Since November 1999, it has been possible for couples living in France to get a PACS, or “se Pacser”, meaning a Pacte Civil de Solidarité.
The easy way for those in the UK to understand a PACS in France, is that it is the French equivalent of a civil partnership.
PACS arrangements have become progressively more popular. In 2019, a total of 209,988 couples formed a PACS, so they are deemed to be “pacsé(s)”.
A key reason for the popularity of PACS is its usefulness as a financial planning tool for couples who do not wish to get married but nonetheless wish to combine their finances.
So, what exactly should you know about getting a PACS, and could it make sense for you? Below, we have set out the crucial details.
What is a PACS in France?
As mentioned, a PACS in France is a formal civil partnership between two people, giving couples, who do not wish to get married, an alternative option that affords them certain rights. Some of those rights are similar to those granted to married couples, while others are different.
Many couples in France are attracted to the idea of having a PACS, because it enables them to formalise their household for tax and succession reasons.
So, how exactly does a PACS arrangement differ from getting married? Here are some of the ways:
- Marriage is considered an institution, whereas a PACS is regarded as a simple contract between two people
- A partner in a PACS is not entitled to receive their partner’s pension, unlike the situation for married couples
- Partners in a PACS will need to make a Will to guarantee the surviving partner will inherit their estate. This is because French intestacy rules do not give a PACS partner a right to their deceased partner’s estate
- A PACS is not recognised in every single country in the world, whereas marriages do tend to be almost universally recognised. However, it is worth noting that the UK recognises French PACS arrangements
- A marriage between a French national and a foreigner can provide a fast-track to French nationality, but a PACS will not do the same. A PACS agreement might, however, still help the foreign civil partner to obtain a French residency card
- It is possible to end a PACS unilaterally – in other words, there is no need for both members of a couple to agree to this. A civil partner in the PACS can do this at the mairie (local town hall) where the PACS agreement was first registered.
What are the financial advantages to PACS?
A big attraction of a PACS agreement is that the partners in such an agreement are taxed jointly. In other words, a PACS couple pays income tax in the same way as a married couple, thereby making the most of the “parts” system – or “quotient familial” – which, for tax purposes, normally brings about a lower income tax bill than would have been the case if the partners were taxed separately.
Another reason why you might decide to get a PACS, is because the partner receives the same exemption from inheritance tax as a spouse, rather than the 60% that applies between couples residing together in an informal relationship.
It should be noted, however, that unlike the situation in a marriage, a partner in a PACS does not automatically inherit. I repeat, therefore, that it is crucial to make a Will if you do decide to enter into a PACS.
What are the financial disadvantages of PACS?
Once you are in a PACS, you are one “foyer” or household, which means that your combined assets are liable to wealth tax. It may be that separately, you are not subject to wealth tax, but with your combined assets, you become liable. If you are already paying wealth tax, it may cause an increase in your liability.
Of course, before deciding against a PACS for this reason, it is very important to know your potential liability and all the options for reducing or eliminating this tax, since the positives may very well outweigh the negatives.
How do we enter into a PACS civil partnership?
It is possible to get a PACS at your local town hall (mairie), or with the help of a notaire. At the mairies, a PACS is free, whereas if you elect to have a notaire draft and register a PACS for you, there is a cost for this service.
Often the best way to start, especially for a foreigner / non–French speaker, is to engage a notaire to draw up the contract and deal with its submission on your behalf.
The paperwork generally required:
- A full birth certificate (showing the parent’s names) – this must be an original, less than 3 months old and translated into French by an “appointed” translator.
- A “Certificat de Non-PACS” – a certificate proving that you are not already PACS, usually obtained from the Tribunal d’instance in Paris.
- An acceptable official form of identity – A Passport, a Titre de séjour, or a French driving licence.
- A “Certificat de coutume” – This basically attests to the fact that the person is not already married or in a similar agreement and has the capacity to get Pacsed. This is obtainable from the embassy/consulate. Some countries do not provide these and will merely send you a letter attesting to this fact.
- An “Attestation sur l’honneur” attesting your capacity to be Pacsed, that you are not married or part of another similar agreement, and a further attestation of your fixed communal residence.
Naturally, if you are doing this by yourself (which we would strongly advise against) a “modèle de Pacs” can generally be found on the internet. We would recommend engaging a notaire, who can guide you through the process and can tell you exactly what paperwork you need, meaning you can rest assured that all has been completed correctly.
If you want to know if a PACS is the right thing for you to do, a notaire will merely discuss the legal consequences and help you put it into place.
Ensuring being in a PACS fits as part of your overall financial planning is something that you need to discuss with a financial professional. Naturally, this is where the services of a qualified financial advisor, such as Kentingtons, can be crucial, so please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more or call us on 08451 23 84 23 (in the UK) or 0805 03 00 01 (in France).