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.

Monday, 13 August 2012

High Finance in La France Profonde

A friend's grandson works as a general handyman for the suits him well.
Varied work, mostly outside, and home for lunch!

As part of his job he works at the council owned campsite, a very pretty spot indeed where tall trees provide plenty of shade and the river runs in an arc round three sides of it.

It isn't a tourist hotspot, so the lady whose house lies across from the entrance collects the fees when she trots round in the evening to see if everyone is all right, but the basic amenities are in water, loos, showers and blocks to wash clothes and crockery.
All spick and span.
Part of the grandson's job is to make sure it remains so, as well as cutting the grass and checking on the state of the little bridge which crosses the river.

There are regulars, who stay for a couple of months, most of them (the men at least) being keen fishermen, and there are overnighters, most of whom have ended up there by underestimating the distance to their actual destination and looking for the nearest site at which to lay their weary heads.
Not enough business to tempt the council to tart it up.......but enough to wash its face.

So my friend was surprised to see the question of the campsite being put on the agenda for the next council meeting and when her grandson came home for lunch asked him if he had any idea what it was about.

Yes, he had. It was the norms.

Well, everything in France is governed by norms...but which norms were these?

New ones for campsites...and for hotels, too he thought...and gites....anywhere people could stay. But this was the one for campsites.

She knew it was no use asking for more information, his mind being on his lunch, so it was lucky that she met the maire's wife while going to the hairdresser in the afternoon.

Yes, Clovis is really upset. That's why he put it on the agenda.

Upset about what, exactly? I thought it pretty well ran itself with Marie-Claude nipping over in the evenings...

Well, it does, but then there were these new norms.
It came out some time have to be inspected and whatnot and there's a fee or you can't be classified and go in the guides.
Clovis and Monique went through it...handy her being a retired civil servant, she's used to all this....and it seemed that the campsite was all right, except it didn't have designated know, white lines and little hedges and so on.

But there's no need for all that, there's plenty of room and some people have a couple of caravans and like to park  up together.....

Well that's what Clovis and Monique thought, so they decided that, what with the fees and all that they wouldn't bother to register.
It's always done all right on word of mouth and with the bit of passing trade, so that's what they did.

So why is it on the agenda, then?

Because Clovis has just had another circular from the Prefecture.
They charge VAT at a reduced rate at the moment.....but if they don't register it goes up from seven something to nineteen something!

The regulars wouldn't be very pleased at that!

No, they wouldn't...I can hear old Victor now...!
Clovis did some figures and took them round to Monique and she the time you put on the extra VAT it will cost more to stay on an unregistered site than a registered one!

So what's Clovis going to do?

Well he rang up the Prefecture, but they're not registration, up goes the he's put it on the agenda.

It's just  another wheeze to get money out of people, says my friend.

Like those useless inspections before you sell a the septic tank pulling down weirs to improve water quality because they daren't ask the farmers to keep their sprays away from the telling people to use less water and then putting up the bills because they're not getting enough money's a world gone mad!

And I agree with her, indeed it is a world gone mad.
Manic regulations covering more and more aspects of life...and each with a price tag for the ordinary person to pay.

But she wasn't the only one with news...I had some for her.
I was now classed as a speculator.

You may remember that in the upsurge of ill will to bankers a financial transaction tax was to be imposed, the proceeds going to someworthy cause like an African dictator's villa in Switzerland.
This, it was claimed, would help to make speculation less attractive...would stop speculators distorting the market.

I have shares in a French company which I have tried to sell, only to fall back from the attempt each time foiled by the inability of La Banque Postale

A. To maintain my internet account without changing the access code but not giving me the new one.

B. to understand the word 'sell' in their own language.

I now understand that they were acting in my own best interest.....they were preventing me from becoming a speculator.

Because according to the detail of the financial transaction tax it will  only be levied if you have held the shares for more than one day.

Now dealing rooms see shares hurtling in and out of their possession in minutes if not seconds as they clip their percentage from the passing shower of they won't be hit.
They are thus not speculators distorting the market.

But I am, if I ever manage to outwit La Banque Postale.


  1. How is an ordinary mortal to survive these vicissitudes? There used to be films about crafty little people outwitting the big machine of bureaucracy (French and Italian); perhaps they could become prescribed viewing and we all learn a thing or two. Having a committee to discuss them makes the whole thing only worse.

    Or you could crack open a bottle and, when empty, crack it over the heads of the entire Banque Postale.

    The latter might be incitement to rioting and get me intro trouble if you tell anyone else.

  2. Don't worry, your incitement to violence secret is safe with me....

    I am ordering purple and gold clothing in order to descend on the regional seat of La Banque Postale in the proper style on my next trip to Europe.
    I draw the line at adopting a curly beard however.

    The latest mad scheme proposed to claw in tax revenues is to tax the 'virtual benefit' of property owners who have paid off their couldn't make it up, could you!

  3. The gypsy lifestyle is suddenly a little less attractive.

    1. It won't worry the real gyppos...they never pay anyway!

  4. And to think that many years ago I had dreamed of a life in France. Am quite glad I didn't pursue it.

    1. It has grown considerably worse over the years....thus the voting with my feet!

  5. Hello:
    We do so tire of the petty regulations which, more often than not, emanate from Brussels and which, particularly in Britain, are adhered to with regular monotony. Here in Hungary they are largely ignored in favour of absolutely ridiculous schemes to bring in money to finance politicians' lifestyles. That and VAT on EVERYTHING at 27%!

    1. Just like France, then...though they haven't dared increase VAT to those levels.
      The proliferation of more and more boards to 'inspect' more and more elements of life in order to rake in money is scandalous.

  6. Aaarrrgh!!! Don't get me started on norms!!

    My gîte is classed as a building accessible to the public. Our pool has to meet public swimming pool standards, every room has to be wheelchair accessible, the fire alarms have to wake the dead (or deaf and blind, though not people who are both together, I think)

    And they change every five minutes.

    1. All joy, isn't it!
      You just think you've covered everything and they think up some new wheeze to extract money from you...

  7. Seems like a good time for Hollande & co to sell off the whole goliathan bureaucracy of the State taxation system in one big juicy bundle. Especially now his 100 day honeymoon is seemingly over. Privatise the lot and watch the revived voter poles take the roof off the Élysée Palace. Right across the Eurozone the national tax revenue industry has never looked as good a bet to hedge your meagre funds into than right now. Captive market business is good and looking set to flourish for generations to come. Time to get radical. Sell it all off to say the ten biggest and trusted French supermarket chains on the simple proviso their core business remains based at least mostly within the French metropol or its principle dominions. Buy your baguette, a carton of euro milk and pay all your now discounted taxes in one go at the express checkout on a Sunday morning, and collect a free car wash voucher as a thank you from the government with your receipt. French republicans and ex pats just need a little more choice and variety with their tax obligations that’s all. The whole concept of ‘paying your taxes’ needs a major make over. It’s past its sell by. It’s a bore. Everyone hates the notion of forever being forced by a mere Norm and a posse of suits to hand over most of their hard earned cash for some new anal idiocracy levy that didn’t even exist until yesterday, so why not sex it up a lot. Erase the term tax payer and replace it with ‘investor patriot’ or ‘IP’ for short. Give all the IP’s an equal quantity of locked in supermarket ‘futures’ shares to speculate with after five years. Start a weekly ‘tax return’ lottery scheme with say a hundred lucky IP winners in each of the provinces, meaning that the lucky winners get all their taxes returned for the last five years. Promote healthy competition between all the supermarkets now licensed to issue IP Shares. Tax deals, tax give aways, economy range tax products, buy one tax share - get one free, IP loyalty cards, etc etc. Attractive discount tax opportunities for all voters, tax credits for registered farmers, nurses, carers and other really nice people, armistice bonus shares for serial tax evaders, big dividend pay outs biannually for the whole IP family, and so on. Make taxation fun again, like the old days.

    Moving on then…talking of “stopping speculators distorting the market” - read this link here
    to an alarming BBC article about the newest breeds of ‘High Frequency Traders’ when you’ve a mo. Scary wary stuff though so be warned. You might want to fortify yourself first with a pint or two of that banana moonshine you keep in the laundry basket. I’m off to buy a copy of ‘Algorithms for Dummies’. Time to get clued up before some super silicone chip and a nasty great maths equation gambles the whole planet away to the Klingons in a single high frequency armageddon pulse one night …by mistake. At least the financial transaction tax Norms will never have a frogs chance in hell of getting their hands on any Klingon shares mind. Not with this lot, and anyway these creatures move their shares on in way less than nano seconds let alone a jurasic 24 hours. It’s all out of our control now. We’re all just along for the ride.

    Sorry, I won’t be laid up in bed over here for too much longer. Doctor wants his lap top back next week too.

    1. I daren't let Eddie Leclerc see this....he'd be having wet dreams for the weeks it takes the Elysee to get him an interview with the President who doesn't like the rich.
      Luckily the brute doesn't have English...either brute.

      Mr. Fly remembers the day computers arrived on the Stock Market...hidden in vast glass rooms, served by white coated technicians and a horde of ladies known as comptometer operators...

      Show me the PC with a harem like that.....

      And tell Doctor to put the laptop on prescription....

  8. Bureaucracy does not always mean jobs for the boys. It can have quite the opposite effect.

    1. Seems to be more a question of jobs for whose boys....

  9. ah yes the 'norms' beastie *sigh*!!; it breeds far faster than a supersonic rabbit.

    It is so depressing that he bureaucrats start hyperventilating at even the slightest thought of decreasing its proliferation.

    1. One 'changement' that doesn't seem to be on the cards.....

  10. Thanks so much for coming to visit me - it led me back to you! We've been considering finally taking the plunge and getting a shack in rural Provence. I now know where I need to go to read up.

    1. And I found you through another Day of Crazy....
      I'm aways curious about how people decide on one place or another to live or holiday.

  11. I've been reading the laments in the local paper about the new campsite norms, which have meant perfectly nice little sites having to reduce their number of pitches (and therefore their income) in order to conform. At a time when tourism in Normandy has taken quite a big hit because of a series of poor summers weatherwise, it's the last thing they need. Sigh....

    As for foreign shares or shares in general, we try to steer as far away from them as we can nowadays, as we lost money both times we bought a few unit trusts.....

    1. It's a real and unwelcome catch if there aren't enough problems without creating more.

      Anything financial managed for you by others is a disaster...after all, if you DIY you might make a loss, but at least you're not paying someone else to make the loss for you!

  12. Not been around for a while - apologies.

    I've rather missed your rants at petty rules and regs, though to be fair we encountered few in France this summer - but then we were paying tourists which is always different.

    1. Yes, it's the poor devils running hotels and restaurants who get the hassle with the dreaded norms!

  13. I have an ongoing feud with Mr Wonderful at No 13 next door who runs his truck over my section of council frontage to the road. I am now refusing to voluntarily maintain that area until council sorts out the problem of the mess being created.
    Normally it is difficult to buck local laws, but I have informed council it is their land and their responsibility, I am still waiting to hear from council.
    Council elections in NSW Australia are being held on Sept 8, voting is compulsory or a 25 dollar fine.

  14. When I see what is presented by way of candidates by parties heart sinks.