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|An aspect of fiscal policy|
Taxation in France is determined by the yearly budget vote by the French Parliament, which determines which kinds of taxes (or quasi-taxes) can be levied and which rates can be applied.
In France, taxes are levied by the government, and collected by the public administrations. French "public administrations" are made up of three different institutions:
Taxes in France are made up of taxes in the narrow meaning of the word, plus social security contributions. Most of the taxes are collected by the government and the local collectivities, while the social deductions are collected by the Social Security. There is a distinction to be made between taxes (impôts), which applies to production, importations, wealth and incomes, and social contributions (cotisations sociales), which are part of the total wage paid by an employer when he remunerates an employee. Taxes and contributions together are called in French prélèvements obligatoires (compulsory deductions).
Subject to French tax are people having their tax domicile in France, i.e. natural or legal persons either living in France, i.e. who have their homes or their principal residence in France; working in France; having the center of their economic interests in France. Only one of these criteria is sufficient for a person to be treated as taxable.
Despite a downward trend registered since 1999, the tax burden in 2007 (43.3% of GDP) remains at a high level, both historically and in comparison with other countries. OECD countries have experienced an increase in the tax burden since the mid-60s comparable to that of France, rising from 25% of the GDP in 1965 to 36% in 2005. That of the countries of the European Union has increased by nearly 12 percentage points of GDP over the period. Efforts to control the increase in the tax burden have been made by the states of the OECD: the tax rate decelerated during the 90s and has decreased slightly since 2000. This is why France continues to be among the OECD countries whose tax rate is the highest. Taxes account for 45% of GDP against 37% on average in OECD countries. The overall rate of social security and tax on the average wage in 2005 was 71.3% of gross salary, the highest of the OECD. The levels of social security contributions are particularly high (16.3% of revenue against 9.4% in average for OECD). The social security budgets are larger than the budget of the national government. The budgets of both the national government and of social security organizations run deficits.
There are many taxes in France. They can be classified according to the institution which collects and benefit from them and to the people who pay them. Taxes are monetary benefits imposed on people according to their capacities and without return of benefit, for the purpose of public expenditure to achieve economic and social goals set by the government. As for tariffs, they are different from taxes because of their strictly economic aspect; their purpose is to protect the domestic market. However, some charges levied by the customs administration are taxes: the value added tax levied on goods from non-members of the European Union, the tax on petroleum products, which applies regardless of the origin of products, and other taxes. Finally, although they are compulsory, social security contributions are not taxes as they are collected for one purpose - social protection - and as the taxpayers might benefit from these expenses. Some other taxes, based on personal income, are allocated to social agencies and do not give taxpayers the right to benefit from them.
These taxes, collected by public administrations or by the institutions of the EU, apply to the production and the consumption of goods and of services. These taxes are independent from profits. They include taxes on the products and others taxes on the production. The taxes on the production cover essentially the taxe professionnelle, the taxe foncière and the versement transport (the professional tax, tax land and the payment transport), which apply to the use of labour and the property or the use of land, buildings and other assets used for the sake of production. They are local taxes, so they are not collected by the central government (see Local taxes). Taxes on consumption traditionally consisted of indirect duties on the consumption and excise duties, applying only on the use of certain products (alcoholic beverages, manufactured, tobacco products and energy products). However, the establishment of the VAT and its generalization have considerably reduced the scope and thus the revenue of these indirect duties and excise duties even if one of them, the tax on petroleum products, is still considerable. The revenue from the excise duties amounted in 2007 to €2.7 bn, without the TIPP.
Value-Added Tax (VAT)
In order to establish a single market made up of the member states of the European Union, a number of directives on VAT has been enacted since 1967, with the obligation for states to adapt their domestic legislation. The rules relating to the scope, the tax base, the payment, the territoriality of goods and services as well as reporting requirements are partially harmonized, but states can apply transitional arrangements in respect of rates, exemptions and rights of deduction, whose rules are being harmonized.
The VAT is a general consumption tax, which applies to goods and services located in France. It is a proportional tax on output collected by the companies and ultimately completely supported by the final buyer, i.e. the consumer, since it is included in the price of goods or services. Indeed, VAT is applied to the "added value", i.e. the added value to the product or service at each stage of production or marketing, so that at the end of the economic circuit, the overall tax burden corresponds to the tax calculated on the final price paid by the consumer. The current standard rate is at 19.6%. Two reduced rates exist: a 7% rate for books and restaurant meals, and 5.5% for most groceries. A specific rate of 2.1% applies only to prescription drugs covered by Social Security. The net revenue of VAT in 2008 is €126 bn.
Tax on petroleum products
The taxe intérieure sur les produits pétroliers (TIPP) applies to petroleum products according to fixed rates provided by the legislation. It applies only in metropolitan France — in the overseas territories, there is a special consumption tax (TSC) on premium unleaded and diesel. It applies to motor fuels and heating fuels, such as petrol and gasoline, electricity, natural gas, coal and coke. In the face of the rise in oil prices, a reduction in the rate of the TIPP for fuel sold to consumers was adopted by the Parliament in 2006. The TIPP is collected by the services de la direction générale des douanes et des droits indirects (DGDDI) when petroleum products are consumed on the domestic market. The revenue from the TIPP amounted to €20 bn in 2008. Petroleum products are subject to both the tax on petroleum products (TIPP) and the value added tax (VAT). The TIPP is also included in the taxable amount of petroleum products subject to VAT.
As of 2012, the rate varies from about €0.44 per litre for diesel to €0.61 per litre for petrol with some regional variation. 
In addition, it may be taxed when owned: wealth is subject to annual taxation through the impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) and local property taxes are payable on real estate. Capital gains is payable when assets are disposed of, but this tax is a tax on the profit.
The taxes called droits d'enregistrement, correspond to the stamp acts. They mainly apply to the sale of buildings (in addition to local taxes), inheritance and gifts, assignment of businesses and registration of vehicles. Revenues collected by the state amounted in 2006 to €14.7 bn.
|2010 Rates |
Value of net assets
|Below € 790,000||0|
|Between € 790,000 and €1,290,000||0.55|
|Between € 1,290,000 and €2,530,000||0.75|
|Between € 2,530,000 and €3,980,000||1|
|Between € 3,980,000 and €7,600,000||1.30|
|Between € 7,600,000 and €16,540,000||1.65|
|Beyond € 16,540,000||1.80|
Wealth Tax (solidarity tax on wealth), in French impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) is an annual tax payable by individuals the net value of whose wealth exceeds a certain amount. It was established in 1989 to finance the RMI. In 2008, the return of ISF amounted to €4.5 bn.
Individuals who are resident in France are taxed on their worldwide assets and individuals who are resident outside France under French law are taxed on their assets in France. The tax is set for each household (married couples or partners, persons cohabiting, plus minor children). The tax base includes all property, rights and values that constitute the wealth of taxpayers at 1 January of the relevant tax year (buildings built or not, individual businesses, farms, movable furniture, financial investments, debts owed to you, automobiles, aircraft, pleasure boats, ...). However, certain assets are wholly or partially exempted (mainly professional property, i.e. individual companies, rights on literary and artistic works held by the author, some rural property, objects and antiques, artwork or collectibles).
Individuals resident in France are entitled to a deduction of 30% against the value of their main home for wealth tax purposes.
A resident in France may potentially reduce wealth tax due to the restriction that applies to the amount of combined income tax, wealth tax, social charges (CSG and CRDS) and local property taxes that can be taken from one's taxable income.
This restriction is known as the Bouclier Fiscal or tax shield, and limits these taxes to no more than 50% of your taxable income.
On 6 August 2008, France enacted a law that entitles all those who have been non-resident in France for the five previous years, to exclude their non-French assets from wealth tax for the first five years of their residence in France.
While this minor tax applies only to the most wealthy of the population, and actually collects very little revenue (2% of overall tax revenue), it is very controversial. Many people on the political left consider it a symbol of solidarity, while many on the right argue that it encourages entrepreneurs to leave France.
These taxes, known as Droits de Succession et de Donation, apply to both gifts and inheritances. The taxes apply where:
(a) The donor/deceased is resident in France at the date of the gift/death;
(b) The recipient is resident in France and has been so resident for at least 6 of the 10 tax years prior to the year in which the gift/inheritance is received; or
(c) The asset is a French asset.
These provisions can be overridden by a Tax Treaty.
Tax is payable by the recipient, based on the amount received and their relationship with the donor or deceased.
Assets passing on death between spouses and PACS partners are now exempt from French succession tax, but gifts are still taxable between spouses and PACS partners.
As for wealth tax, the value of your main home can be reduced by 30% for succession tax purposes provided the property is also occupied as a main home by the surviving spouse or by one or several children. PACS partners can also benefit from the 30% deduction.
The tax rates for 2010 are as follows:
|Taxable Inheritance||To Spouses and PACS Partners: (gifts only)||Tax on band||Cumulative Tax|
|Less than €7,953||5%||€398||€398|
|€7,953 to €15,697||10%||€774||€1,172|
|€15,697 to €31,395||15%||€2,355||€3,527|
|€31,395 to €544,173||20%||€102,556||€106,083|
|€544,173 to €889,514||30%||€103,602||€209,685|
|€889,514 to €1,779,029||35%||€311,330||€521,015|
|Taxable Inheritance||In the direct line (including adopted children |
but not stepchildren unless adopted)
|Tax on band||Cumulative Tax|
|Less than €7,953||5%||€398||€398|
|€7,953 to €11,930||10%||€398||€796|
|€11,930 to €15,697||15%||€565||€1,361|
|€15,697 to €544,173||20%||€105,695||€107,056|
|€544,173 to €889,514||30%||€103,602||€210,658|
|€889,514 to €1,779,029||35%||€311,330||€521,988|
|Taxable Inheritance||Brothers and Sisters||Other relatives to the 4th degree |
(nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, cousins, great-aunts and uncles etc.)
|More remote and non-relatives|
|Less than €24,069||35%||55%||60%|
Allowances are available, and the main ones are:
|Relationship of recipient to donor/deceased||Allowance|
|Spouse or PACS partner||€79,533|
|For inheritances and gifts, disabled persons receive an additional||€156,974|
In France, unmarried couples (whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual) can enter into a PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarite) agreement.
The PACS is a written agreement which can now be achieved by going before a Notaire who then registers it with the authorities. The relations between the partners are similar to those of husband and wife.
A PACS can be entered into by:
- any couple living in France of whatever nationality, AND
- any couple living outside of France, provided at least one of them is a French national
The tax position for PACS partners is now aligned with that of a married couple. For income tax purposes, the couple is assessed to income tax as a household from the day the PACS agreement takes force.
For succession tax, the surviving PACS partner is exempt from tax on inheritances. For gifts, the allowance is now €79,533 and the tax rates are as for married couples. If a PACS agreement is broken before the end of the year following the year it was entered into, for motives other than marriage of the couple or death of one of the partners, the allowance will be denied and the tax relief clawed back.
As of 14 May 2009, France recognises most foreign Civil Partnerships as equivalent to a PACS.
In France there are three categories of taxes on income: the corporate tax, the income tax for individuals and taxes for social purposes (CSG and the CRDS, paid by the households). Taxes paid by employers on wages, namely social contributions, are not considered as taxes by the French central government.
The impôt sur le revenu (IR) is a tax on all income available to individuals in a year. With certain exceptions, net income is determined from total income, whatever its origin, after applying certain deductions, and then a single scale of taxation is applied. This scale is characterized by rates applied to slices of income according to the principle of progressivity. However, there are numerous provisions, so there are many systems of taxation depending on the type of income received. In addition, some income and capital gains are subject to a fixed rate of tax. The IR is payable each year on the total taxable income of the household. In 2007, proceeds from the IR amounted to €57 bn.
The income subject to IR is divided into seven categories: industrial and commercial profits, non-commercial and agricultural profits, land income, salaries and wages, pensions and annuities, movable income, and capital gains. Individuals' total income is taxed if they are resident in France, whether they have French nationality or not. Individuals not living in France are taxed only on their income from French sources. The tax is calculated for each "fiscal household", i.e. the family unit composed of either a single person, or two partners and their children or other dependents. Whatever the nationality, a person who is a tax resident in France is taxable on their worldwide income. People not living in France are subject to limited tax on their income from French sources only.
The amount of taxable income, or "revenu fiscal de référence" (RFR), is not equal to the income received by the household in the year. Instead, the RFR is determined by dividing the income by the number of "parts" in the fiscal household (1 part for every adult, 1 part for the first child, and 0.5 parts for each successive child), and then diminished further by a standard deduction and any other deductions the taxpayer may have claimed in the year.
The table below shows the percentage of income tax applicable to taxable income, or RFR (rather than gross income).
|1 Unit (=1 Adult household)||2 Units (=2 Adults household)||3 Units (=2 Adults + 1 child household)||3.5 Units (=2 Adults + 2 child household)||4 Units (=2 Adults + 3 child household)||Rate|
|Below €5,875||Below €11,750||Below €14,688||Below €17,625||Below €23,500||0%|
|From €5,875 to €11,720||From €11,720 to €23,400||From €14,688 to €29,300||From €17,625 to €36,160||From €23,500 to €46,880||5.5%|
|From €11,720 to €26,030||From €23,440 to €52,060||From €29,300 to €65,075||From €35,160 to €78,090||From €46,880 to €104,120||14%|
|From €26,030 to €69,783||From €52,060 to €139,556||From €65,075 to €174,448||From €78,090 to €209,349||From €104,120 to €279,132||30%|
|Beyond €69,783||Beyond €139,556||Beyond €174,448||Beyond €209,132||Beyond €279,132||41%|
|Income per Unit||Rate|
|From €6011 to €11991||5.5%|
|From €11991 to €26631||14%|
|From €26631 to €71397||30%|
|From €71397 to €151200||41%|
Exemptions are made for social reasons. Taxpayers whose net income does not exceed €7,920 are exempted from the IR. In principle, taxable income is calculated from the income available to a fiscal household in one year. Some expenses by the household tax are deductible from total income. There can be cuts and maximum taxable amounts of the income.
The income tax is calculated by the administration based on the amounts reported by taxpayers who are required to declare their whole income earned during the previous year. But the calculation of income tax takes into account the personal situation of the taxpayer, in particular through the "family quotient" (or units in the household) on the one hand and in the allocation of reductions or tax credits to taxpayers, on the other hand. The family quotient can take into account family responsibilities and, according to them, eases the effects of progressive taxation since the progressive rate is applied to a partial income (the taxable income). This process consists of dividing the taxable income of the household tax into a number of units (or parts) equal to the number of individuals. The progressive scale of tax is then applied to taxable income per share. Finally, this partial tax is multiplied by the number of units to determine the taxable base.
The family quotient is one unit for a single person, two for a married couple, plus an extra half for each of the first two children and an additional unit for each child from the third.
There are certain limitations to the amount of tax savings that can be achieved under the parts system. If the system produces a tax bill which has been reduced by more than €2,301 (for 2009 income) per half part compared to what it would have been without reference to the parts, you are not allowed to use this system. You will always receive 2 parts for a married couple notwithstanding.
Various tax credits are available to set against the total tax calculated. These include tax credits for dividends, energy-saving work carried out on the main residence, purchase of an environmentally friendly car, employment of home help, child minding expenses, for filing tax returns electronically and paying tax by direct debit or electronically, for mortgage interest, among others.
High earners income tax
For tax years 2013 & 2014 earnings above 1 million euros will be subject to a tax payable by the payer/employer. The tax introduced by Francois Hollande as the 75% tax is in fact a 50% tax which when social security charges are added reaches 75%.
The corporate tax, in French impot sur les societes (IS), is an annual tax in principle that affects all profits made in France by corporations and other entities. It concerns about one-third of French companies. The standard rate is 33.1% for all of their activities. In 2006, the net proceeds from corporation tax amounted to €47.8 bn. The taxable income is equal to the difference between gross profit and costs and deductible expenses. The gross operating profit is made by the difference between sales and costs. In addition to the gross operating profit, all income or profits made apart are normally taxable: income from the rental of property, interests, deposits and bonds. A reduced rate applies to a limited number of Long Term Capital Gains.
Since its creation in 1945, the Social Security is mainly financed by social contributions or "cotisations sociales", i.e. deductions from wages. Until recently, there was no wide taxation on social expenditure, contrary to most of its European partners. However, in order to find a solution to the problems of financing of the social security, governments have had to broaden its range of resources by the introduction of additional tax, notably the general social contribution (CSG) and the repayment of the debt of social security (CRDS) at a rate of 0.5%, to repay the debt of the ASSO.
Established by the Finance Act 1991, the general social contribution (CSG) is payable by individuals living in France and who benefit from the compulsory health insurance. Revenues from the CSG are allocated to social security budget, specifically to the National Family Allowance, the Solidarity Fund pension schemes and insurance. Indeed, unlike the social contributions that give those who pay a right to benefit from them, the CSG, is levied without direct compensation (like any other tax). The CSG has a very broad base as it applies in principle to earnings and income from wealth. The CSG is composed of three separate contributions. Incomes from work are taxed at 7,5%. The rate applied to income from investments is 8.2%. It also applies to financial investment (with exceptions for certain untaxable products : Codevi, livret jeune, livret A, livret d'epargne populaire). In 2005, the revenue from the CSG amounted to €71.47 bn.
The contribution to the social debt (CRDS) was created in 1996. Like the CSG, it applies to earnings and to income from wealth. It was initially established for a period of 13 years, but this time limit was abolished in 2004. The territorial scope of the CRDS is the same as the CSG: thus, CRDS is paid by individuals living in France who benefit from a compulsory insurance scheme. The rate is 0.5%. The base of the CRDS is somewhat broader than the CSG, for it includes incomes exempted from CSG such as family benefits or housing allowances. The methods of recovering the CRDS are identical to those of the CSG. CRDS is not deductible from the tax base for tax on income. The yield for the year 2005 is €5.2 bn.
In summary, the social charges are made up of four elements: the CSG, CRDS, PS and RSA. The amounts are different for each type of income, and the position can be summarized below:
|Salaries and unemployment benefits (on 97% of gross)||Retirement or Disability Pensions (on 95% of gross)||Investments, annuities, rental income and capital gains|
|CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée)||7.5%||6.6%||8.2%|
|CRDS (Contribution au remboursement de la dette sociale)||0.5%||0.5%||0.5%|
|PS (Prélèvement Sociale Contribution additionelle)||0%||0%||3.4%|
|RSA (Revenu de solidarité active)||1.1%|
There are no allowances on reliefs other than being able to deduct a proportion of the social charges payable on income taxed at the scale rates against earned or pension income. Thus, where income or gains are taxed at fixed rates, no deduction is available.
There are a huge number of local taxes. The most important are the direct taxes. The local direct taxes are the oldest taxes in the French tax system, as they succeed to direct contributions that were created in 1790 and 1791 as taxes collected by the central government then transferred to local authorities upon the tax reform of 1917. Local taxes are levied by the state for local authorities (regions, departments, municipalities, local public institutions). There are four main direct taxes (taxe foncière sur les propriétés bâties, la taxe foncière sur les propriétés non bâties, taxe d'habitation and taxe professionnelle). The rates are set by the territorial assemblies (regional or municipal councils) when they vote their annual budget. However, rates can not exceed certain limits set by the state. The tax bases are established by the state. There are many permanent or temporary exemptions. In 2006, the revenue from the four major local direct taxes amounted to €60.2 bn. Apart from these four main taxes, there are many other taxes. Direct taxes include the Taxe pour frais de chambres d'agriculture (expense of the chambers of agriculture), the Taxe d'enlèvement des ordures ménagères (garbage collection), and the taxe sur les pylônes. Indirect taxes are taxes applying to spring water, mines, spectacles, advertising, navigation, electricity, pollution and workplace.
The professional tax is due each year by legal persons or natural persons who are self-employed in France. Various exemptions are provided (activities performed by the State, local authorities and public institutions, business and agricultural organizations, etc.). The tax base is constituted by the rental value of assets available to the taxpayer. This is then subject to discounts or rebates. The amount of business tax is calculated by multiplying the taxable net by the rates approved by each local beneficiaries. The rates are set by the local communities and organizations, within limits set by national legislation. In 2005, proceeds from the business tax amounted to €25.06 bn.
The housing tax applies to all building sufficiently furnished and their dependencies (gardens, garages, private car parks): the tax is payable by any person who has a residential unit at one's dispossal, for any reason (owner, renter, occupant for free). The tax base is the cadastral rental value of the residential property. In 2005, the revenue from the housing taxes amounted to €13.37 bn.
The property tax on built lands is applied to properties built in France. The taxable properties consist of all permanent construction, i.e. buildings (blocks of flats, houses, workshops, warehouses, etc.). The tax base is the cadastral income, equal to 50% of the cadastral rental value of the building (i.e. the value set by the administration). For social reasons, there are many exemptions and exceptions. In 2005, the product amounted to €17.73 bn.
In 2007, revenues amounted to €818.9 bn, or 43.3% of GDP.
There are four beneficiaries of the tax revenues: in 2007, social security administrations have received just over half; the state and the central government bodies near a third; the local administrations (APUL) nearly 13%; the European Union (EU) less than 1%. Direct and indirect taxes account for 62.8% of total revenues in 2007. State resources come almost entirely from taxes. The social security bodies are financed largely by social contributions but also by taxes, including the general social contribution (CSG) and the contribution for the repayement of the social debt (CRDS), which represented in 2007 a quarter of the funding of the Social Security administrations. Local administrations are mostly financed by the four main local direct taxes (housing tax, property taxes and business tax).
|Administration||Direct taxes||Indirect taxes||Social contributions|
|Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization||54.5||45.5||0|
|Social Security Administration||19.8||9||71.2|
|public administration||in billion €||% of the total||% of the GDP|
|Local & Regional government||95,2||12,7||5,6|
The public deficit amounted to 2.9% of the GDP (€ 50.6 billion) in 2007 compared to 0.2% on average in the euro zone, excluding France. The actual deficit may exceed the threshold of 3% if the situation deteriorates. The public debt amounted in 2007 to 63.9% of GDP, which represents 47 000 € per person employed. Public debt has increased in the last years, and the expenditures to repay the interests have reached 52 billion € in 2007 or 2000 € per person in employment.
The deficit of social security administrations remains at € 11bn, but the corresponding debt ("social debt") has increased. The deficit of local administrations is still limited, but amounted to 7 € bn in 2007, as a result of a spending growth significantly higher than that of the revenue in the recent years. As for the net tax revenue of the central government, it remained in 2007 at the same level as in 2004, whereas the total revenues rose by 51 billion € since 2004, because of increasing transfers of reveues to social security and local authorities to reduce their deficit (€70 bn in 2007). In 2007 France's central government took in revenues of approximately €272 billion and had expenditures of €354 billion. Overall, the government registered a deficit of approximately €42 billion.
Although deficits have been commonplace, efforts have been made in recent years to cut back the growth of taxes and government spending. Deficit reduction became a top priority of the government when France committed to the European Monetary Union. The Maastricht Treaty targets for the EMU required the members countries to reduce the government's budget deficit to 3% of GDP and the public debt to 60% of GDP.
The evolution of the level of the tax burden since the early 70s can be divided into three distinct phases. First, during the 70s and in the first half of the 80s, the tax rate has increased from 34% to 42%. Then it stabilized at a rate close to 42% until the early 90s, when it resumed its growth rate to the historical height of 44.9% in 1999. Since then, the rate of PO government has declined slightly to between 43% and 44% of the GDP.
Over the last decades, the distribution of tax burden between the three main administrations has changed significantly. The share allocated to the state has tended to decline, while that allocated to the social security institutions and local governments has grew. The higher tax rate of social security is due to the general upward trend of social spending, particularly the higher spending on pension and health insurance system. The pension expenditure grew from 11% of the GDP in 1981 to 13% in 2007, and health spending increased from 6% of the GDP to 10% in 2006 over the same period.
among which CSG
In this context, the structure of the funding of the social security administrations has been more and more assured by taxes rather than social contributions. In particular, new taxes were levied to help fund the social security administrations, such as the general social contribution (CSG) and the contribution for the repayment of the social debt (CRDS). More recently, the central government has help funding the social security administrations by the revenues from the excise on alcohol and tobacco, in part to offset reductions in social contributions. As for the growth of the revenues for the benefit of local administrations, it is only due to the devolution, begun with the 1992 laws, and continued with the reforms in 2003.
The tax system has never been united in France. There have always been an extreme diversity in collection, the base, the rates and the nature of the taxes. Until 1789, taxes were collected by the state, the church and lords. After the French revolution, taxes consisted of taxes on wealth and on incomes. The current tax system was shaped during the 20th century. All taxes created under the French Revolution were abolished, the last being the patentes, abolished in 1974. Whereas taxation aimed at assuring "the maintenance of the public force" and "the expenditures of the administrations"(Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen de 1789), taxation is now aiming at assuring efficient public services and a fair distribution of the wealth and the income.
Historically, most taxes have been paid either or in shares of harvest (dime and champart) or work (corvée, military service). Gradually, each of these taxes has been replaced by a cash contribution for being more convenient for both the beneficiary and the taxpayer. The taille, created in the 14th century, was one of the oldest taxes levied by the French monarchy. It was replaced by the fouage. Under the Old Regime, the collection of taxes was leased, i.e. that the state entrusted the task to entrepreneurs, big farmers, who paid the amount of the tax to be levied, then levied the tax for themselves. The system was convenient for the both the state (the revenue was anticipated and it was disposed of the unpopularity of tax collectors) and for big farmers (the bargain was very profitable). However, the people considered the collection mainly a source of injustice and excesses.
Some notable indirect taxes under the Old Regime were the aides (indirect taxes collected by the state, applying to beverages), the banalités (tax imposed by the lords for the use of mills, ovens and wine presses), the casuel (collected by the Church at baptisms, marriages and funerals), the cens (tax collected by the lords, for the use of their land), the champart (collected by the lords, paid by an amount of the crops of grains), the dîme (collected by the church, applying to all the lands), the gabelle (collected by the king, for the consumption of salt), the minage (collected by the king or the lords, for the sales of grains at fairs and markets). There were three direct taxes, created between the 15th and the 18th centuries: the taille, the capitation and the dixième. The taille, created in the 15th century and used for more than three centuries, applied to incomes from non-privileged people from ownership, housing, farm land and breeding. The capitation, created in 1695, was a tax on social status that taxed everyone, however, for those subject to the taille the capitation was an addition to the taille. The dixième, created in 1710, applied to all the income from any ownership (land, real estate, annuities), at a rate of 10% (dixieme meaning tenth). In 1749, it was replaced by the vingtième (twentieth, i.e. a tax with a rate of 5%).
The French Revolution transformed the tax system completely. The former system was abolished. The parliament, on behalf of the people, took control of the right to levy taxes (the sovereign loses this right), destroyed all statutes and tax privileges (of the nobility and clergy, but also the provinces, cities, corporations, etc.) planned to establish a fair proportional contribution and made these changes official in the Declaration of Human Rights and the Citizen of 1789. Four direct taxes were created in the late 18th century, applying only to wealth: the land contribution, the housing contribution, the patentes (industry and trade), and the contribution from doors and windows.
Throughout the 19th century, taxes changed little. Taxes from the Revolution remained, i.e. taxes on wealth (Impôt sur la fortune) on the professional activity (the patente, ancestor of the taxe professionnelle), and many indirect taxes and "droits" applied to the trade of goods (inheritance, purchase of real estate). From the middle of the 19th century, there were debates for the creation of an income tax, proposed by Proudhon in 1848, then by Gambetta in 1869. In 1872, a tax on incomes from real estate was created. In 1876, Gambetta proposed to create a proportional tax on all incomes. The only result is the creation in 1896 of a tax on incomes from the stock exchange.
Before 1914, taxes mainly applied to the wealth (wealth, land, inheritance) or incomes from wealth. The tax burden did not exceed 10%. Many propositions, successively from Doumer, Cavaignac and Waldeck-Rousseau, failed, due to the opposition of the right. It was the Great War which gave the opportunity to create a tax on income, in 1917, thanks to Joseph Caillaux, the minister of Finances. At the same time, the four contributions created in 1790 and 1791 were turned into local taxes, and replaced by the income tax as the main national tax.
After the Second World War, the tax system underwent a certain number of reforms aiming at modernizing and adapting it. The income tax was adapted and old contributions abolished. A family quotient was created in 1945. The business tax was created in 1948, reformed in 1959. Finally, the last significant innovation in technical terms, the VAT was introduced in 1954. Then the French example was adopted gradually in most developed countries. The French tax system is currently controversial with the development of the European Union and globalization. Tax competition has risen sharply, and it becomes necessary to take into account the legal possibilities to avoid paying taxes (the practice of expatriation is legal, unlike tax evasion).