The latest news from the Languedoc - July 2010

Bienvenue !

The Cigales are singing in the trees and the sounds of summer melt in the beating sunshine…..

We have articles this month on a magical lunar experience, taxes - what do they mean?, Roquefort cheese, the Pet Travel Scheme and as usual we present our featured properties.

The average high temperature during May and June in Montpellier was


with a recorded high of 34°C and nearly 80% days of sunshine

Put Sunday 25th July in your diary and become a moon catcher !

The Théâtre de la Pleine Lune (the Full Moon Theater) hosts a unique, magical event - the first of its kind in the world. Bring a mirror and become a moon catcher for the night.

You are invited to participate (free) in this unusual event, held on the banks of the river Hérault in Saint Bauzille de Putois (40km north of Montpellier). This is the first time such an event has been organised and everybody with an interest in the sky, biodiversity, fighting against light pollution, the use of solar energy and natural light, or just simply fans of the Moon, are invited to be part of this experiment.

Hubert Camerlo lit by moonlight in a French solar oven in the Pyrenées

Humbert Camerlo, an Opera Director, has made it his mission to promote the establishment of a network of 'Full Moon Theatres' throughout the world that contribute to the optimum use of natural light source and an understanding and awareness of light pollution. His vision to merge the different disciplines of art, science and technology took shape one full moon evening when his wife Viviane reflected moonlight onto a playing card and the colours on the Queen of Hearts came shining through the darkness of the night.

He soon realised natural light could be used for the performing arts and even in architecture or town planning. You may have heard of the famous TV show 'La nuit des étoiles filantes' (the night of the shooting stars) which was hosted by the Full Moon Theater. Unfortunately, city light polution impedes our ability to enjoy the marvellous night sky in all its glory.

Using optical systems that multiply the light of the Moon he is able to light up the stage in such a way that you can not only see the performers, but the colours of their costumes too. In order to have an efficient system and enough light to perform they need to bring together between 1000 and 2000 people, each with their own mirror, to reflect moonlight back onto the stage. You will not only be spectators but absolutely integral to the show !

On the night of Sunday 25th July from 9pm to half past midnight, come along with your mirror to light up the entertainment and become a moon catcher for the night.

For more information, visit their website

(Note - the actual full moon is on Monday 26th July at 02h36 French time).

Two things guaranteed in life: death and taxes

As a permanent resident in France, or merely that you own a holiday home, you will be subject to the French taxation system. No doubt, we all dutifully write out a cheque when the demand arrives, but do we really know what it all means?

You will probably first encounter the French tax system when you buy a property in France. The Notaire fees will come to around 6-7% of the property price. If the seller bought the property from a developer less than 5 years ago, then the notaire fees would come to around 3.5 %.

As a property owner you are required to pay two local taxes : the taxe d'habitation and the tax foncièr. The rates vary across the country, due to the varying rates of tax imposed by the regional and local governments.

Taxe d'habitation - this is payable by the occupier of a French residential property, who was occupying the property on 1st January (whether you were physically there or not). The only exception is if the property was uninhabitable due to it needing extensive renovation, for example. If you let the property out as a furnished letting, then you can be exempted from the tax, although you would then become liable for business rates, and the tax is payable by the tenant (but not on holiday lettings). A reduction in the amount of tax payable, or complete exoneration from the tax, is available to certain groups of persons, provided the property is their principal home. For example, if you have children, if you are over 60, widowed, disable or infirm and if you have a low income (income limits for 2010 are based on your net income for 2009 (revenu fiscal de reference), which cannot be greater than €9,876 for one person and €15,150 for a couple).

You will also automatically be charged for a TV license (Redevance Audio-Visuel) along with your taxe d'habitation - the onus is on you to prove if you do not have a television. Included is a small tax for collecting and emptying dust bins known as Redevance Ordures Ménagères. The tax is calculated on how many people are in the house and whether it is a permanent or a secondary residence.

Taxe foncière - is payable by the owner of a French home and undeveloped land (whether occupied or not). There are exemptions for agricultural land and the owners of new property are granted limited exoneration. The tax is levied on a collective basis by the local, departmental and regional councils and goes towards the funding of local services. It is based on the notional rent that the property might be expected to achieve in the open market having regard to the size, condition and location of the property.

Income tax - if you are a resident in France, then you are liable to French taxation on your world-wide income. The level of taxation for expats who have taken early retirement, or who are of retirement age, is generally very modest.

Non-residents are obliged to make an annual return for income tax if they receive income in France from, for example, letting property in France.

French capital gains tax - if you are non-resident living in the European Union and sell a property in France you are liable for capital gains tax of 16%. If you are resident and selling a property that is not your main residence, then you will also be liable for social charges of 12,1%, totalling 28,1%. There is an exemption if the property is your main home, and it is levied on a reducing basis if you have owned it more than 15 years.

Inheritance tax in France - there is no French inheritance tax between husband and wife but thereafter each legatee gets walloped (up to as much as 60%). You do not have complete freedom to dispose of your French property on your death as you might wish as French law gives your children, and step-children, entrenched rights to a certain proportion of your French estate. You really must take professional advice on this matter before you buy a property, as a surviving spouse may find their hands tied with regard to any plans for their future.

If you are non-resident, one way of avoiding the effects of French inheritance law is to set up a company for the purpose of buying the property. Such companies are called Sociétés Civiles Immobilières (SCI). If you own shares in an SCI, which owns the property, you can dispose of them in accordance with the law where you are domiciled. Another way is to buy the property en tontine. It quite simply means that on the death of one partner the property passes to the survivor. Nevertheless, again, it is important to get advice on which way to purchase as each solution presents disadvantages and it is necessary to find the best option for your family.

Gift tax - this is a tax levied on gifts. It was introduced to prevent people from avoiding inheritance tax by giving away their property prior to death. As such, it is intended for large gifts (e.g. a house or other substantial assets) and is essentially the same as that for inheritance tax.

Car tax - France does not have an annual car tax but if buying a new vehicle you will need to pay a one-off tax, which is done when you register the car in your name. The car registration papers are known as the carte grise.

The above is not exhaustive (sadly) but is a summary of those most likely to affect you.

As the stock market continues to perform badly...
Don't watch your money melting away - keep it solid in the sun!

Cheeses of the Region - Roquefort

Technically, this cheese comes from Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées, but it is also produced throughout the départements of Aude, Lozère, Gard, Hérault and Tarn.

It is made from sheep (brebis) milk ; each kilogram of cheese requiring about 4.5 litres. Only those cheeses aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort.

The cheese is white, tangy, crumbly, salty and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of green mold giving it a characteristic odor and flavour. A typical wheel of Roquefort weighs between 2.5 and 3 kilograms, and is about 10 cm thick.

In 1925, the cheese was the recipient of France's first Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée when regulations controlling its production and naming were first defined. However, a similar cheese is mentioned in literature as far back as AD 79 and in 1411 Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of the cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Cheesemaking colanders have been discovered amongst the region's prehistoric relics. The mold that gives Roquefort its distinctive character (Penicillium roqueforti) is found in the soil of the local caves.

It is possible to take an informative tour of the caves, but whatever time of year you go, take along a jumper or jacket as the caves are kept at a constantly cool temperature below 9ºC.

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The way to enjoy your investment

Emergency Numbers

As ever, the French don’t like to make things simple – why have one all-encompassing number that everyone can remember when you can have half a dozen?

Anyway, the main ones (hoping you never need them) are:


Pet Passports

If you are already the proud owner of a property in France, you may be thinking of spending longer periods of time there, but perhaps one of the drawbacks is having to leave your beloved pet behind.

It is much easier these days to bring your pet (dogs, cats and ferrets – other pets have different rules so please visit the DEFRA website below for more details) back and forth from the UK, particularly if you drive, as border control for pet passports runs very smoothly. You just need to follow the rules of the Pet Travel Scheme and you will have no problems!

Firstly, your pet needs to be fitted with a microchip (this is a tiny little thing that is painlessly injected under the skin around the neck area – and the animal is never bothered about it afterwards). This allows a machine to read a ‘bar code’ which is unique to your animal and their passport. Then your pet is vaccinated against rabies. Again, painless and just like any other pet vaccination. You have to wait a month and then have a blood test to confirm your pet has the appropriate antibodies and then wait a further 6 months after this. Then your pet is free to travel with you into many other countries and re-enter the UK without having to spend months in quarantine.

Pets travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme can only enter the UK on certain sea, air and rail routes and you can only bring a maximum of five pets at any one time. On your return, you need to organise a visit to a vet who will give you a certificate to confirm your pet is fit to travel and will treat them for ticks and tapeworms. This must be done not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before checking-in at the airport/Eurotunnel etc.

More information here :

À Bientôt

Once again, I really do hope you have enjoyed our Newsletter – please keep your comments coming in as we are delighted to read them. Let me know if you have any suggestions for future Newsletters.

Remember we are looking for people to join our professional team in our offices in Montpellier, Narbonne, Béziers, and Nîmes-Uzès.

Call us on
+33 (0) 4 67 36 36 80

or by email


With best wishes

Annelise Bosshard
Managing Director
AB Real Estate