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Lean on Me (Tonight)

March 2021

Lean on me
I’ll be there
Whenever you need someone
To share in every prayer
In every dream
You’ve left somewhere
Till tomorrow
Will be just like it was when we were young
‘Cos tonight
I’m gonna take you where
I’ve never taken you before
Lean on me
I’m everywhere
Wherever you look I’ll be
Forever yours
The northern lights
The southern cross
I’ll give to you
Till tomorrow
Will be just like it was when we were young
‘Cos tonight
I’m gonna take you where
I’ve never taken you before
If you’re lonely
You know where you can find me
You know there’s no escape when you are on your own
And if you’re worried
And you can see your world slip through your fingers
I’ll reach out for you in my heart
There’s no more dancing in the dark.

I remember listening to the Moody Blues ever since my cousin Pierre brought their album A Question of Balance to our family home. That could also have been a pertinent title for today’s world. I want to promote a caring message, which is indispensable for a population desperately in need of healing.

Both in France and the USA, I sense a desire to lean on someone for protection. In some cases this desire is fulfilled, while other people feel they are left stranded, unattended. I can be completely cynical when it comes to political leaders, questioning the real motives behind what they say and do. During the weather crisis the state of Texas recently experienced, there were people you could lean on and people who were absent. In France right now, more and more professions feel totally abandoned, including musicians and performing artists in general. A foreigner new to France and feeling lost may be longing for a reassuring presence, a person who protects and guides, whom one can lean on and feel safe with. Too often, the quest for reassurance leads to horrendous situations, with such people falling victim to crooks.

For several years there have been complaints about appointments with prefectures regarding immigration status being difficult to secure. The CODIV-19 pandemic has forced all prefectures to restructure their system for handling the public and issuing appointments. The system is quite complicated, for several reasons. Schedules are established at the last minute, so the first available appointment is often after the expiration date of the document needing renewal. Prefecture websites may work well with a particular browser one day but not the next. For example, I have stopped using Safari to get on these websites, as Firefox seems slightly more reliable.

Furthermore, appointments for some types of immigration status seem to be harder to secure than others, perhaps because the number of people trying exceeds the website capacity. People working at the Paris prefecture acknowledge that this is the case. Someone determined to get through may need to block a couple of hours for the task.

Beyond these issues, the current design of the system has led to a particular situation that often makes it impossible for an individual to get an appointment. An article in Le Monde explains that well-informed crooks snatch all available appointments as they are released. Then they sell them to individuals. Undocumented aliens (sans-papiers) may be especially vulnerable; under French law, some of them have the right to submit a request for a legal stay in France if they meet strict guidelines. They may not have the hours it takes to get an appointment, or they lack access to a computer, and so on. Of course, the crooks offer their services to anyone who cannot get an appointment any other way.

In my July-August 2019 issue, titled Father & Son, I wrote about a similar criminal scheme. Such situations make me really angry. I help people who fully qualify for procedures at the prefecture. They often spend about six months trying to get an appointment before giving up and paying for one. I strongly condemn the crooks who steal appointments to sell. And yet I fully understand that some foreigners feel they have no choice but to use such a scheme, given their risk of being caught by police – especially now, with a pandemic curfew being strictly enforced and people often working odd hours. Getting a legal stay sooner rather than later is critical for such people.

A full translation of the Le Monde article is attached, in hopes that the information will circulate as much as possible. Here is the link to the original article published on February 13th 2021:


The French and US tax systems are so different it can be difficult to explain to Americans how the French one works.

I will not go into the history of the French social system that was set up after WWII, with endless variations on health coverage and retirement per profession. President Macron has pushed a general policy of unifying the retirement program, which has led to violent demonstrations in the streets of Paris for the last three years or so.

Retired foreigners living in France saw one change quite vividly, as it affected them directly. When covered by the public system in the old days with theCouverture Maladie Universelle (CMU), the insured person would file an annual declaration with URSSAF so the 8% premium on worldwide income could be calculated.

In 2016, the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) was set up to replace the CMU. One of the most problematic differences with the old system was that URSSAF now gets its information from the tax office to calculate the 8% premium. The way it was calculated also changed, which resulted in a difficult situation for many foreigners living in France.

It is a huge oversimplification, but I tell my clients that the centre des impôts is like the IRS and URSSAF is like the Social Security Administration. They are always amazed, as they are used to seeing the two American organizations working together, while their French equivalents pretty much ignored each other until recently – and that was better than the old days, when they distrusted each other to the point of never sharing information

A milestone will soon be reached in this regard. In May 2021, when it is time to declare income in France, self-employed people will only declare their income once, to the tax office. Starting with 2020 revenue, URSSAF will get the information from the tax office and there will no longer be any need to make two declarations. In short, the Déclaration Sociale des Indépendants (DSI) is no longer needed.

A recent URSSAF statement says: “A partir de cette année, vous n’aurez plus qu’une seule déclaration à faire pour la déclaration de vos revenus 2020 sur C’est cette déclaration unique qui sera utilisée pour le calcul de vos cotisations et contributions sociales personnelles et de votre impôt sur le revenu.”

Here is a translation of the complete press release:
“From this year, you will have only one declaration to make to declare your 2020 income on This single declaration will be used to calculate your personal social contributions and your income tax. The income that serves as the basis for personal social contributions will be entered directly in your personal income tax return (declaration No. 2042). It will be supplemented by a specific “social” component. In the 2020 income statement, specific sections have been provided to allow you to declare your eligibility for contribution reductions set up in the context of the health crisis (first period of health emergency in spring 2020 and second period of health emergency in autumn 2020). Once your tax return has been validated, the necessary elements will be sent automatically by the tax administration to your Urssaf or Cgss. As in previous years, upon receipt of the elements of your 2020 tax return, your Urssaf or Cgss will adjust your 2021 provisional contributions and regularize your final 2020 contributions. It will also send you a payment schedule update, which will take into account the exemption from contributions under the reduction mechanisms put in place in the context of the health crisis, if you are eligible. Urssaf or Cgss remains your contact for the management and payment of your personal social contributions.”

I remember when my bank first added a second level of security for access to accounts online – issuing a payment, transferring money – by sending a text message to my cellphone so I could be identified a second time. I particularly like this feature when I make purchases on a website, as it reduces the chance of fraud. It might make sense to force as many merchants as possible to include this feature on their sites. I fully understand that this is as much an issue with the bank as it is with the merchant, except the bank has an interest in limiting fraud, which costs it money.

Many merchant sites now also have this feature to enter the site if you have a personal account with them. It would be an exaggeration to say it is becoming a standard feature, but it feels like it is nearly one. Maybe I will get used to it someday, or manufacturers will find a way to have the computer and phone talk to each other automatically – who knows?

Recently this mundane procedure took on epic proportions because of a last-minute change of policy and COVID-19 preventing people from traveling. One of my clients was on a mission in Eastern Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the stay to be extended for many months past the client’s scheduled return to France. This client, like several of my American clients, does not have a French cellphone, as their American phones can be used worldwide. Pretty much overnight, their bank added the text security feature for access to their accounts. This meant the client had to buy a French phone or at least a SIM card, and give the French number to the bank.

To make a long, complicated story shorter, about this client, I bought a pay-per-use SIM card and activated the number so any phone could use it. Then I mailed the SIM card across most of Europe so the client could put it in his phone when connecting with the bank. Registering the phone number with the bank was the true challenge, but finally it got done. The final episode would be laughable if it had not been a serious problem. My client needed printed bank statements, and he could not have access to them due to some technical glitch with the SIM card. His CPA needed them to prepare tax declarations. The bank demanded an original signature on a letter requesting that the statements be printed, and charged a hefty price for this service. The last straw was that it would only send them to the client’s Paris address. Thus I had to pick up that letter, scan the documents and send them to the client. Some rules to safeguard clients’ interests take us back a century!

Another bank offered a different solution to the cellphone problem. It agreed to send the security text messages to a US phone number, for an extra charge of $5 a month. The client concerned has a French cellphone but it does not receive text messages from France. I can see this becoming a serious problem for clients who are outside France most of the time, and the many who are stuck abroad because of the pandemic.

As my client said to me, “with the continued need to use a double verification process for banking and other accounts, this might be worth mentioning … in one of your next columns. Not everyone who does banking in France has a French phone and can receive text messages from other countries without adding this feature to their accounts. Granted it is $5 extra per month but worth it.”

Note that the state of emergency due to the pandemic has been extended until June 1st: “Face à l’aggravation de la propagation de l’épidémie de Covid-19, l’état d’urgence sanitaire en place depuis le 17 octobre 2020 est prolongé jusqu’au 1er juin 2021 inclus. Initialement, il devait prendre fin le 16 février 2021. La loi prorogeant l’état d’urgence sanitaire est parue au Journal officiel le 16 février 2021.

(Faced with the worsening spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, the health state of emergency in place since October 17th, 2020 has been extended until June 1st, 2021, inclusive. Initially, it was to end on February 16th, 2021. The law extending the health state of emergency was published in the Journal officiel on February 16th, 2021.

Paris being one of the touristic hubs of the world, there are numerous foreigners owning apartments here and renting them through Airbnb and similar organizations. I have referred to this many times in past columns: rental income earned in France is declared and taxed in France even when the owner is not a French fiscal resident. It is then declared to the IRS as income already taxed.

One of my clients, however, has properties she rents in the USA and declares in France as income already taxed. She lives and files in France as a French fiscal resident. She recently received a letter from URSSAF that stunned me. It took me some time to understand what had happened.

The letter asked for her SIRET number, a French ID number for a person running a business. My client is retired, holds a visitor’s carte de séjour and has never registered a business in France. The request had to have originated somehow with the French administration. My client’s American rental income had surged last year, to the point that it went over the threshold that would force this type of registration if the rentals were in France. The system must have undergone a serious malfunction, taking the American income as French, and acted accordingly. Once identified, the problem was easy to fix.

I am more familiar with a different computer bug, whereby the French tax office tries to collect the CSG-CRDS taxes on American income declared in France. That bug was identified well over 10 years ago and is now rare. I still see it, but much less frequently.

The Council for the English Speaking Community in Paris (CESC Paris) first invited me to speak in September 2003. Then and now the topic is “Non-profits in France.” I will cover the legal and practical issues that non-profits [often] encounter. My experience as a member of several non-profits, including holding the post of vice-president for one of them, adds first-hand knowledge to my training as a juriste droit économique and to what I have learned while advising non-profits as part of my consulting activity.

Here is the announcement the CESC put out:
Dear CESC Paris Community,
Are you the head of a non-profit association? Our guest speaker will be Jean Taquet and our next meeting is going to focus on the loi 1901, questions about running non-profit associations and some of the current or ongoing issues we are experiencing due to the fallout from Covid 19 pandemic. We won’t be able to answer all your questions, but the idea is to gauge areas of interest and concern and then organize further discussions with more experts within and outside of the CESC community to help facilitate these discussions in the coming weeks and months.

Over the holidays, my assistant, Sarah, took an interesting initiative and created a new Facebook page. It is a good move for her, since she and I both moderate it. She can show off her expertise and her ability to give good advice and clearly explain solutions. She does this in French, leaving the queries in English to me.

Since I am already active in a few Facebook groups and my website is my main showcase, I did not feel I needed such a page. On the other hand, it should no doubt benefit her sooner than later.

You are welcome to join:

The office will be closed for a month and a half, starting Friday, July 9th, and reopening on Monday, August 23rd. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. My service of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed.

Best regards,



There appears to be much discrepancy between VFS Global and the Washington DC embassy regarding requests for the passeport talent visa. This status appears to be the only way to obtain a real immigration visa that is renewable, and valid up to four years, with work permits from the get-go. VFS says one thing; the embassy says something different. For example, many individuals who are choosing between all the “flavors” of passeport talent might be self-employed, working as authors, artists, sometimes with a national or international reputation in a specialized field, and often holding high-level degrees, diplomas, etc. Yet it appears that the embassy wants French contracts, French employment by French companies with French clients, etc. If you do not have any of these, you can apply for a long-term visitor visa… but this visa is not currently available due to COVID restrictions. On the other hand, VFS says that those who can prove sufficient funding through forms, documents, etc. and who are working on a project that benefits France in some way, can apply for the passeport talent.
What happens if your visa is rejected? All that work and time preparing your move – selling cars, furniture, looking for lodging in a country that appears to have an incoherent visa policy. If France is serious about accepting talented folks to improve the community, then perhaps the administration needs to take these passeport talents visas seriously and get to work vastly improving their horrendous ‘system’.


Your points are well taken and I agree with many of them. VFS Global and the consulate do say different things. The sad part is that VFS Global, a private company, does not know much about what its job is supposed to be, in my opinion. So I differ with you on that: VFS Global should know everything about all the visas currently available so that they are able to properly evaluate every applicant’s file. This is the job they are supposed to do, and they are not doing it.
The consulate is still partly closed
I would like to look at two issues you have raised. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted international travel for a year now. When borders are closed, there is no need to issue visas. The situation is more complex than that, however: the consulate first took care of French people and families returning to France. Then other visas gradually became available – but for the past six months, it seems that no new visas have been made available to the public. Hence the popular visiteur immigration status is not accessible and this has a huge impact on the lives of people who, as you point out, may have prepared for years to move to France and cannot do so because the status they need is not currently offered by the consulate. I am asked daily to predict when the entire situation will go back to normal. Every time I have made an estimate, thinking that I am being conservative, I have been way off. Nevertheless, clearly the issue for France and its economy concerns what decisions are made on dealing with the pandemic during this coming summer. Can the country survive another summer with virtually no tourists?
The other point where I disagree with you is France’s need right now for talent. The country is entirely focused on controlling the pandemic and blocking the virus’s spread. Everything else is of lower priority. President Macron is not interested, for the moment, in welcoming scientists, businesspeople, professors, researchers and so on.

All ten types of passeport talent demand a strong anchorage in France
You referred to the category often called “internationally famous”. This category of passeport talent, No. 10, is of course more complicated than that. Here is how I describe it:
1. It starts with a description of a strong personal and professional project that has to carried out in France. That determines how I describe the project in the initial cover letter. The letter starts by describing the person’s early career in the USA and their growing success.
2. The letter goes on to explain that the career has run into limits and plateaus because the person’s artistic project does not fit American taste. I have worked with several musicians whose music mixes genres and cannot be classified as country, folk, rock, classical, jazz, blues, or what have you.
3. I end up describing the necessity for the artist to go where the public for this kind of music, or art, etc. is. It happens that Europe is much more open to artistic flexibility. I may continue the description if the person concerned has a crossover career, such as the singer of German opera, Nina Hagen, who also has a career in punk rock or heavy metal.
4. After a few trips to France and meetings with a lot of people, the person now has French professional contacts who recognize the pertinence of the professional project to France. They help by opening doors and providing the file with a decent number of documents which prove that the person is ready to start a French career.
5. The next element is more intangible but it is supposed to be part of the file submitted to the consulate: the project brings something of value to France, beyond the financial aspect. It is often described as tightening the ties between the two countries.
All this shows why French contracts, a schedule of French events, description of French projects, etc. must be secured before France will grant a category 10 passeport talent visa. I am sure if VFS Global were to explain that the file must look like this, there would be fewer disappointments.
Your comment about the risk of a negative answer from the consulate needs to be addressed more extensively. To start with, I personally believe the consulate should refuse to issue Passeport-Talent visas for poorly-designed projects. Significant planning is necessary to prepare a geographical move, even within the same country or city. Moving to a different country, especially one on a different continent, and even with a plan that has been worked on for years and apparently covers all possible eventualities, is a project that requires a leap of faith even for the most-hardy individuals. The best preparation will anticipate only a fraction of the difficulties and problems that will arise after the move. I believe the French consulate is doing many applicants a favor by refusing poorly-conceived projects.
Sometimes making a move requires managing extreme risks. Moving a family with small children to a foreign country located on a different continent can be seen as taking such a risk. It is well-nigh impossible to evaluate and foresee the difficulties and dangers of living in a new culture. So putting in place a comparable undertaking means living with risk for many years to come.
In the grand scheme of things, the risk of not receiving a visa is very small compared to the other risks. Indeed, the chances of successfully acquiring the coveted visa can be increased by improving the quality of the file. This means that the guidelines of the consulate must be scrupulously followed. The second line of defense is to have a Plan B, i.e., the applicant must be willing to send a new request after fixing what went wrong with the first one. The applicant can also prepare a second application for a different visa that is easier to obtain. So this is all about getting organized to be ready and in control of the situation. Therefore your description – “What happens if your visa is rejected? All that work and time preparing your move – selling cars, furniture, looking for lodging in a country that appears to have an incoherent visa policy.” – is inaccurate.
The Passeport-Talent visa, with its ten categories, offers enough choice for applicants to have a Plan B ready. If you have Plans A and B ready at the same time, you have mastered the situation and you can schedule your arrival in France with much more precision. The category Nº5, business creator, créateurs d’entreprise, of the Passeport talent, will most probably be the most user-friendly alternative.
I always go back to this issue: moving to a new continent is no joke. It requires extensive preparation, which can take months or, more often, years.



I moved here for my French fiancé, and in doing so, I gave up a very lucrative career. My fiancé owns a company and some real estate in France. His real estate company owns the home in which we plan to live in after the marriage. He wants me to sign a marriage contract stating that all property before and after the marriage remains separated. I am not in agreement after giving up a really well-paid job to relocate and I know I will not be able to earn nearly as much in France without speaking the language.
My fiancé owns 99% of real estate company; the other 1% belongs to his mother. Is there a way to write up a contract to have equal “shares” of our future family home? Can we transfer the real estate company in part into my name to avoid having to purchase shares?
Is there a way to edit the marriage contract to say that I would not get any of his principal business but just half of the family home? Can any of the three types of marriage contracts in French be adjusted or they are straight boilerplate documents with unchangeable terms?
My next question is whether it would be possible to draft a separate document that would provide some sort of financial security – an agreement to get a sum of money in case of divorce or the transfer of half the family home in spite of the fact that it is owned by the company rather than by my fiancé – simply for investing sweat equity in building a family with him and making improvements towards the family home, etc.


If only all couples could have a crystal ball so they would know the future and could make these decisions more easily! Since it is impossible to know the future, however, such situations are complex, involving critical interests that may be mutually exclusive. When a prenuptial agreement is drafted, many hope it is possible to both share assets and separate debts.

The three standard contract types are:
1. Universal community, where everything is shared by virtue of the marriage, including everything brought into the marriage from the past.

2. Total separation, where nothing is shared by virtue of the marriage, even everything that will exist in the future.

3. Partial community, where nothing from before the wedding is shared but everything is shared for the future by virtue of the marriage. This is the default French marital regime, la communauté réduite aux acquêts.

In my view, a combination of the following is the best way to achieve what you want:
1. Choose the total separation regime, which makes sense for both you as it protects you from possible liability stemming from running a business in France, and it needs to be applied selectively.

2. Work with the existing société civile immobilière (SCI), a corporation that owns real estate. Its advantage is that it is extremely versatile and shares can easily change hands between shareholders.

3. Conclude a contractual agreement that takes into account the longevity of the marriage.

With this setup, nothing is shared by virtue of the marital agreement, although there will be some waivers to that rule. Systematic sharing will occur exclusively within the real estate portfolio, where there are assets with little debt, and you plan on reinforcing this sharing over time.

The total separation regime is important when one spouse runs a business, especially if there is any risk of going bankrupt. This regime creates a powerful shield protecting personal assets (including the home) from business creditors. Furthermore, whether you become a French professional, just a consultant or even an employee, your professional liability will never be comparable to his. Your assets are behind the shield, while his are exposed.

That brings us to the SCI. Creditors could demand his shares, but the bylaws should prohibit any third party acquiring shares without prior approval of the existing shareholders, thus forming another strong shield protecting any real estate owned by the two of you. The combination of the prenuptial agreement and the SCI bylaws are a powerful way to protect your interests.

Note that it is possible to jointly own things outside the SCI if both of you sign joint ownership contracts.

To finalize this setup:
1. Sign the prenup as well as an agreement on the gift of shares in the SCI, whose number needs to be agreed upon by the spouses.
2. The prenuptial agreement or SCI regulations can include a contractual agreement providing for regular, probably annual, transfer of shares from him to you throughout the duration of the marriage. (No taxes are owed when spouses give to each other!) The agreement would say something like this:

“Each January 1st, the wife is to be granted the gift of x shares of the SCI until each spouse owns an equal number of shares.”

That way it is automatic as long as you are together. The lawyers would add various scenarios that would stop the automatic gift: filing for divorce, permanently leaving the domicile, official romantic relationship with a third party, etc. The lawyers should also define who does the registration of the change of ownership, the deadline for doing so and the consequences of defaulting on this obligation. In short, the lawyers need to do their job to properly seal such an agreement.

Another aspect of the situation that will be critical to you is protection of the family domicile regardless of who owns it. That does not need to be in the bylaws or contract, however, as filing the income declaration to the tax office in France is always done jointly and the address that defines the foyer fiscal (fiscal residence) is the domicile conjugale, and since it is automatic, not much more is necessary. In fact, moving to a different home would nullify such a provision in the bylaws or contract.

Throughout my career, I have seen how most people misunderstand what a prenuptial agreement does. This is my definition:

It defines ownership of assets and debts, as it addresses the three issues of who owns what and why.

There is a need to address this ownership issue when:
– an estate is formed, as it is critical to know what constitutes the estate 
– a gift of assets is made, regardless of the identity of the beneficiary
– a divorce takes place, so each spouse retains what the prenuptial agreement has defined as his or hers.

One last thing, which my expertise does not cover: your fiancée needs to agree to all this.


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