This time last year… I was working through the registration process for us both to have ‘auto-entrepeneur’ status (AE), or, in other words, to be self-employed. In the UK being self employed is pretty straightforward, you just tell the Revenue that you need to ‘self assess’ and voila! In fact, for some of the time I was self-employed in the UK I earned less than my tax threshold (after deductions) so paid no tax and only £4 or so a week for National Insurance. In France the use of ‘voila’ and tax (impôt) in the same sentence or even the same page is illegal. In hindsight, compared with registering the car or getting into the health system I guess its wasn’t so bad.
Back in the UK I had taken advice from a tax advisor regarding French taxation and firstly he had advised to have my start date as 1st Jan and secondly that with our projected income we would pay very little income tax. Moving from one department to another, as we were to do eventually caused much confusion with our registration. So much that we each had 4 different SIRET numbers (‘company registration numbers’) and the same with our social security numbers, over the following 4 months. My advice now would have been to not register until all the moving was done and we were finally settled in our permanent residence.
The big surprise though was that the French equivalent to National Insurance, was 25.5% (called cotisations) of all our income with no allowances for expenses (in fact AE status allows for no deductions at all – it was created because the only previous choice allowed expenses to be deducted but then 45% tax/cotisation combined). Certain occupations must also register with the French equivalent to a guild and pay fixed annual regardless of income. We were careful to describe our occupations as not one of these. For instance, secretary or teacher (both of which could have described some of our activities).
To cut a long story short… we had even less income than we had bargained for and a lot more bureaucracy.
In the UK I hadn’t cooked this much (first wife vegetarian and Delia too until a year ago). But mostly because I couldn’t bring myself to use a bottle of red wine.
Things are different when decent wine can be bought for 3 or 4 euros. The supermarket periodically has packs of bœuf bourguignon meat (good chunks of casserole steak) on special at less than 5 euros a kilo. Anyway, because Delia can’t eat onions I often use celery or fennel and loads of carrots with a dessertspoonful of bovril and a bottle of merlot. Cook on the lowest oven for 3 to 4 hours and it melts in the mouth. Boiled beef and carrots? yes but glorified by wine).
Just got back from the neighbours, who had invited us to share a clafoutie au cerises – and I love cherries! Our heads are still spinning from so much concentrated French-speaking. His morning we went to puppy training classes in a field a mile or so away in the cold rain for an hour. Sienna loved it, she’s bilingual now, ‘assis’ and ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘à pieds’.