Here is the translated transcript of a phonecall I just had from URSSAF, the body responsible for collecting social contributions in France.
URSSAF: Hello Boris, can you tell me why you have sent us a cheque for 2540 euros?
Me: Because you sent me a bill for 2540 euros and you charge me penalties if I don’t pay you
URSSAF: I see. Do you know what it relates to?
Me: No idea, your bills never say how they are calculated (I gave them the reference number)
URSSAF: Well what period does it relate to?
Me: No idea, it doesn’t say on the bill. It says it’s an estimate because we haven’t sent final income figures – although we have actually sent every number you have asked for
URSSAF: I see, well it’s definitely completely wrong, I don’t know why we sent you the bill.
Me: OK, can you destroy the cheque and send us a correct bill?
URSSAF: No, we’ll pay it into the bank and then your next bill will be adjusted accordingly…
This is what we French expats like to call entertainment. Last year URSSAF sent us about ten bills, most of which we queried. Not once could they explain how they came up with the figures. This time our accountant had said we should pay the bill – not because they thought it was right, but because they said it ‘all works out in the end’.
I’m not convinced – URSSAF themselves recently wrote to ask us how much we have paid them this year so far, so I’m hardly full of confidence.
Sending me a bill and then ringing me to ask what the bill was for seems not quite right somehow…and just sending randomly generated large bills that ‘have to paid or penalties will be incurred‘ is frankly not something that adds much to the pleasures of life, especially when you know all they are fit for is starting a bonfire.
And if you are living in France and have correspondence with URSSAF you might like to study your own bills quite closely, because the chances of them being correctly calculated seems to be somewhere between zero and… less than zero.