Pleasures of dealing with URSSAF

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.



  1. Johnny Norfolk November 20, 2009 at 1:02 am |

    Best of luck with that one. I have never known tax in Britain so complicated.No wonder no one understands it. again pre Labour it was very simple, but not any more. They never think about the cost of calculation and collection.

  2. the fly in the web November 22, 2009 at 9:59 am |

    I wouldn’t mind so much if what URSSAF demands bore any relation to reality. I only pay because my lawyer is even more expensive….probably has to charge so much to pay her wildly unrealistic URSSAF bills….

  3. Boris November 23, 2009 at 5:05 am |

    Johnny, I guess it’s the perfect tax from a ‘cost of calculation and collection’ point of view since generating bills that have no basis in reality and knowing they will mostly be paid, because people can’t afford a lawyer to contest them, is probably very easy and cheap to do – much easier than actually trying to calculate proper numbers.
    TFITW, our accountant charges plenty, I wouldn’t dream about paying a lawyer as well unless the amounts to be contested were very large, and presumably involving a lawyer would also mean even more paperwork to sign in triplicate every 10 minutes, something else I don’t need more of!

  4. French Fancy November 25, 2009 at 3:56 pm |

    I’m in the middle of contesting a bill sent to us by urssaf and according to our accountant they are in a right old mess and just do not know what they are doing. They are sending out more wrong bills than right ones.

  5. Boris November 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm |

    I suppose I should be pleased it’s a national problem rather than just someone in our local office?!

  6. Dave November 25, 2009 at 5:17 pm |

    I sympathise with you Boris – URSSAF are no fun to deal with. I’ve had a few battles with them this year and can tell you the biggest frustration is that even if you know you’re right and they are overcharging you they have a “pay now argue later” policy that means they will block your accounts and charge penalties pretty quickly if you fail to pay, even if you have entered into correspondence to contest a charge.
    Then to cap it all off, when they finally grant you a “gracious and exceptional dispensation” for the overcharging, the result is a tax credit for the following year! So you are out of pocket for up to 12 months for their mistake.
    I try to stay calm dealing with French beauracracy but URSSAF really have a knack of getting my blood boiling.

  7. Matthieu Cany December 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm |

    Receiving letters from URSSAF is never pleasant even if you are French.
    Among entrepreneurs they are the one people fear the most.
    However if you apy your taxes on time you shouldn’t be worried by them

    A good advice: if you have cash problem, it is better to let them know in advance so that you can negotiate a delay with them


  8. Boris December 9, 2009 at 12:12 pm |

    Thanks for the advice Matthieu,
    Someone else told me the same yesterday – that they had ‘renogiated’ n URSSAF bill, so definitely worth trying if someone isn’t sure.

  9. markus December 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm |

    ive never been so robbed in all my life,the rsi and ursaff plunder my bank account without warning and for money NOT owed,they are picking on the english and then saying OH sorry we made a mistake afterwards if you become aware,FRANCE is a communist country and they hate the english they HATE us,im off and i know literally hundreds of others who are leaving.a thouroughly un pleasant place to live sourrounded by leeching dishonest envious french parasites

  10. Boris December 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm |

    Hi Markus, thanks for stopping by. Sounds like your problems with URSSAF and RSI are worse than ours – but give us a year or two more and I’m sure we’ll be just the same! I’m not sure it’s to do with being English so much as URSSAF not knowing what they’re doing, with both French and English. But I could be wrong, certainly a lot of expats I speak to have problems with them.
    Anyway sorry to hear it’s not working out, and good luck with whatever you do.

  11. bbuissonniere January 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    All the expat blogs I ve been around, there is always a post about the frenc administration. You know even for us, they are awfull. i don’t know if that will help you !

  12. Eadaoin January 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Yes! Finally I know that it’s not just me!! I could go on all night about URSSAF, but I don’t want to relive the stress.

    I do have a question though – can anyone tell me under which system I would pay less as a profession libérale – under the auto-entrepreneur or the ordinary system? I don’t expect to exceed annual turnover of €32k and my business expenses won’t be any higher than 15%.

    A woman on the auto-entrepreneur hotline told me that under the auto-entrepreneur scheme I would pay 20.5% on my turnover and that under the general system I would pay 45% on revenue. From hard-learned experience though, I never trust what only one person in French administration tells me… Can anyone confirm what she said, or explain a bit more? She also said that those two figures would cover social security, illness (the carte vitale maybe??), pension and income tax. Is that right?

    I am so bloody sick of trying to figure out the system… I’ve talked to URSSAF, the local tax office, RSI and the auto-entrepreneur hotline. I have pretty good French, my partner is French and has been with me through every step, and after months of trying to figure it out, we still don’t understand…. Please help!!

  13. Boris January 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm |

    Best I understand it, the information you have been given is correct, and auto-entrepreneur is usualy the best option for businesses that will stay under the 32k threshold, and when costs are only a small percentage of revenue. Have you considered having a ‘one-off’ meeting with an accountant? It should only cost a couple of hundred euros and they (should!) give the best advice. Sounds expensive for an hour or two of work, but getting the business setup wrong will cost you a lot more.
    I’ve had the pleasures of running a micro-entreprise but never been an auto-entrepreneur – our microentreprise closed 18 months ago and we still get ‘regularisation’ bills etc from URSSAF. Our (French) accountant battles with URSSAF and RSI to get the bills sorted out for us – she doesn’t have any more success than us, but at least it’s her getting the stress not us! (Only yesterday she told me she didn’t understand what they were trying to tell her, or why, and that they were certainly both giving a different story…she is trying again today)
    Just the pleasures of working in France I suppose – good luck with your venture!

  14. Eadaoin January 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm |

    Thanks Boris. Yes, really if I had any sense I should see an accountant. I had one in Ireland, so I don’t know why I haven’t thought seriously about talking to one here… You don’t happen to know of a good one in the South-West? I’m just north of Bordeaux. I know it’s a long-shot, and I’m not sure if you allow people to post recommendations like that, but if you do, I’d appreciate the steer. Love the blog by the way – I was going to say that it’s the best ‘of it’s kind’ that I’ve seen, but in fact, it’s the best blog I’ve seen full stop. Fair play to you.

  15. Boris January 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |

    Ooooh, I’ll get all big-headed.
    I don’t mind anyone posting recommendations if they have a sensible suggestion or useful advice, so anyone near Bordeaux with a recommendation please do post. In fact there are a few people around here use a Bordeaux accountant, I’ll try and find out the details and email them to you if they sound any good.

  16. Eadaoin January 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm |

    ;) Thought that might swell your noggin alright! Look forward to your recommendations and thanks for the support – much appreciated.

  17. George N B April 1, 2010 at 3:14 am |

    In these days of Acronyms, it seems, according to newspaper reprts from across The Channel, that HMR&C have been taking lessons from URSSAF. Incorrect Notices of Coding are now the norm, we had 4 for 2 people by one post, correspondence ignored or subject to a 6 month delay in acknowlement and a reported 45 MILLION unanswered phone calls. Did I hear Mr Brown et M Sarkozy promise savings through increased efficiency?

    If either organisation invited me to a tasting Chez Widow Clicquot I’d drive there knowing full well they couldn’t organise the proverbial, and I’d come out stone cold ………. (fill in the blank). Happily the North European Protestant Work Ethic seems to hve been rooted out of both organisations.

  18. Izzy M October 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |

    Zat is nothing. Since registering with URSSAF I have had four different bills all relating to the same period for, 533€, 1418€, 2770€ and the best one 23,246€ unbelievable!