A Comprehensive Guide to the US France Tax Treaty
Updated: 1 day ago
Understanding the US France Tax Treaty is crucial for American living in France and to French individuals who have U.S. source income. This comprehensive guide breaks down the treaty's provisions, offering clarity on how it affects personal taxation and helps avoid double taxation.
Introduction to the US France Tax Treaty
The US France tax treaty, originally signed in 1994, serves as an agreement between the two countries for determining the taxation of income where both nations may have the legal right to tax according to their respective laws. The treaty covers, among many topics, residency tie-breakers and discusses taxation of various forms of income, including business profits, dividends, interest, pensions, and capital gains. This article will focus on some of the key aspects of the treaty that hold particular significance.
Relief of Double Taxation
The France US treaty provides mechanisms for relief from double taxation, ensuring that income earned in one country by residents or citizens of the other is not taxed twice. Specifically, the treaty allows U.S. citizens and residents to claim a foreign tax credit for the income tax they pay to France against their U.S. tax obligations. Conversely, France offers a credit for U.S. taxes paid against the French tax liabilities of its residents for U.S. sourced income.
Alexander Mahon, a U.S. citizen residing in Paris, earns an annual salary of $80,000. In France, he pays $25,000 in taxes for the year. Alexander's U.S. tax liability for this income amounts to $22,000. Thanks to the relief of relief of double taxation provision of the tax treaty, he is entitled to claim a foreign tax credit on his US taxes. Alexander applies the $25,000 he paid in France taxes against his U.S. tax obligation, effectively reducing his U.S. tax liability to zero and even generating a $3,000 credit surplus, which may be applicable for carryover to subsequent tax years.
The Savings Clause
The French US tax treaty contains a "savings clause" which allows the U.S. to impose taxes on its citizens according to its own laws, even if this contradicts the stipulations of the treaty. As a result of this clause, the majority of the benefits and reductions offered by the treaty do not apply to U.S. citizen expats.
Example of the Savings Clause Nullifying a Tax Treaty Benefit
Sarah Mason, a U.S. citizen and software developer, lives and works in Marseille, France for an American bio-tech firm. She conducts all her work in France and maintains no physical establishment in the U.S. Despite the France US tax treaty exempting such income from U.S. tax (since there's no permanent establishment), the savings clause overrides this, requiring Sarah to declare and possibly pay U.S. taxes on her income. Nevertheless, Sarah can take advantage of foreign earned income exclusions or tax credits for the taxes paid in France to avoid being taxed twice on the same income.
Expert Tip: It's crucial for U.S. citizens to familiarize themselves with the Savings Clause exclusions in the US France Tax Treaty to accurately determine which tax benefits they can utilize.
Tax Residency and the Tie Breaker Rules
The United States and France each have their own criteria for determining who is a resident for tax purposes. It's possible for someone to meet the residency requirements of both countries simultaneously. To prevent the problems that dual residency could cause, the France U.S. tax treaty provides a series of tie-breaker rules. These rules help to decide which country has the primary right to tax the individual's income.
Permanent Home Test: The first consideration is whether the individual has a permanent home available to them in one of the countries. If a permanent home is available in only one country, that country is generally considered the individual's country of residence for tax purposes.
Centre of vital interests Test: If the individual has a permanent home in both countries or in neither country, the treaty looks at where the individuals center of vital interests lies, in other words, where they have a closer personal and economic interests.
Habitual Abode Test: If the individual has a center of vital interests in both countries or in neither country, the treaty looks at where the individual has a habitual abode; in other words, where they live regularly. This could be where they spend more time or where they have a regular presence.
Nationality Test: If the individual has a habitual abode in both countries or in neither, the next factor considered is nationality. If the person is a citizen of only one of the countries, that country is considered their country of residence for tax purposes.
Mutual Agreement Procedure: In the rare case that the individual is a citizen of both countries or of neither, and the above tests do not resolve the issue of residency, the competent authorities of the United States and the France will determine the individual's residency through a mutual agreement, taking into account the person's facts and circumstances.
Taxation of US-Sourced Passive Income
Passive income from U.S. sources, which is not tied to a U.S. trade or business, is taxed at a flat rate of 30% if earned by a non-resident alien. However, the US France tax treaty may lower this rate or totally exempt it from US taxation for certain types of income. We've summarized some of the tax treaty rates in the table below. It's important to note that that these rates generally do not apply to U.S. citizens due to the savings clause mentioned earlier.
Treaty Article Citation
Dividends - Paid by U.S. Corporations
10(2) / 2P2
Dividends - Qualifying for Direct Dividend Rate
10(2) / 2P2
18(1) / 1PIII
Social Security and Alimony
18(1) / 1PIII
*Tax rate applies to 85% of the social security payments you receive from the U.S. Government. Therefore, the actual tax rate you pay on your total social security payments is 85% of the rate listed in the table.
Personal Service Income Earned While Temporarily Present in the US
Generally, income earned from work performed in the US would be considered US source income and would be subject to US taxation. However, the US French tax treaty lists certain exemptions where such income is not subject to US taxes. It's important to note that these exceptions generally do not apply to US citizens because of the savings clause mentioned earlier. We've summarized some of these exceptions in the table below:
Maximum Presence in U.S
Required Employer or Payer
Maximum Amount of Compensation
Treaty Article Citation
Any foreign resident*
Any U.S. or foreign resident
Full-Time Students - remittances or allowances
Any foreign resident
Full-Time Students - compensation during study or gaining experience****
12 consecutive months
Scholarship or fellowship grant
Any U.S. or foreign resident
*The exemption does not apply if the employee's compensation is borne by a permanent establishment that the employer has in the United States. **Fees paid to a resident of the treaty country for services performed in the United States as a director of a U.S. corporation are subject to U.S. tax.
***Exemption does not apply to the extent income is attributable to the recipient's fixed U.S. base.
****Applies only if training or experience is received from a person other than alien's employer.
The United States and France have a totalization agreement in place, which is designed to avoid double taxation of their income with respect to social security taxes. It establishes clear rules about which country's social security system covers the employee. As a result, employees and their employers can only be taxed by one country's social security system at a time.
State Taxes and the US France Tax Treaty
Numerous states within the United States impose income taxes on their residents. The adherence to the French U.S. tax treaty provisions varies by state—some may recognize them, while others may not.
Expert Insight: Always check with a tax professional about how state tax laws interact with the treaty, as this can vary significantly from state to state.
Need Help Navigating the US France Tax Treaty?
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