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Understanding French Tax Residency

Determining your tax residency can be more intricate than it appears at first glance, often leading to tons of questions. In this article, we delve into the complexities of tax residency, not to provide a definitive answer to your tax residency country but to equip you with the essential tools to comprehend your unique situation.

The Fundamental Definition of Tax Residency

Article 4B of the French General Tax Code (CGI) establishes the criteria for determining tax residency for individuals in France. These criteria encompass:

  • having a principal residence or habitual abode in France;
  • engaging in professional activities in the country;
  • or having the center of economic interests in France.

Combinations of these criteria ascertain an individual’s tax residency, subjecting them to income tax on worldwide income.

In the case of residency in two different countries, it is necessary to apply different criteria in succession to determine the predominant country. The following 4 criteria need to be applied consecutively to determine which of the two countries is considered your principal country of tax residence.

1)      Principal Residence and Its Significance:

The concept of the principal residence plays a pivotal role in determining tax residency. It revolves around the usual place of living, emphasizing family considerations. The principal residence is where a person habitually lives with their family, forming the core of family and personal life.

Connection with Family Life: The principal residence intertwines with family life, considering the residence not only of the individual but also of their family, including spouse and children.

Habitual Residence Criterion: Habitual residence extends beyond temporary stays, focusing on regular establishment of domicile influenced by factors such as duration of stays, family presence, and other commitments.

Determination of the Principal Residence: The assessment of where a person establishes the center of their habitual life determines the principal residence. If this is in France, the individual is considered a French tax resident.

2)      Center of Economic Interests (CEI):

The CEI criterion considers the location of economic activities, encompassing both professional and financial aspects.

Professional Activities: The location where the majority of professional activities occur influences tax residency. This includes the establishment of businesses, client locations, or the primary workplace in France.

Financial Affairs: Financial transactions and investments in France contribute to determining tax residency, emphasizing the economic connection with the country.

Wealth Management: The location of assets, like real estate, strengthens economic ties. Active participation in the French economy is vital in influencing tax residency.

3)      Main Place of Stay and the 183-Day Rule:

Different from the principal residence, the main place of stay focuses on the physical location where a person resides most frequently.

The main place of stay is often used in conjunction with other criteria such as the principal residence and the Center of Economic Interests to determine tax residency.

Frequency and Duration of Stays: Regular and frequent stays, exceeding 183 days in a calendar year, can impact tax residency, even if other criteria are not fully met.

Contrast with Principal Residence: The main place of stay may differ from the principal residence, focusing more on the physical location regardless of family presence.

The determination of the main place of stay can be supported by evidence such as electricity bills, lease agreements, bank statements showing local transactions, etc.

4)      The Criterion of Nationality:

If previous criteria fail to provide a clear answer on tax residency, nationality becomes the deciding factor. The taxpayer is considered a tax resident of their country of nationality.

Specific Cases Regarding Tax Residency

Certain situations deviate from the general rules, including:

  • Civil Servants and Diplomatic Agents: Specific rules apply to those with diplomatic status.
  • Posted Workers: Bilateral agreements may determine tax residency for salaried workers.
  • Students: Foreign students may benefit from exemptions under specific conditions.
  • International Artists and Athletes: Specific rules apply to those with an itinerant nature and income generated abroad.
  • Cross-Border Employees: Specific rules govern workers residing in neighboring countries.

Tax Residency for Mixed Couples

Tax residency rules for mixed couples, meaning couples composed of partners living in different places, can be complex. In France, tax residency is determined individually for each member of the couple, even if they are married. Here are some important points to consider:

  • Individual Determination: Each spouse is assessed individually for tax residency.
  • General Criteria Applied Individually: General criteria, such as the principal residence, the center of economic interests, and the main place of stay are applied separately to each spouse.
  • Possibility of Different Tax Residencies: Spouses may have different tax residencies based on their circumstances.
  • Coordination with International Tax Treaties: Mixed couples may benefit from international treaties to avoid double taxation.


Understanding tax residency can be overwhelming, but armed with this information, you have the tools to determine your situation. For any queries regarding your tax residency or French income tax return, feel free to reach out to us. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of French tax residency.

French Tax Online is a tax consultancy firm specialized in foreigners investing and living in France.

A member of the Budiz Company Group, which is a French chartered accountant registered with the Order of French Chartered Accountants (OEC).

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