so now I owed €751, not €683.

I'll have to pay the bill and surcharge straight away as there are dire warnings in the Lettre if I continue to default. Maybe my friend who can speak better french than me can help with an appeal of the surcharge as in this case I genuinely thought it was all in hand.


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