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Survival Home in Paris

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The Call of the Wild

April 2022

The Call of the Wild is a short novel by Jack London which was published in 1903 and set in Canada’s Yukon territory.

I believe there may be many ways to understand this choice for my title, as it could apply figuratively to many situations both in the USA and in France, as well as elsewhere. Many generations have studied this book in secondary school around the world, as it was translated into numerous languages, including French.

Wild is often a synonym for scary, and right now there is a lot of scary news, plus some I suspect has been used to scare the public.

At the same time, I believe this short novel, about a dog surviving horrors and people getting killed to end up the winner at the end, is an allegory. In soapy Hollywood movies with an uplifting ending, the good character wins over the bad one. Buck does become the new leader of the pack. He is not going back to living with the humans. So this is a very different twist.

A reader recently sent me this message:
“Your story of the Iron Curtain brought back memories of a family vacation to Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. We drove throughout Europe. We drove across East Germany to Berlin and visited East Berlin. While there, we met a young man, an East German, who was desperate to escape East Germany but had no way of getting out. My soft-hearted mother (who made all the decisions in our family) decided we were going to get him out. At the appointed time on the day we were leaving Berlin, we met the young man and somehow got him into the trunk of the car, packed behind our luggage. While my memories have faded, the car was not searched when we left Berlin to drive across East Germany and back into West Germany – because seriously, who would search a car with an attractive, smooth-talking, middle-aged American woman behind the wheel, my father in the passenger seat, and two children under 10 sitting in the back seat. We were the picture of the innocent, possibly clueless, American tourist family. I have no idea what happened to the young man, but I hope he went on to lead a happy life of freedom in the west. We still marvel at my mother’s courage and humanity.”

I do not need to say anything more about this very moving account. There are situations that can be considered to have been transposed from ancient times, such as the one above and the one I mentioned about my family facing the Iron Curtain. They have been talked more and more often ever since the Eastern Bloc fell apart on 9 November 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many might not see the connection between this and the war in Ukraine. I believe there is a strong one.

French elections are in two rounds. This year the first voting in the presidential election will be on April 10th. During the campaign, 10 or more nationally recognized candidates will have airtime on national TV. Their campaign financing will be paid in part by the government in an attempt to give everybody a fair chance. The second round will be on April 24th. The result of the first round, which determines who will qualify for the second one, is still quite uncertain. French politics will be affected in different ways depending on whether President Macron ends up opposing a far-right candidate, a mainstream conservative or a leftist opponent. All the polls indicate he will win the second round against any of the potential opponents. If his challenger is a leftist, President Macron will appear quite conservative. On the other hand, if faced with a mainstream conservative, he will need to appear progressive in order to differentiate himself in the debates and campaign. Facing a far-right candidate, he will need to play the role of the savior of France against chaos and the unacceptable. Polls show that this positioning is increasingly less accepted as more and more people are critical of his overall policy as president.

Improvement of the public health situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at least until recently, and a decrease in pressure on hospitals led the prime minister to announce on March 3rd that the vaccine pass requirement in most places would be suspended and the wearing of masks indoors would no longer be required, except in public transport and health establishments, as of March 14th. It must be noted that this comes at the time of having a presidential election. Bear in mind that this was just a suspension: depending on the election results and the evolution of the pandemic in April, restrictions could be partly or completely reinstated.

Last month the American media and, to a certain extent, foreign media covered hearings on the latest US Supreme Court nominee. Listening to large sections of them reminded me of my law school courses in constitutional and civil law, including the position and power of the US Supreme Court compared with the French equivalents. France has three courts corresponding to the US Supreme Court: the Cour de Cassation, Conseil d’État and Conseil Constitutionnel. The Cour de Cassation is the closest to its American counterpart, as it is the last level of jurisdiction and issues the definitive precedents that become the rule of the land. A tiny technical difference between it and the American court has a huge impact on their respective influence. The French court rules only on the legal issues and not on all the arguments, but it must rule on all appeals it receives. Therefore its authority is diluted by its huge number of decisions, which means the media rarely talks about its rulings. By contrast, the US Supreme Court has the right to choose which cases it will rule on and thus issues far fewer decisions. Therefore, almost all of them make headlines and are commented on in the media, sometimes for days. Even a decision to postpone review of an appeal may be widely commented on.

Similarly, although the judges sitting on the bench of both courts are appointed for life, the French media never mentions who are the latest members nominated, and hardly anybody in France knows their names, as there are over 200 judges divided into six chambers!

As for the other two, the Conseil d’État is the Supreme Court for matters involving the French government apparatus, as what we calldroit administratif has its own system of jurisdiction. The Conseil Constitutionnel stands alone and rules on disputes regarding interpretation of the French constitution.

This feels like a tale even for me. It started in the spring of 2018, when the real estate agent who helped me find my current office approached me because the space next door to mine was for sale and he had just got the mandate. I did not see a need for it. I had moved into my office less than two years before. I did not know what I could do with it. At the same time, I remembered the office I had near the Place Saint-Georges for seven years, which had two large rooms. I rented out the front one and used the one with the veranda. Most of my tenants were start-up creators, consultants or other independents who needed such a place to make their professional transition. I always liked being able to offer a professional setting at an affordable price and thus help people launch their careers. In the autumn of 2018, recalling all this made me think again about the agent’s proposal, so I made an offer.

Not until April 2019 was an offer of mine finally accepted. I truly thought then that the sale would go through quickly. I mentioned this project in the May 2019 issue with great optimism.

What followed was two years of mostly silence, with sparks of false hope a couple of times when my notaire would schedule a signing date that later fell through. Then, out of the blue, just before Christmas the seller was ready and wanted to close right away. The idea that I had had in late 2018 was no longer viable, mainly because of the COVID pandemic. I took some quiet time to rethink the project, taking into consideration the major changes of the past few years. This investment had to be financially sustainable.

Now, thanks to my family members and Stephen Heiner, a client and a friend who helps Americans adapt to French life, I believe we can offer a good deal renting out this one-room studio of almost 329 square feet (30 square meters). My goal is to rent by the month for between one and six months. Clients sometimes ask to use my address, which they need to give to the consulate and later the prefecture while hopping from a weekly rental to the next before finding a more stable place and settling down with a longer-term lease. This truly unpleasant experience can be avoided now that I have an address in Paris where the person can go straight from the airport. The studio can serve as a place for someone who has either secured a long-stay visa or is submitting a request for one. It will be an interim place for such people to stay. It could also be for someone who is in France on a 90-day visa waiver to “test drive” whether living in France is for them. After 25 years of offering “A Survival Kit for Paris,” I will now also be able to propose “A Survival Home in Paris” for those who need it as an extension of my services.

For those who do not know, my office is located in the 11th arrondissement between Nation and Bastille. It is a real up-and-coming arrondissement, and the property is served by five metro and RER lines.

It will need some renovation before providing a comfortable and enjoyable stay. I will let my readers know when I start taking reservations.

On a more mundane topic, I would like to remind everybody that the paper version of the 2021 income declaration must be filed in France by midnight on May 19th, 2022. The declaration forms will be available at on April 7th. That is also the day you can start filing your declaration on the same website. To do so, you need your tax ID number (numéro fiscal) and a password.

First-time income declarations to the French tax office should be prepared using the paper form, and the “first time” box on the CERFA #2042 form where it says Vous déposez une déclaration pour la première fois cochez” must be checked. It is possible to obtain the needed information from the tax office to declare for the first time electronically, but I tend to advise against this, because it is a lot easier to see and hence understand how the system works if the filer is looking at paper documents.

Note that if you file online, the deadline is later. The schedule depends on your postal code:

  • départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight by May 24th.
  • départements 20 to 49 by May 31st.
  • départements 50 or higher by June 8th.

Reminder: if you are self-employed in France, the quarterly declarations sent to URSSAF do not constitute income tax declarations, which must be sent to the tax office. Many foreigners are under the impression that the quarterly declarations are their only fiscal obligation.

It can happen that there is no tax owed to France, either because it is foreign income not taxed in France or because the taxable income is too low. A problem may arise when the prefecture wants to see the income tax bill from the tax office, the avis d’imposition sur le revenu, as many immigration status ask for it. Unlike in the USA, it is a two-step process. The income declaration is filed and no payment is ever attached to it. Based on this declaration, the tax office issues this avis d’imposition sur le revenu, starting in August as the deadline to pay income tax in France is September 15th. This tax document is required by many organizations both in the public and the private sectors. For example, the CAF the family subsidy organization uses this document among others to decide if the person deserves aid and if so, how much.

I recently received this government communication, which I have translated. I can take no responsibility regarding its accuracy.

Simplification of professional procedures: opening of

To simplify the life of businesses, a new online service designed to facilitate your tax, social and customs procedures has just been opened for you:

This website, designed in conjunction with a panel of companies to best meet your expectations, was developed by the fiscal administration, URSSAF and Customs (DGFiP, Douane et URSSAF). offers you the possibility of:

  • benefitting from a unique and secure connection giving you access without re-authentication to and services and the first partner site;
  • having an overview of your tax, social security, and customs obligations and deadlines thanks to a unique and personalized dashboard;
  • making your declarations and paying your taxes and contributions from a single site;
  • simply and securely engaging in dialogue with the tax authorities, URSSAF and the customs authorities through an integrated messaging system.

Open to all professionals, without the restriction of size or status, offers services more particularly adapted to self-employed employers, SMEs/VSEs and ETIs.

If you wish, you can connect now to, to create an account and then consult your situation or perform your procedures.

Our portals and remain accessible and usable under the usual conditions.

We hope that this new portal will simplify the completion of your procedures with our services.

I continue to slowly move toward working fewer hours in the hope of having a lifestyle more compatible with my age. As I have done in the past, I am once again scheduling an increase in my fees. I expect my assistant to continue to pick up more tasks linked to the URSSAF, CPAM and other public offices procedures. She already handles most dealings with the offices who register self-employed people. 
1st meeting/1st work: 350 euros for 2 hours 
Extra per hour: 150 euros 
Handling mail in my office: 50 euros per month 
Handling mail at my home: 60 euros per month 
Surcharge for out-of-office meetings: 80 euros, assuming less than 30 minutes’ transportation 
Surcharge for meetings and phone calls at the client’s request after 7PM weekdays, all weekend, on national French holidays and during vacations: 30%.

The office will be closed for three weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 8th, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 22nd. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. The service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed. Of course, Sarah or I will honor prefecture meetings already scheduled, as well as a couple of other engagements.

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 will no doubt benefit her. I do not have the time to monitor this forum and so far, it has been fairly quiet. Sarah is still figuring out how to handle this new task, being quite busy herself. I am sure it will be a great space for exchanges and hope it will pick up soon.

You are welcome to join:

Best regards,


I see a lot of confusion here. I would like to address all the issues you face, including some you did not mention.
First, since you have Belgian citizenship, you are an EU citizen and therefore have as much right to stay in France as a French citizen. Therefore you are not required to earn a minimum amount to be allowed to stay in France. Even when an EU citizen is homeless, on welfare, and so on, the EU treaty does not allow for deporting them to their home country. The obligation to earn at least minimum wage is only true for most non-EU citizens living in France. Second, your husband also has the right to live in France because he is married to you; you are his anchor in France, regardless of how much money the two of you make. Third, you have the right as an EU citizen to hold an employee position while being self-employed in France, just like a French citizen.

Now I would like to address the important issue: your billing. There are two opposing ways to look at this when it comes to settling in France. They have an immediate impact on how much your French earnings are and should be.

1 – You want to minimize the cost of running a business in France as much as possible and therefore pay as little tax as possible.
Your French taxable income can be below the French poverty level, but if you go far below the poverty line, it might reach a point where the prefecture makes it difficult to renew your husband’s carte de séjour. It could seem that you created this tiny business for the sole purpose of getting the prefecture to issue the European immigration ID to your spouse, when the reality of your business is clearly in the USA. If you declare your worldwide income to France, the prefecture will see a significant discrepancy between your French and American earnings. This truly unpleasant aggravation should be avoided.

I would like to give you some critical information here so you do not do anything foolish:
a) – The annual welfare payment, or RSA, for a single person is 5,970€ as net taxable. This amount equals 9,046€ annual billing for a self-employed profession libérale person as this is your status. Note that both of your years in business produced an income below that. I believe that if you earn below that level for more than two years in a row, your public health coverage will not be linked to your business. The two of you would instead be covered by PUMa, which costs about 6.5% of worldwide income. So clearly this must be avoided and therefore you must earn more than that.
b) – The French health care program called CMU-C is free of charge if the person earns less than 9,041€ net annual taxable income. For you this is equal to 13,699€ annual billing.
Therefore I consider that you enter a dangerous zone if you bill less than 13,700€ annually.

2 – You value your anchorage in France and you are investing for your future in France.
This means having a decent business with annual billing of at least the French minimum wage, i.e., billing 23,000€ or more. Choosing this means you are building credit for retirement, sick leave and all the other social programs. For your information, the limit for not paying VAT/TVA is now 34,400 € in annual sales.
Finally, I would like to discuss an aspect of your situation that concerns me a lot. You referred to“maintaining a lucrative consulting business in the USA.”
This amounts to cheating on your French income tax and social charges. You can only have one sole proprietor consulting activity and you have to choose to have it either in the USA or in France. I realize this would make your French fiscal liability go through the roof and you would lose a substantial amount of disposable income. I do not have enough expertise to advise you properly on how to address this issue. There is not much you can do about the two past years without an international tax expert helping you.
Therefore I advise you to stop thinking about how little you can earn in France and take care of your American business so as to clear up this situation as soon as possible.


Most people incorrectly equate the regulation of the PACS with marriage. But the PACS name itself should indicate loud and clear how wrong this is. It stands for Pacte Civil de Solidarité, a contractual agreement that resembles a prenuptial agreement as it exists in France, the USA and many other countries. The template that the town hall distributes covers just one page. This is completely inadequate to lay out the detailed agreement between the two parties linked by this pacte civil de solidarité. This document exists to help the partners decide how they want to regulate financial matters during their communal life. It also defines the steps and procedures needed if the couple split up. This is particularly critical when one partner does not work and completely relies on the other financially. A PACS is a civil union and entails no right to alimony or any other kind of financial support. Everything that needs to happen now is either defined in the PACS or must be decided together during the breakup period.

I see two critical issues you two should talk about and agree upon:
1 – Having some financial support to allow you to find work and then become financially independent. This could include getting him to sign on a new lease with you or being your guarantor.
2 – Determining how the things that are in the apartment should be split between the two of you.

There are also some serious concerns, on top of those mentioned above, about your immigration status. If you hold a carte de résident you are fine; this immigration status will be renewed automatically when the card expires and thus you can consider your immigration status in France to be rock solid. But if you hold a private life card>i> (vie privée & familiale), you will lose your right to that status once the PACS is dissolved. It is therefore critical for you to have a good job, either as an employee or self-employed. The only way to stay in France is to ground your next immigration status on your professional life.

All that being said, I believe it would be foolish to dissolve the PACS before you achieve stability in France. If the romantic relationship allows it, you would be much better off securing a good job and getting a carte de résident. Once you are on firmer ground, you can move out if need be and still stay in France.


Survival Home in Paris

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