Beware the “Garden Shed” Tax

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The recently-introduced Taxe d’Aménagement could cost owners of extensions or garden enhancements in French homes quite dear – resulting in an 80% tax rate overall in some cases

Since 2012, the French tax authorities have come up with an imaginative way of increasing their tax take on homes. Dubbed the “garden shed” tax by some, it’s a tax that isn’t means-tested and is imposed on structures that hold little value of themselves, giving it the potential to have an overbearing effect on some of the more modest holdings. Although it’s a tax of whose existence few homeowners in France are aware, it’s very much active and can be imposed by the Ministry of Finance at various points: such as when someone goes to make an annual fiscal declaration or when they go to the local town hall seeking planning permission for construction or extension.

The taxe d’aménagement can, in fact, affect any construction greater than 5m2 and of a ceiling height greater than 1.8 metres concerning a project that hasn’t officially been declared exempt by the local council. It’s a once-off payment but the amount can prove dissuasive for simple constructions, just as it’s difficult to justify the imposition of such a levy to cover the supposed costs of servicing or connecting to various local services or networks.

One example is an unfortunate citizen in the little rugby-mad town of Isle-Jourdain in the Gers department in South-West France – about 30km west of Toulouse. He bought a gazebo in his local hypermarket, the price of which was €1,401.33 before taxes. It was 19m2 and had a basement section for storing gardening equipment. When he paid for it, he had to include an additional €288.67 in VAT but then found that the local council needed to collect a further €894 in taxe d’aménagement. In total, therefore, he ended up paying an effective tax rate of 84.4% on his gazebo. Put another way, a gazebo with a price tag of €1,690 in the shop ended up costing him €2,584.

It’s not an isolated example either. According to independent think-tank/watchdog IFRAP, there are various other examples published on its website: €250 tax for an 8m2 shelter that cost €1,200 in Nord-Finistère; €365 on a 25m2 open swimming pool in the Var; €500 tax bill for a 17m2 shelter in Côtes-d’Armor.

There’s a growing resentment amongst the populace as the realisation of this tax hits home. The complaints are being taken into account, according to a recent statement by Christian Eckert – State Secretary with Budgetary Responsibility. But new smash-and-grab-style taxes have a horrible habit of hanging around rather than just disappearing. So before adding on that lean-to or gazebo or swimming pool to your holiday home, you might need to have a second look at the budget.

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