A Trip to the Tax Office

Well, that went pretty smoothly, I thought. After a mix up over the rendezvous, which left me stranded in the foyer, waiting expectantly that the next time the door opened my name would be called (and that I’d recognise it), I managed to see the guy and it was all checked in 15 minutes! It was a bit of a close call: the shutters were about to go down and I was still sitting there but the guy was very gracious (I think he felt it was partly his mistake) and showed me to his office where he patiently took me through the forms.

Two green and white Finance Publiques folded leafletson a green folder

I was worried before going in about my lack of French and his potential lack of English. While waiting I’d noticed there were leaflets in Spanish and Dutch as well as French (none in English though) and overheard some German speakers in the queue so felt sure they were used to dealing with non-natives, but to what extent? To avoid the embarrassment of him starting a proper conversation with me and my just staring blankly back at me my opening shot was very much, “Hi, this is my first tax return. But I’m learning French at the moment.” He asked me if I spoke Catalan. Er, nope. I said English, he smiled and said, oh dear, and from them on it was all about the paperwork which, despite looking ridiculously complicated, turns out to be fairly straight forward. As it was we muddled along with only one or two tricky moments of total incomprehension: thank goodness for Reverso and a good 4G signal!

All good, but it’s not quite done. At least now I have all the info I need to fill in the remaining boxes – once I’ve found the supporting paperwork – then the last job is to pop back to the office, join the lengthy queue, and submit it. Since it’s a pretty solid fined-if-you-miss-it kind of deadline attempting to post it seems like a bad idea. By going in in person I’ll have a receipt and will know for sure that it’s not sloshing around in some sorting office somewhere in France.

In future years I’ll be able to do all that online, however it’s required that the very first return is submitted on paper. One for me, one for James (if we were married our had a PACS then we would submit a joint one) and we’re done. It’s one of those easy when you know how jobs and I’m glad I decided to go down this route rather than do it myself. Of course my tax situation is pretty simple; I don’t have homes in or income from other countries, rental income, subsidies or grants for this, that and the other. I can imagine it can become a proper headache if that’s the case – but for anyone else who has relatively straightforward finances, I say definitely do it yourself. I had help from Kate (Admin Angel) in Esperaza, who went through the main part of the form with me and told me what I needed to get together, then just went in with my dossier of paper so someone official could check it with me. It worked well and saved me a good amount of money. I’ve no idea how much accountants cost here but in the UK I was paying £150 to have my tax return sorted out. I would assume it’s comparable here. All in all, a job well done. And testament to how far I’ve come in the last 18 months that I can now boldly march into the tax office for a meeting! Go me!!

(After writing and posting this I realised that the post I drafted while sitting in the waiting room and couldn’t find was published and not, as I thought, lost. I assumed it had been deleted when I leaped up from my seat to try and get someone’s attention before getting locked in. This one is the replacement – thanks for reading 🙂 If you read the other one, now deleted, you might be comforted do know that it wasn’t long until I found something to eat. I had an apple in my bag all along!

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Legal Documents, Office Binder on Wooden Desk. On the table colored pencils, pen, notebook paper

How to check if a French Business is Legit

If you’re living or maintaining a home in France, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to employ someone to do some sort of work for you, whether that’s build or update a website, plaster your living room, fix the roof, or help you with your paperwork. Often we find the people we need through word of mouth or online recommendation, but in order to protect yourself and ensure that the person you hire is legally registered, you need to know their SIRET number. If they don’t have one, they’re not registered, which means they don’t have any insurance and also that their work is not guaranteed; it’s standard that any building work is guaranteed for 10 years but this is only if they are a properly registered business. Even if they do give you a SIRET it’s worth checking that the number they gave you is actually their number, because it’s not uncommon for an unscrupulous trader to give out a bogus number.

Luckily, there’s a really easy way to do this online. Simply visit the Info Greffe website and type the number you’ve been given into the search box.

A search box entitled Recherche with a magnifying glass button

The Search Box on the Info Greffe Site

It’s really that simple. You can also search on the business name, name, postcode, and SIREN. Useful stuff which could help you in the long run, especially with building projects where the “good price” you’re quoted may come at a cost, especially with “seasonal traders” who come for a few weeks or months a year, which seems to be a thing here. Getting your money back should anything go wrong could be a major headache so do your homework beforehand and be prepared to pay more for the real deal. You can’t know in advance that they’ll actually be any good but at least, if they’re registered, if you’re not happy you will have legal recourse to repairs and refunds.


Image copyright iStock/tumsasedgars

A Day in the Woods

Yesterday, except for the bit where I lost my bank card and DS screamed the whole time that I was on the phone to the bank, I think we had the perfect day. The sun shone, we met some friends, we played in the woods. All Day Long.

Some friends are organising regular get togethers, just a day every week when like-minds meet up in a local park. The kids can play in the woods, the stream or on the swings, we can chat as well as join in with the little ones, we build a fire and cook together. Yesterday P kept the two eldest girls busy by mixing ash from the fire with water to make a black paste. They painted every bare inch of themselves, spread a lot of it on their clothes and faces, and had a great time. The younger ones tended to muddle around, exploring cautiously either with a parent in hand orbiting us close by. The sun shone, we found a leech in the stream (not a snake, sadly, but not an earthworm, much to P’s relief!), contributed sticks to the shelter that S has started to construct, and had fun defending their space which, according to DD, was a wild panthers’ den for most of the time.

Five hours of play later we were on our way home with smiles on our faces, the smell of woodsmoke in our clothes and two very tired children. Days like this are why we’re here, why we uprooted our family and moved to this back-end-of-nowhere part of France hoping to find a house or piece of land to call home and also find a way to live day-to-day, as financially free as possible. We’re not getting so far with the house/land but we do have a place that feels like home and the money side of things is work in progress. Yes, there are definitely challenges: the language being the main one. It’s too quiet for some with a slow pace of life but we’re getting the hang of it and we really feel the difference during the times we’re back in the UK; too busy, too many people, not enough mental or physical space. Days spent mucking about in the woods are normal here. There may come a time when we all need more than that but for now it’s perfect and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.

The only downer is that we were all so busy enjoying ourselves, there aren’t any pics to share. Next time. Because I really think every blog post needs a picture, here’s one from walk we did the other day: DD and James walked and talked while DS and me followed along behind saying, “choo choo!” Happy days.

And adult and child walking in a disused railway tunnel followed by a small child in a green helmet on a balance bike

Walking through an old railway tunnel on the Lavelanet-Mirepoix Voie Vert