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Survival Home in Paris

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April 2023

“Throw Down the Sword” is the last song on Argus, the third album by the British rock band Wishbone Ash, released on April 28th, 1972. The album is medieval themed, particularly the second side.

Throw down the sword,
The fight is done and over, 
Neither lost, neither won. 
To cast away the fury of the battle
And turn my weary eyes for home. 
There were times when I stood at death’s own door
Only hoping for an answer. 
Throw down the sword, 
And leave the glory
A story time can never change. 
To walk the road, the load I have to carry
A journey’s end, a wounded soul. 
There were times when I stood at death’s own door
Only searching for an answer.

I have been a fan of this band since the summer of 1978 and I believe I own most of their albums. Their eclectic style of music is grounded in twin lead guitar harmonization. Wishbone Ash is one of the few bands I have never stopped listening to. I believe it is one of the most underrated British bands. I see them as a musical transition from 1960s rock ’n’ roll to heavy metal as played by Black Sabbath.

The song’s metaphoric image is about stopping violence. Regardless of the reasons, good or bad, for opposing a government policy or a court ruling, there should not be a high level of violence in the USA, France, or anywhere else. I feel like we are surrounded by media talking about violence linked to almost everything. There is no point in listing any of the issues even if some of them have major consequences in both France and the USA.

Here I am talking more about the French situation, as both the level of violence and what is at stake seem important to me, and the outcome is totally uncertain. I have noted in virtually all my columns for a year or so that France is now in completely uncharted political territory, in which not only does the president lack a majority of parliamentary votes, but no party has a clear majority in the National Assembly. I have seen posts on Facebook expressing serious concern about moving to France. I fully understand this concern, and clearly a lot of people in France are inconvenienced by the current strikes, gas stations running dry and trash cans overflowing, not to mention spontaneous demonstrations featuring fights with police when they show up to disperse the protesters.

As I explain below, I doubt this unrest will last very long, so visitors’ French vacations in July or August should be fine.

As for everybody throwing down the sword and resuming polite and respectful discourse, who knows when this will happen, if ever.

AAWE and AARO are two major non-profit associations in France assisting, guiding and supporting the American expat community. There are also many smaller groups, many of them doing business networking. Until 2000, I regularly attended one organized by Elizabeth de Vulpillières, who died in the spring of 2003. I have been active with the two major groups for a long time. They put on valuable conferences. I make a point of attending the ones about American citizenship, the latest of which was held on March 14th.

In earlier years when I had two minor children, a change in the law could affect their ability to transmit their American citizenship to their children. Now that they are both adults, I have more of a general interest, since I am asked to help American citizens who may be faced with similar issues. Knowing that these two associations exist can be the first help in providing proper guidance on what to do at the American Embassy.

So I want to thank AAWE and AARO once again for their unceasing efforts to improve and facilitate the lives of American citizens residing in France. Their powerful lobbying efforts have an impact on the lives of Americans outside the USA. The COVID pandemic forced them to put their conferences on hold. I am happy they are back.

Experts on the real estate market in the expat community in France regularly analyze what is going on and trends in the market. Almost everybody agrees there is a crisis because interest rates are rising faster than property prices are falling. One lesser-known reason is that banks have put a rapid and extremely harsh squeeze on issuing mortgages. The number issued dropped by 48.70% from February 2022 to February 2023.

French banks have never issued mortgages readily, asking for a lot more guarantees than in the USA. The problem today is that the interest rate in February was 2.82%, compared with 2.61% in January. The European Central Bank is said to be considering another increase, which would push the rate above 3%. It has already risen steadily for the past 14 months. French banks believe the rates should be rising faster, as interest on loans issued today will soon be below the inflation rate and banks will lose money on them as long as this situation persists.

French news outlets, along with much of the rest of the world’s media, have recently been showing photos of trash left on sidewalks in Paris and other cities, stacked up two meters high and turning streets into open-air garbage dumps, along with demonstrations occasionally resembling riots, as if there were a civil war.

I agree that French political life is currently unsettling. There is a lot of spontaneous anger expressed in the streets of cities throughout France. The media sensationalizes such events because they sell, and they raise audiences’ emotional level. But the garbage trucks are starting to return, and the demonstrations and violence will eventually stop. The real question now is what will make them go back to work, aside from the severe financial burden that continuing to strike imposes?

If there are huge numbers of police in the street, with many people arrested and kept in jail for a day or two, it may dissuade people from demonstrating. French unions know when to stop a strike, so there will be no breaking point on their side. The real damage will come during the next elections, which will start no later than the spring of 2027.

The true outcome of all this is a deep disconnect between President Macron and the French people. The margin by which the no-confidence vote on the retirement reform failed in the National Assembly, after the government forced through the reform under constitutional Article 49.3, was just nine votes. This, known as a reverse vote, was effectively the definitive vote in favor of the reform: Since the National Assembly did not force the government to step down, the law is considered approved.

But there is a growing sense that there could be a National Assembly election much sooner than 2027. The opposition parties now have every reason to stir up chaos. This could force President Macron to dissolve the assembly, triggering new legislative elections. If the voters’ anger is strong and long-lasting enough, a new election could result in the president lacking sufficient representatives to keep one of the two current opposition groupings from achieving a clear majority.

Then there would be what is called cohabitation, which has happened a few times. It obliges the president to stop conducting French policy and let the prime minister do it. All things considered, in such circumstances the French political regime looks more like the British system. President Macron could quickly find himself caught between a rock and a hard place.

Sometimes what appears to be the obvious best choice ends up being a bad one. A foreigner finishing a complete cycle of studies with a master’s degree is ready to get work and start a career. French law requires several documents to obtain the necessary carte de séjour. But being Ukrainian could make it particularly complicated to obtain some of the documents needed. It can appear to be a daunting project, with the possibility of a negative decision if the file is not good enough.

Compounding the situation is the idea that, right now, with a Ukrainian passport it is easy to get political refugee status. I could discuss at length how inaccurate this statement is. Applicants must prove they are in danger to get this protection. After living five years in France, it would be hard to prove he fled the country seeking asylum. Protecting the person so he can stay in France and not be sent back involves different legal grounds. On those grounds, the so-called good advice is not good.

I would like to add another point, which is even more important. This person made a personal choice years ago to become a student in France and now wants to start a career. What kind of dynamic would be created by an immigration procedure based on the war in Ukraine? I believe it would lead to a lot of bad emotions and feelings. This could damage the mindset and reduce the energy needed to start a career.

On the other hand, choosing what could appear to be a much more difficult and challenging immigration procedure, if it succeeds, means starting his new life proud and strong due to these scholastic successes. He can say, “I got this job on my merit.” To take this even a step further, it would be possible for him to go for the best, fearless of the competition.

Indeed, this person would have an advantage over other immigrants, who must play it safe because losing their job or failing at their new business would jeopardize their right to stay in France. It is unfortunate that a war or other military conflicts are likely to continue in Ukraine, but it means this person need not fear failure, because it would not affect their right to remain an immigrant in France: French law does not allow such a foreigner to be sent back to a country at war.

This situation illustrates a few important things.

1. The obvious best choice should always be reviewed. It must be taken with a grain of salt.

2. There are laws and there are human beings. Being an immigrant has everything to do with a state of mind, having hope, pursuing a goal, and feeling confident and respected.

3. Almost always, choosing the harder way builds security and long-lasting rewards because it makes for a stronger integration status.

In cases like this one, the path of least resistance is the wrong choice.

On a more mundane topic, I would like to remind everybody that the paper version of the 2022 income declaration must be filed in France by midnight on May 22nd, 2023. The declaration forms will be available at on April 6th. You can start filing your declaration on April 13th on the same website. To do so, you need your tax ID number (numéro fiscal) and a password.

If you are making your first income declaration to the French tax office, you should do so using the paper form and checking the “first-time” box on the form (CERFA #2042) where it says Vous déposez une déclaration pour la première fois cochez (“Check here if this is your first declaration”). It is possible to get the tax office to give you the information needed to declare for the first time electronically, but I tend to advise against it because using paper documents makes it much easier to see and understand how the system works.

Note that the deadline for online declarations is later than that for paper declarations. The schedule depends on your postal code:
• Départements 01 to 19 must file by midnight on May 25th.
• Départements 20 to 54 by June 1st.
• Départements 55 and up 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.

You are a French fiscal resident if you:
• stay in France 183 days in a calendar year, whether you have legal immigration status or not
• have immediate family members (spouse and/or minor children) who are living in France and therefore are French fiscal residents
• have a French employer
• run a French business, even something like tutoring schoolchildren in English.

Occasionally you may have a year with no tax owed to France, either because you only had foreign income not taxed in France or because your taxable income is too low. Then a problem can arise if the prefecture wants to see your income tax bill (avis d’imposition sur le revenu), as happens with many types of immigration status.

Unlike in the USA, filing is a two-step process. The income declaration is sent in, with no payment attached. Then, starting in August, the tax office issues the avis d’imposition sur le revenu based on the declaration, and the deadline to pay the income tax is September 15th.

Many organizations in France, in both the public and private sectors, may require you to furnish an avis d’imposition. For example, the Caisse d’allocations familiale (family subsidy bureau) uses this document among others to decide if applicants deserve aid and, if so, how much.

So much misunderstanding exists regarding the taxe d’habitation, especially because since January 1st, 2023, all owners of French real estate have been obliged to submit a report by July 1st, 2023, on how the property is used. I believe this is correlated with the phase-out of the taxe d’habitation, and nearly everybody agrees. Started in 2018, the process of phasing out this local tax, at least in part, comes to an end in 2023. French residents will no longer pay the tax on their primary residence. It will still apply to secondary residences.

The taxe d’habitation was linked to many incorrectly call the French TV tax. Its legal name was changed from redevance télévisuelle to contribution à l’audiovisuel public or CAP. It was the way France funded its public TV and radio networks. The CAP was abolished in the amended budget law No. 2022-1157 passed on August 16th, 2022.

Add it all up and the weird new property declaration makes a lot more sense. The only remaining local tax linked to residents is the taxe d’habitation on secondary residences. If you claim a secondary residence, especially in Paris, City Hall immediately assumes it is being used for short term vacation rental. So while the new declaration, coming out of nowhere, could have seemed like Big Brother in the shape of French administration was invading one’s privacy, it is just the normal adaptation to changes taking effect between 2022 and 2023.

After having had a few friends and family members stay in the SHIP studio, we have now started professional rentals. Early on, I asked my son, Eric, to sculpt a stele representing a tall ship. As the weather gets warmer and the studio is now occupied, I often think of the SHIP sculpture to come. Given his workload, I know I must wait until his summer vacation.

The office will be closed for six weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 7th, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 21st. 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.

Best regards,


One side of your question is extremely difficult to answer. How do you define the limit between good data gathering, for the good of the people, and the kind that allows controlling and monitoring people? This issue has always existed and I am not sure there is a good answer.
In France, it is assumed that the administration is there to help and protect the people and therefore the country accepts having a lot of information gathered on individuals. In the USA, people tend to believe they should be protected against administrative overreach and less government is better.
So just in this regard, the limit is defined very differently. As a Frenchman, I see the new declaration as being good for the people, since it helps in going after cheaters. But I hear many Americans saying that France should just accept the vacation rental business: Since there is such strong demand for tourist lodging in places like Paris, there should be a supply to meet it. The state should give guidelines and let the market regulate itself.
I would like to address some of your other comments. The mayor of Paris, Mme. Anne Hidalgo, is affiliated with the Socialist Party, which has next to nothing left that can really be called socialist. Her team represents a wide range of opinion, from communists to Greens. Calling her communist is simply wrong.
The fight against illegal vacation rentals is tedious and complicated. Yes, City Hall usually wins in court, but this is not enough deterrence, as there is too much money to be made.
Now that tourists are back in Paris, people living in buildings with vacation rentals are fed up. It greatly disturbs their life.
There are several approaches to the situation.
1. Renting legally
I will not go through the entire procedure as it is long, costly and hazardous. The basis is that this kind of very short term vacation rental requires commercial zoning. That means transforming an apartment into a commercial space similar to a hotel. The city of Paris will review requests for this only if the applicant has the means to also have an existing commercial space turned into residential so as to maintain the ratio of residential places. Even so, it is not certain that City Hall will accept the request.

2. Renting illegally
The latest information I have indicates this is still the majority of cases. In some neighborhoods, buildings have more than one apartment used this way. The nuisance it creates is such that resident owners complain to the syndic, the property manager of the common areas. Then either an owner or the syndic informs City Hall, which launches an investigation and may prosecute.

With the Paris real estate market getting weaker, every detail counts, and having such rentals in a building lowers the other apartments’ selling price. Thus, as tourism resumes in Paris and more tourists stay in such apartments, I see a sharp increase in complaints to City Hall.
Anyone planning on buying a Parisian apartment should enquire about this. If the building has a gardien(ne) it not only increases the value of the property by around 20%, but also these professionals will let you know right away what is going on: They clean the common areas, especially the hallways and staircases, so even if guests are quiet, their suitcase wheels leave tracks.
With Paris welcoming the Olympic Games in 2024, City Hall is going to face a huge challenge in the months to come.


To fully respond to this, I need to go back about 40 years. It began as a zoning issue. Any business of any kind had to be done in a place that was commercially zoned. It was impossible to have your business registered in your home.
There were and still are many diverse reasons for business owners to decide to use a société de domiciliation. Previously every member of a profession libérale was legally obligated to do so, unless their lodging was adequately zoned. Others wanted to separate the legal address of their business from where it was practiced. For them, this was a way to hide the real location of their home.
When I graduated from law school in 1984, the legal situation was as I have described. In the old days, doctors, lawyers and architects had a special mixed zoning type, with part of the lodging dedicated to their waiting room and place of work, while everything else was their home. Through a series of steps I won’t discuss in detail, today all businesses, whether incorporated or not, can be registered at one’s home without having to change the zoning. The focus now is on safety and sanitary regulations as well as specific requirements for welcoming the public, whether the business is a store, theatre or stadium.
For some reason, your immigration lawyer followed the outdated regulation. I see no reason for you to keep this contract, and you should cancel it as soon as possible. Sadly, most such contracts have a provision stating that there is a minimum duration, which can be a couple of months or more. Thus even if you send a registered letter demanding immediate termination of the contract, it is will probably remain in effect for some time and you will be billed accordingly.
By the way, I do not mean to imply that sociétés de domiciliation are crooks charging for unnecessary services. Today such companies offer a wide range of services, much more than their initial mission of receiving mail and keeping it until the business owner picked it up. They can open mail and send you a scan of it. Many offer meeting rooms, a telephone switchboard service and so on. In turn, today many coworking spaces offer domiciliation services as a natural extension of their original purpose.


Survival Home in Paris

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