French payslips and forms

The French, as all expats quickly come to realise, like to make anything to do with paperwork more complicated than it need be, and whether it's a Taxe d'Habitation bill, an invoice from URSSAF, or a payslip from an employer the main goal is to make sure that you haven't got any idea how the amount was calculated. I suppose this reduces the chances that you will grumble.

A recent example was our income tax bill, which had loads of numbers on it, some of them even the same as we had put on our tax return, and then a tax charge at the bottom and a figure for 'revenu fiscal de reference' (annual income), neither of which bears any recognisable relationship to the numbers shown above them.

So it was almost a pleasure to see my daughter's payslip for her summer job. You can seee below that it is slightly more complicated than you expected for a summer job?

I can understand the first line - she was paid SMIC (minimum wage) of 8.86 euros per hour, for 145 hours work in the month. After that it gets a bit more confusing with deductions for items like 'Prevoyance NC' and 'Formation Pro - 10 salaries'. Presumably these are all good and noble causes to give money too.

It also seems a bit tough on someone earning 1500 euros a month to make 327 euros in charges, but perhaps that explains why the minimum wage in France is significantly higher than the minimum wage in the UK (£5.93 = 7.1 euros) - because they know the extra will be immediately taken away from the employees.

Just swings and roundabouts and a way for the government to get their hands on some more money. (Lots of people in France earn minimum wage, note that the payslip above includes 220 euros in 'overtime'.)

RSI are one of my favourites. They use a random number generator to come up with their bills, send them out with a warning that they must be paid by date X, which is usually already some weeks in the past when the bill turns up, and then only have one phone line in the whole of France to call for help - and even that phone is shut in a drawer with an infinitely long recording of the worst music you ever heard.

So eventually you give in and pay the bill without the slightest idea of what period it relates to or how it was calculated just because you can't bear another five seconds of 1970's French pop music and don't want them to seize your house because you didn't pay the bills on time.



  1. laurence September 7, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I used to run a medium size company in France, with about 80 salaried staff. Our calculation was that for a full time permanent employee to take home £800 a month( equivalent in euros ) it cost the company £2000 a month. We had to pay union delegates for time they spent not working, ditto staff delegates, we had to pay contributions to training schemes we could never use. And a multitude of bizarre taxes. Once we ordered some matches in small boxes with a logo on the box , a year later we received an invoice for payment of ‘re-forestation tax’. No french trees had been felled to make the matches as they came from Sweden.

  2. Boris September 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Well, we’ve been told by our accountant that even if carry on paying ‘proper’ social contributions (ie not CSG /CRDS) for the next 20 years we are unlikely to receive a single euro in French state pension, seems you need to pay at least 21 years before they will think about it, but I am now very pleased that I have never been charged a single sous in ‘re-forestation tax’, at last something to be cheerful about!

  3. fly in the web September 7, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    And don’t think they won’t take your house….

  4. laurence September 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I have some good news for you Boris. I worked in France, first as salaried employee then as company managing director, for a total of 13 years and I am entitled to a pension from the French state. The amount of pension is quite low , actually less than a packet of fags per day ( but I don’t smoke ).
    The auto-entrepreneur and micro entreprise ideas were introduced to give French unemployed an incentive to set up in business working for themselves, so these systems would not exclude the users from state benefit advantages. Quite the opposite !

  5. Boris September 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Ah, but we are neither auto-entrepreneurs or micro-entreprise, we are a SARL and make contributions through RSI – who tell me that to get maximum pension I need to pay for 40 years, with the amount being reduced by 5% for each year less that I pay – so paying for ‘only’ 20 years gets the amount reduced by…100% Hopefully I’ve misread but our accountant seems to also be of the view that I won’t get anything worthwhile.
    Our gites are through a ‘non-professional micro-entreprise’ but we only pay CSG/CRDS (and tax) on that income, which gives no pension benefits.

  6. laurence September 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    This morning I had an exhaustive discussion with an accountant who seems to be well briefed on gite financial affairs. She was able to clarify one point ; the 45% social security contribution levied on the 29% of receipts for a micro-bic meubles de tourisme covers contributions to health, pension and unemployment benefit. But ( there is always a but ) unless the total receipts of the micro-bic exceed €23.000 per annum , then the amount paid in social security contributions is not enough to meet the minimum contribution required per quarter.
    If space allowed, one could consider operating an additional gite or gites in order to achieve an income above the €23.000 but below the maximum allowed under the micro-bic regime. But then the spectre of the ISGF tax looms into view.

  7. Johnny Norfolk September 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Having read all this, no one would devise systems so complicated as this apart from the state. They are ruining enterprise with far too much of this sort of thing. You have my sympathy.

  8. laurence September 13, 2010 at 7:10 am

    In January 2010 the magazine Le Figaro did a thorough article about the “labyrinth fiscale” , making it quite evident that even the French media think the tax system is daft. Sarkozy has been trying to modernise and simplify it, but alas as the majority of French don’t pay any income tax ( their salaries are too low ) any move is met by communist cries of ‘enriching the rich’. I believe in the UK social security is levied at 12% of gross, whereas in France it is 45% , 40% paid by the employee, 60% paid by the employer. So the employee sees only his paltry net take-home figure, and not the true cost.