All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Very taxing, life in France

Nuclear Cooling Tower at the William H. Zimmer...Image by benuski via Flickr

So there's another tax I am going to have to pay.
What do we have so far?

VAT...a disgraceful tax which bears on every aspect of life and on essentials as much as luxuries.
The various local taxes which figure on my utility bills, for the local organisms to waste on studies for future useless projects.
Taxe fonciere. More waste on the local and regional level.
Taxe d'habitation. Ditto.
Taxe professionelle. Ditto.
Income tax. Waste on the national scale.
Contribution Sociale Generalisee. Paying for past waste.
Contribution au Remboursement de la Dette Sociale. Ditto.
Prelevement Social. Ditto.

And now I have to pay for another scheme to recycle the tax I pay into other people's pockets, all in the name of the environment! A Green Tax!
As far as I can see, I have to pay more for my heating fuel under this tax. Luckily I installed a new boiler a couple of years ago...the last one was like something off the Queen Mary adapted for oil...roaring as it engulfed money down in the basement. How many more rooms can I close off during the winter? How much more wood will I have to haul out of the river after the floods and cut for burning? How many more chimneys will I have to pay to have opened up, swept and certified?
The house is about as insulated as it can be for its' insulation was installed when I bought the place, and double glazed windows went in at the same time, but it's a big brute to heat, all the same.
Don't tell me to downsize.....just look at the property market. Anyway, I like this house.
I have absolutely no intention of going all electric.....any experience of Electricite de France and the behaviour of its' unions would put you off that option, left in the depths of winter for days without electricity. No wonder they sell so many gas and electric hobs combined in France. Apart from which, though I am a supporter of the nuclear option - come to think of it, the nuclear option is the first one I reach for when perturbed about anything at all - I am deeply unhappy about France's leaky nuclear stations.
Out in the wilds there is no piped gas, I already cook on gas bottles and refuse to be hostage to the prices hikes of Butagaz for refilling those ghastly white gas tanks that sit like massive puffballs on the lawn. Quite apart from being unwilling to pay for yet another certificate that my installations are in order before Butagaz would fill the wretched thing.
Then there is diesel for the car. I suppose that is going up as well...really welcome when you're miles from anywhere. I am already economical, grouping my shopping and other trips insofar as French opening hours will permit, so what else am I supposed to do? Start collecting birds' feathers and gluing them together, then taking off like Icarus from the balcony, a shopping bag tied firmly to each foot?

There is going to be a scheme that compensates those living in the wilds......I shall believe that when I see it. Any money that gets into the maw of the French state stays there and, besides, I can bet my boots that a 'study' would be made proving that I actually live in the heart of the civilised world and thus do not qualify for any compensation, while politicans' second mansions in Normandy would so qualify.

What I need is a system that could run the central heating from my blood pressure. All year round hot water!

I accept that I must pay taxes to have the services that a decent society needs in order to work, but I do ask myself if that is what I am actually getting for my money.
Education..... I don't use it, but I'm happy to pay for it.
Health services, I do use and am happy to pay, except that most doctors now won't make out of hours calls and you are in the dubious hands of telephone service 15.
Social services....happy to pay for our local system of help to keep people independent in their own homes as long as possible. Not happy with the workhouse like conditions of old peoples' homes.
However, where are the blasted gendarmerie when you need them? Out breathalysing someone.....just lately round here, an asthmatic, who agreed he had been drinking, explained his health problem and asked them to take a blood test instead. He has just copped a fine of 300 Euros.
Why are the rivers so polluted and nothing effective done about it, but a lot of 'studies' produced at great expense?
Why do cash strapped local authorities find grants to bring half witted 'performers' to so called 'festivals', and don't want to find the money to help communes do their own traditional thing?
'Why, when there is a functioning state education system does my commune cough up a grant to the local private school?
Why are our roads in such a poor state when there are so many unemployed?
Why are we wasting money on specialists in seeking grants from the European Union when we could do the job ourselves if only we could get our hands on the money?
And, to return to the environment, why do I have to go to the local dump ...sorry, recycling centre..where the uniformed dictator won't help with bulky items and the local travelling people take anything worthwhile for scrap?

The blood pressure powered central heating has just gone up a notch or two.

It's not just the open's all the others.
If I want to sell my house, I have to have 'studies' done to determine its' energy efficiency, the presence of lead and asbestos, the state of its electricity and gas installations, the state of its woodwork, and probably more since I last looked. All this requires the presence of an expert, who is poisoning himself with the radioactive equipment he uses to detect lead, and costs, inevitably, a vast amount of money.
I'd have to be mad not to tell a prospective buyer about the state of all of the above if there were any problems, and what about the buyer using his brain?
Further, I have my doubts about the process. Tell me how, when there are no keys to the house, an expert can enter, make his report and leave no foot or handmarks in the dust to be found when the buyer finally opens the door with a crowbar?

You want to communicate with the authorities, or make a complaint to a commerce? The letter must be sent registered otherwise its'existence will be denied. Amazing how bills, etc always find their way to me without being registered but it doesn't work in reverse. Another small, niggling tax on daily life.

I like the approach of the Turkish builder who used to help us. Hearing over lunch that we were going to buy a television for the holiday cottage, he said firmly
'Now be careful not to give your real name or address in the shop, otherwise you will have to pay the fine.'
In his view, the T.V. licence fee was just that - a fine and I begin to think that he had a point about the nature of taxes. Properly applied, they are taxes...inefficiently used, unfairly applied, they are fines.

It bothers me how many houses of cards we are supporting on our fiscal shoulders. I grew up with English local government when the town halls or council offices were not overstaffed, there was no PR element and ratepayers made regular use of the public auditor, and this free for all style of administration, local, national and European, gives me the horrors. You can't get at it to demand explanations as you could in the past in England.....not that it would give them, your letter wasn't registered.....

Sarkozy wants to do something for the environment? Take a few less jets to Brazil, for a start.

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  1. Oh wow! I don't know what to say....except that your blood pressure must surely have come down a bit now you've got that all off your chest?

  2. Well said - not much different in UK though.
    There was uproar when VAT was applied to electricity and gas but no help when oil prices rose by 300% - everyone I know in Wales uses oil for heating.

  3. Sounds complicated. However, at dinner with two friends last night they told us they were paying 19,000 dollars a year for health insurance (with a 2500.00 deductible) for the two of them. Both just over 60, they run a small business.
    We actually got a large refund from our health insurance with a note saying that people in NH were living healthier lives so they didn't spend as much on care. My thought is Obama has them scared with the possibility of a "public option" insurance plan.

  4. Ok, that's it...have you weasled your way into the local gendarme here & implanted listening devices in our humble home?...b/c I swear it sounds like you've been eavesdropping at La Maison M-J!! Your boiler and mine Mme could seriously produce some heat ;) I have a few other choice rants I could certainly add to the tax list...perhaps we shall have to have a coffee/tea on just that subject :0 Gave me a laugh or two...keep at it!

  5. The taxes in Spain are fewer and lower, and yet some of the services we get for them (the health service, for example) are excellent. Just as well really, because the process involved in declaring income once a year is a major source of mental ill health and high blood pressure.

  6. I must say that though the taxes are totally arbitrary in Greece, they are nothing like what you are paying- we pay fewer taxes all around.

    Of course the entire infrastructure of the country is not the same either... it's not even close.

  7. Ayak...ooof! It's the inefficiency and waste which annoys me so much.

    Mark, governments tend to think urban, so those of us out in the sticks get it in the neck every time.

    Zuleme...I didn't even include the social security payments in my list!

    L.R. M-J, I suspect there are a lot of blood pressure boilers out there just waiting to make their 'green' impact! Just don't think about the TVA on your coffee as you imbibe....

    Pueblo girl, filling out the tax forms is a doddle...everything is so controlled here that the bank sends you a form showing what you have to fill in on the income tax form, how much and on what line! Why, as they already have it sewn up, don't they just get their information from the bank in the first place?

    truestarr...but I think Greece beats France for E.U. grants per agricultural hectare...
    get busy on those vines, girl, and fill out the could be sitting on a fortune!

  8. I think I'll make a list of our taxes for you so we can compare. I'll get back to you on it.

  9. Not to mention excise duties.

    Tax and imaginative ways of imposing it on the populace seem to have become something of a sport for Western governments in recent years: who can get away with the most outrageous.

    Maddening and wasteful.

  10. Zuleme, that will be interesting..I am already thinking of the things I forgot to mention/

    Jon in France, I am willing to agree that it is a european government blood sport...but why are we so supine?