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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I and my wife are US Citizens. We are planning to move to France within the next few months.

I have found it quite difficult to get unambiguous advice/information on several topics so I am posting in the belief that someone on this forum can assist.

1) My first question concerns setting up a bank account in France, which I understand is complicated. So we'd like to do this in advance but the only US-based bank so far that has offered to do this is HSBC which requires a significant transfer of funds. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone can recommend banks that can assist in setting up a French Bank account in advance.

2) My second question concerns tax. I know that we will be resident in France for tax purposes, but as US citizens we also have to file US tax returns. As we are retired we do not expect to earn any income in france. Before taking professional advice on this topic, I am trying to get a basic understanding of how investment income earned in the US is taxed in France, what income if any is not taxed in France, how double taxation stuff works in practice, how the wealth tax works etc.

I would appreciate being contacted by any US expats in France who have dealt with these issues and are able to provide information based on their experience or on published sources

Thanks in advance
 

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The reason you can't find unambiguous answers to your questions is that much of the information on these topics really IS ambiguous. And tends to change over time. But let's see what I can do to further muddy the waters.

1) My first question concerns setting up a bank account in France, which I understand is complicated. So we'd like to do this in advance but the only US-based bank so far that has offered to do this is HSBC which requires a significant transfer of funds. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone can recommend banks that can assist in setting up a French Bank account in advance.
HSBC isn't really a US based bank. It's currently based in the UK, I believe, but started out in Hong Kong or someplace out that direction. As you've noticed, doing "international" banking is a province of their "premium banking services" and requires rather significant balances in both countries.

All banks these days (including US banks) are bound by the KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations and it can be difficult to just about impossible to set up an account "in advance." The best you'd be able to do is to open a "non-resident" account on an advance trip over to France and then change it to a "resident" account once you arrive and are settled in. But even in the States these days, it can be very difficult to open a bank account without putting in an in person appearance in the bank.

French banks will require quite a bit of documentation (i.d., residence, source of income, etc.) in order to open an account - and there is a little matter called FATCA to deal with. As "American persons" (citizens or permanent residents), you present quite a bit of extra work to the banks outside the US - mostly reporting stuff. A few banks are discouraging US persons from opening accounts, though as a French resident (once you are), you have the right to at least a basic account.

2) My second question concerns tax. I know that we will be resident in France for tax purposes, but as US citizens we also have to file US tax returns. As we are retired we do not expect to earn any income in france. Before taking professional advice on this topic, I am trying to get a basic understanding of how investment income earned in the US is taxed in France, what income if any is not taxed in France, how double taxation stuff works in practice, how the wealth tax works etc.
Basically, you have to rely on the US-France Tax Treaty, which outlines what income is taxable where. Both countries, US and France, do require you to report/declare your worldwide income - and you'll find that there are big advantages to declaring your French taxes, if only to get an avis d'imposition (a tax assessment) stating that you owe 0€ in taxes.

The French have a separate form on which you declare your foreign source income and then various credits and exemptions are applied to eliminate any double taxation. The US system is a bit trickier and involves calculating a credit against your US taxes for any income taxes paid in France. (Shouldn't really be a problem if all your income is US sourced.)

But in any event, the tax treaty is your main guide to what's taxed where. (Copies available on both the IRS website and on the French Fisc website - though the French site has a "compiled" version which incorporates all the various changes over the years into one document. https://franceintheus.org/spip.php?article704
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thx for the reply - helpful. I should also add I'm interested in recommendations of tax people in France - preferably near Grenoble - or in the US who can deal with French/US returns
 

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Thx for the reply - helpful. I should also add I'm interested in recommendations of tax people in France - preferably near Grenoble - or in the US who can deal with French/US returns
I think you'll find that most of the dually qualified tax folks are concentrated in Paris - and for one person to handle both sides of that, you're looking primarily at tax attorneys, rather than accountants.

From queries we've had here on the forum, I'd have to say that it can be difficult to impossible to find tax advisers in the US who have a good grasp of any foreign tax system, including the French.

Ideally, you probably need to talk to one of the big international accounting firms (one of the so-called "big four") but that's a very pricey option. They at least can refer the French part to their French office and do the US part in the US as necessary.

Otherwise, I think you'll find that most French people don't use paid tax advisers, unless they have a business where they can use their expert comptable (French equiv of a CPA) who does their business work. Just FYI, the French tax return is actually a declaration - you simply fill in the information they ask for and it's the tax office that takes that information and calculates your tax bill. There are tax preparation software packages that will help in filling out the forms and then estimate your ultimate tax bill from how you have filled things out - but there's no guarantee. OTOH, the French Fisc is quite a bit more reasonable to work with than the IRS, and I've had a couple of calls from the tax office, asking for clarification of items on our declarations - and my husband has gone in to discuss with them when something wasn't "right" on the assessment that we got back from the tax office. They've always been pretty easy to deal with in the face of a genuine misunderstanding or good faith error.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Although a Brit I agree with Bev 100%. The French form you fill up is a "declaration" and not a calculation. Once you understand the vocabulary and the "look and feel" of the French system it's quite easy. Each year the bookshops sell "how to fill in your declaration" type books. Buy 2 different books the first year and the second year is easy!

I've had several complications over my UK affairs and I've always found the French tax people well informed and helpful.....even to the extent "if you use the box here for your x type revenue you will pay less tax". I did just that and the tax bill went down!

DejW


I think you'll find that most of the dually qualified tax folks are concentrated in Paris - and for one person to handle both sides of that, you're looking primarily at tax attorneys, rather than accountants.

From queries we've had here on the forum, I'd have to say that it can be difficult to impossible to find tax advisers in the US who have a good grasp of any foreign tax system, including the French.

Ideally, you probably need to talk to one of the big international accounting firms (one of the so-called "big four") but that's a very pricey option. They at least can refer the French part to their French office and do the US part in the US as necessary.

Otherwise, I think you'll find that most French people don't use paid tax advisers, unless they have a business where they can use their expert comptable (French equiv of a CPA) who does their business work. Just FYI, the French tax return is actually a declaration - you simply fill in the information they ask for and it's the tax office that takes that information and calculates your tax bill. There are tax preparation software packages that will help in filling out the forms and then estimate your ultimate tax bill from how you have filled things out - but there's no guarantee. OTOH, the French Fisc is quite a bit more reasonable to work with than the IRS, and I've had a couple of calls from the tax office, asking for clarification of items on our declarations - and my husband has gone in to discuss with them when something wasn't "right" on the assessment that we got back from the tax office. They've always been pretty easy to deal with in the face of a genuine misunderstanding or good faith error.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks to everyone for their useful comments. To clarify, I am aware the French system is a declaration rather than a return.

'm trying to make sure that in moving to france I do not unintentionally end up paying significant tax in both the US and France. My interest in an advisor/accountant etc is because we have income from several countries and I've already encountered double taxation issues in the past as I am originally a Kiwi, now living in the US.

I would be very interested in any recommendations wrt software - preferably with an English version - that would allow me to estimate our likely French tax bill
 

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As far as I know, there is no English version of ClickImpot, which is the main software available for doing taxes.

The tax treaty is your best source for US-French income and where it will be taxed. For the other countries, you'd have to see if there are relevant treaties for the types of income you're receiving. Though the instructions for the French form 2047 - the form for reporting your foreign source income - has some decent instructions regarding what income from which countries is handled how on the forms.

The French Fisc puts out a rather nice booklet in English about the French system of taxation, however it doesn't give much information about foreign source income for individual taxes. However, in trying to find it to give you a quick link, I find that the Fisc really has expanded its site to give information for "international" folks like us. Give this a look and see if you can find what you need: https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/international I would take particular look at the link for international agreements. But also, click on the button for Individuals - there is a rather nice line-up of information and it appears to be available in English.

As I think EverHopeful has mentioned, the tax office people here are generally very helpful, though finding someone locally who speaks English may be a bit of a challenge.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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