All individuals who are tax domiciliaries of France are subject to wealth tax if their world-wide net taxable assets as of January 1 of any given taxable year are valued in excess of the legal taxable threshold. The wealth tax is also imposed on all individuals who, although not otherwise subject to taxation in France, have taxable assets located in France valued in excess of the aforesaid threshold.
Wealth tax is imposed only on individuals. In the case of individuals who have their tax domicile in France, all world-wide assets are taken into consideration in order to determine if the threshold of tax imposition has been reached; in the case of individuals who are not deemed to have their tax domicile in France (hereinafter referred to as “Non-Domiciliaries”), only their assets located in France are subject to wealth tax and only if the terms of an applicable double taxation treaty do not provide to the contrary.
[a] Assets Subject to Tax.
Subject to limited exemptions, all of the assets owned by a taxable household, that is to say, by the taxpayer, his spouse, if any, and their dependent children, are subject to wealth tax. Those persons who are unmarried yet openly live together, as well as any of their minor children, also constitute a taxable household and all of their assets are subject to tax.
[b] Valuation of Taxable Assets.
The value of taxable assets has to be determined as of January 1 of each taxable year. The valuation of taxable assets is the responsibility of the taxpayer and has to be reported to the tax administration on a prescribed tax return. The value assigned by the taxpayer to his assets is subject to revision by the tax administration where the latter deems same to be inaccurate; certain penalties are imposed for inaccurate or incomplete reporting.
The value of taxable assets is determined pursuant to the rules governing the imposition of inheritance tax or by other specific statutory provision. As a general rule, the taxable assets are valued at their net fair market value.
Real property is normally valued by comparing the taxable assets with other real property similarly situated. The terms and conditions of any applicable leases are taken into account with respect to income-generating real property. The taxpayer may deduct up to 30 percent of what would be the fair market value of his personal residence were it unoccupied, when assigning a value to said residence.
Debts owed to the taxpayer are valued, irrespective of their due date, according to their nominal value plus any interest already due or accrued. A Going Concern which does not fall within the professional assets exemption, may be valued at a percentage of its turnover or net profit.
Furniture, which is grouped together, jewelry and precious metals and other tangible personal property are valued, in particular, according to the inventory established in the manner prescribed by article 943 of the Code of Civil Procedure relating to inheritances or at the value assigned to them in good faith by the taxpayer, which, with respect to furniture, may not be less than 5% of the other assets of the taxpayer unless proven otherwise.
As to securities which are listed on a stock exchange, the taxpayer has the option of determining the value according to the last quoted price known as of January 1 of each taxable year or the average price quoted during the last thirty trading days preceding said date (CGI, art. 885 T bis).
Inasmuch as wealth tax is imposed on the net value of taxable assets, all liabilities and other charges attributable thereto can be deducted from the gross value of the taxable assets.
ASSETS NOT SUBJECT TO WEALTH TAX.
The fundamental principle applied to determine which assets are not subject to wealth tax is the distinction between assets which are deemed “private” and assets which are used by the taxpayer to carry out his professional activities (professional assets) and are consequently deemed “professional”. Professional assets are exempt from the wealth tax.
Professional assets can be subdivided into three categories. The first category consists of those professional assets which are necessary for the taxpayer or the members of his taxable household to carry on their professional activities. Such professional activity can be, inter alia, industrial, commercial, agricultural or liberal; it has to be the principal activity of the taxpayer and has to be exercised on an habitual basis.
The second category of professional assets is shares of stock owned by the taxpayer in certain types of corporate entities (hereinafter referred to as “Professional Asset Companies”).
The third category of professional assets are those agricultural assets which are either the subject of a long-term lease or which consist of shares of an agricultural real property under long-term leases.
All assets which are not professional assets are deemed to be private assets. The following categories of private assets benefit from additional independent exemptions.
Art objects and collector’s items such as tapestries, paintings, statues and stamp collections, antiques which are more than one hundred years old, as well as copyrights and certain industrial property rights, are totally exempt from wealth tax. Real property designated as a historical monument and jewelry, however, are not exempt from wealth tax.
Non-Domiciliaries who are subject to wealth tax can exclude from their taxable assets all portfolio investments made in France. “Portfolio investments” include bank deposits, debentures and shares of stock; they do not include stock held by a Non-Domiciliary if the latter holds more than 10 percent of the registered capital of the issuer thereof or if his holdings give him effective control thereof. Finally, an investment by a Non-Domiciliary in the shares of a company which is deemed to be a Real Property Company is never deemed to be a portfolio investment.
TAX RETURN AND RATES OF TAX
A wealth tax return has to be filed each year by all individuals who are subject to wealth tax no later than the fifteenth of June. The tax due has to be paid at the time of the filing of the tax return, either in cash, by check or by the transfer to the state of works of art. The wealth tax return may be filed, and the wealth tax paid, by electronic means.
Tax rates run from 0% (tax threshold) to 1.8% The wealth tax due is reduced by 150 euros per dependent. Moreover, the wealth tax owed by a Domiciliary is subject to a ceiling in order to ensure that the wealth tax, when added to the individual income tax, does not increase the taxpayer’s tax liability to over 85 percent of his net annual taxable income.
The reduction in the wealth tax discussed in the preceding paragraph does not, in certain cases, apply to taxpayers with net taxable assets falling within the three upper wealth tax brackets.
Moreover, if the taxpayer’s wealth tax, income tax, real property taxes and dwelling tax, as well as certain social security contributions, together exceed 50 percent of his net income, the excess is, at the taxpayer’s request, refunded by the tax authorities. The ceiling of 85% is then separate from the global Tax Shield which include the whole taxes levied on a taxpayer for a given year.
Upon the request of the tax administration, a Non-Domiciliary who is subject to wealth tax liability has to appoint a representative in France for purposes of service of process.
In order to verify the accuracy of wealth tax returns, the tax administration has at its disposal several auditing techniques, including, without limitation, the power to require any public administration, bank, insurance company, private company or notary public to furnish it documentation and other information relating to the challenged tax return.