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Impots Locaux advice


bear1
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We live in the UK and bought two very small French houses about 12 years ago for holidays. They are detached but very close together and both were uninhabitable. We weren't asked to pay tax on either property.

We started renovating the first around ten years ago, applying for planning permission in the process. This seemed to trigger a request to fill in form (6550) for impots locaux. After a few years, when we had done enough work that the house could be considered habitable we returned the form and duly started paying the taxe d'habitation and after a couple of years taxe fonciere.

We are not currently renovating the second house although early on we got both roofs done in order to prevent further deterioration of the properties. Last year we were sent an impots locaux form for the second house. We replied with a letter explaining that the house was uninhabitable and that we had no plans to renovate it. We were told the letter was no good and were sent a 6550 form to complete. We sent one in with details of the house but didn't fill in the date work completed field because work hasn't even started. We have now been told again to fill in the form and to state when the work was completed.

There seems to be a presumption that we are going to renovate or have renovated. I have to admit that we store stuff and occasionally sleep in the second house (when the other is full of family) but there is no bathroom and the rudimentary electrics are dangerous and have been condemned by our electrician. Anyone reasonable would consider it uninhabitable.

I'm not sure how to deal with the situation without leaving ourselves open to possible backdated demands and future complications. Any advice on how to proceed?
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I don't know how big your commune is .. but if you go and speak to the Maire and say that the second house is uninhabitable, and always was, you (hopefully) will be asked to sign a form stating exactly that and he will sign and stamp it. This form is what you send to the tax people as proof of non-habitation.

At worst someone will visit the second house to check the veracity of your statement .. so make sure is empty of furniture ie beds, chairs etc
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It is important to remember that France sets a very low bar for a property being habitable. If someone has noted the occasional visitors entering at night and leaving in the morning, that would be enough to set rabbits running.
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You will always have to pay Taxe foncières on any property you own in France.

To be exempt form paying Taxes d'Habitation you will have to satisfy your mairie that the house is not habitable. They will arrange an inspection to establish that that is the case. There should be no furniture present to suggest anyone could live there.

The fact that you occasionally sleep there is not really helpful to your case [:D]

Talk to the Mairie.

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Surely the way to proceed is to go to the mairie or the tax office and explain face to face, then they'll tell you what to do.

Presumably you filled in a déclaration préalable to get permission for the new roof. The form you received may simply be a follow-up to that, asking when the roofing work that you notified them of; was completed? Which from what you say, it has been, and they can probably see this for themselves, so you simply need to give them a date. Once you've notified them of work and they've opened a dossier, they always follow it up until they have a completion date and they can close the dossier.

At the end of the day it's the commune's decision as to whether a house is inhabitable or not. I seem to recall that the form asks how many bathrooms etc you have so they will know you don't have one, but if the roof is sound and there is water and electricity connected, they may decide it falls into the lowest category of inhabitable (ie you pay lower taxe d'habitation than if it was renovated).

I rent a lockup garage, it doesn't have a bathroom nor even electricity, but I pay taxe d'habitation on it because it's a buidling that I have the use of to store things in.

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I'm pretty sure a new roof, as long as the size shape and materials don't change, doesn't require a déclaration préalable. I certainly don't remember applying (although it was ten years ago or so) and I'm sure our builder would have told us if one was required.

If we have to pay tax on it, as seems to be likely judging by yours and other comments, we may as well think about renovation. If we start renovating, do we get exemption from either or both taxes and how long for?

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Bear1, it just occurs to me that there could have been something "lost in translation" in your original letter to the Mairie about the uninhabitable state of the second house.

Forgive me if your French is fluent, and you already were aware of the potential "false friends" here, but I thought it worth mentioning:

"Habitable" in French = "inhabitable" in English

and

"Inhabitable" in French = "UNinhabitable" in English.

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That's correct, if it was a like for like roof there is no declaration so my theory doesn't work - shame, it seemed so logical!

AFAIK, starting to renovate a house doesn't in itself have any effect on property taxes. If it's considered to be in a liveable condition to start with, then basically you are simply improving an already-habitable house. Exemption from taxe d'habitation on the grounds of uninhabitability has to be applied for and different tax offices/communes handle it differently, some are much more hard line and suspicious than others, so it's impossible to advise on a forum without knowing your particular mayor. Why don't you just ask, face to face? It might turn out a very simple formality to get them to agree it's uninhabitable and all this iffing and butting is unnecessary, you won't know until you ask.

There are next to no cases where taxe foncière is exempted. It's a tax on owning land or property. Even if you demolished the house altogether you would still pay taxe foncière on owning the land.
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