This article is inspired by a certain number of experiences we have encountered in our Welfare programme.........
The title of this article may lend to ironic laughter, however, it portends to be of significant importance in that trying to solve the problems after the event is far less entertaining. If someone decides to settle in any country one can suppose their decision is conscious, and settling in means "for a certain period of time". This does not mean severing all ties with one's country of origin, but it does mean assuming the culture of the country of one's choice.
There are three main elements which arise on such a decision taken by a British citizen deciding to take up residence in France (whether working or not).
First both Britain and France are in the European Union. The European Union has developed a certain number of reciprocal agreements between member states - notably in the realm of State Health Insurance - which alllow continued cover between European States when a European citizen moves from one state to another. The latter cover however, is, logically, temporary, to allow the person to, well, settle in.
Then, of course, arises the problem of where one pays one's income tax (or not). Here, the first point is not whether you owe income tax, but where you are declared for income tax purposes. This is less and less a question either of choice, or whim because the French tax rules for residency for tax purposes have been clear for some time, and the British have recently revised their tax residency rules. What's more a new Anglo-French tax treaty came into force in January 2010 - after fifteen years of negotiation !
What with one thing and another, currently, opting for income taxation in France is a no-brainer. On the one hand the first year is free, as income tax is levied on the previous year's income. On another, compared to the income tax system in Britain, where one can deduct virtually nothing, France offers a multitude of income tax deductions and tax credits (until they change, which may well happen), and is beside the fact that it is illegal not to de declared in France for income tax purposes, if you fall within the criteria of residency in France for such purposes. This however is not the main point of this article. Not being declared for income tax purposes in France prohibits you from access to the multiple other benefits that France has to offer (see our "Guide to benefits available in France" in the Living in France Menu), including State Health Insurance after the "overlap" period mentionned above .
Our experience is that trying to get someone into the system after several years' non-declared residence in France, or on arrival without proved residence elsewhere, is not only arduous but also hair-raising, and this despite the good-will of the French social services.
So the "Importance of being..a registered resident in France" is far more than a joke, it's a reality.