Cost of Living in Paris
Paris is a dream destination for many expatriates, signifying a career milestone when it comes to their career trajectory. Nevertheless, what is the reality for expats living in Paris especially for those who don't understand or speak French? Is it possible to live in France reasonably? How much would you have to spend on food, monthly rent, childcare, transport, and leisure? Find out what's the current cost of living in Paris so you can come prepared.
Paris, the Global City
As one of the major cities in Europe, Paris attracts investment dollars, the best companies, and highly skilled people. The City of Lights placed third in the Global Cities Report for 2018 done by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney that analyzes the factors behind these global cities' success and competitiveness. Paris remains in third place, unchanged from 2017, propelled primarily by increased business activity and scoring high on information exchange.
According to data from the Paris Region Key Figures 2018 report, Paris boasts of a young and cosmopolitan population that comprises 18.2 percent of France's total population and occupying 23 percent of the total jobs in France. The report further reveals that from the population in the Paris Region for 2014, around 1.6 million were foreigners. In 2013, one out of six jobs in Paris and in the Paris Region itself was in a foreign company, and 2016 saw 6,635 jobs in Paris created by 359 foreign firms.
Wages in Paris and France
As a big city, Paris commands a higher cost of living than the rest of France. Living there means you have to be prepared to pay higher than the average cost for basic goods and services compared to other European countries. The city came next to Singapore and tied with Zurich as the second most expensive city in the world in The Economist's Cost of Living Survey released in early 2018.
Based on feedback from 22,000 expatriates who participated in the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, respondents based in France earned an average salary of EUR 71,572 versus their London counterparts who earned approximately EUR 74,000. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also notes that in France, the average household net financial wealth per capita is estimated at USD 59,479, which is significantly lower than the OECD average of USD 90,570.
A full-time employee working in the private sector earns an average salary of EUR 27,200 compared to those working in the public sector at EUR 26,750, according to INSEE, France's National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies. However, it's worth noting that a significant percentage of employees working in private companies are temporary or part-time workers only.
At the beginning of 2018, new laws increased the hourly minimum wage in France by 1.24 percent to EUR 9.88, which represented a EUR 20 increase each month. However, according to a New York Times article, the current median monthly income in France is EUR 1,700 or about USD 1,930, with "half of the French workers paid less than that." At present, the monthly minimum wage is around EUR 1,498 for a 35-hour work week.
However, recent events may affect the city's ranking in the future owing to the protests that occurred in the capital and elsewhere in France. The Yellow Vest ("gilet jaunes") protests, which began in November 2018, stemmed from the French government's plan to raise fuel taxes, ostensibly to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels. To date, more and more people are voicing discontent over low wages, high taxes and persistently high unemployment rates at above 9 percent that has resulted in lower disposable income for the middle class and minimum-wage earners.
Paris is an Expensive City
Data released by EUROSTAT which provides statistic information to the European Union institutions show that London was the most expensive capital city in 2015 in the EU with its high property and rental prices based on the cost of living in Brussels. Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Wien were among the capital cities that registered a higher cost of living than Brussels.
Despite the higher costs in Paris, a huge number of expatriates continue to work and live there, while many others chose to settle in France permanently. The results from the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey saw France in 11th place overall, with a significant number of expats citing improved quality of life. For those with families, France offered better benefits when it comes to childcare and education.
If your relocation package doesn't include housing allowances, expats will find that accommodation will take up a huge chunk of their regular expenses in Paris. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Paris. However, owing to high property prices, a majority of Paris residents opt to rent rather than buy, a practice that many first-time expats follow.
You can find apartments by enlisting the help of a property agent which means paying a percentage as a fee, or through contacts. There's also the option of going through classified ads, but this will require some fluency in French to conduct negotiations.
Housing is perpetually in high demand in the arrondissements so some judicious thinking and quick action are required as listings disappear within minutes of going up. Most apartments for rent in Paris are unfurnished and are slightly smaller than modern apartments elsewhere since more than half of the buildings in Paris are old, built in 1949 or earlier. If you prefer to have more space, especially if you have a family, the suburbs are your best option but may require a longer commute via car, or through the Paris public transportation system of buses, trams, the Paris Métro or the RER (Réseau Express Régional) rapid transit system.
Expect to pay at least EUR 2,400 monthly for a three-bedroom central apartment in Paris compared to a similarly-sized accommodation in London which may cost EUR 4,400. When it comes to utilities such as electricity, heating, and water for an 85 square-meter rental, the total may be around EUR 180 to EUR 200, but is slightly higher in London at EUR 225 approximately.
Tenants are usually required to pay anywhere from one to three months' worth of rent as a deposit, and this can go higher if the place comes furnished. The usual lease for an apartment is a minimum of three years, and a written notice of termination must be given at least three months before you move out, or the lease will be automatically renewed. French law requires that tenants take out home insurance for the apartment against theft, fire, and damage to communal areas of buildings. You can get more information about this at your local town hall.
Aside from the rent and utilities, there may also be additional fees for the concierge, if your building comes with one, and maintenance fees for facilities such as elevators, cleaning and maintenance and such. Tenants are also responsible for paying the annual taxe d’habitation or housing tax, equivalent to the council tax in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of 2018, the habitation tax has been lowered to one-third for single-person households who earn less than EUR 27,000 a year, couples who earn less than EUR 43,000 a year, and a couple with children earning less than EUR 49,000 a year.
Paying Taxes: Resident or Non-Resident?
In France, regardless of your nationality, you can be considered a resident of France for tax purposes if you or your family's permanent place of residence is in France, or if you hold dual permanent residency, that France is where your financial and personal interests are. Other criteria include residing in France for more than 183 days in one year, or if you're a French national.
For those who are not considered tax residents, they're only taxed on income received from French sources. If you're paid for work done on French territory, this income is taxable in France. As the French tax residency rule depends on internal regulations, reciprocal agreements and tax treaties, salaries that are paid to non-residents are subject to tax deducted at the source. Employees residing in France for less than 183 days don't need to pay tax for any income they earned working in the country, as long as their salary is paid by or on behalf of an employer not established in France. However, non-resident salaried employees still need to file an income tax return with the French tax authorities and to pay for any difference between the amount deducted at the source and the tax due, if necessary.
For helpful information about being considered a resident or non-resident in France, visit the French tax authority Ministère de l’action et des comptes publics at https://www.impots.gouv.fr/portail/international/particulier.
Tax Exemptions for Expatriates
The French government offers special tax exemption schemes for expatriates primarily to help attract company directors and employees to move to France. These exemptions are subject to certain conditions and valid for a period of up to eight years. Those who may be considered eligible are employees and company directors of any nationality working as a full-time employee in a permanent or temporary capacity for a company established in France. Visit Business France for more information on tax exemptions for expatriates at https://www.welcometofrance.com/en/taxation/expatriate-exemption-scheme.
Currently, some of the planned taxes scheduled to take effect in 2019 are postponed for now. President Emmanuel Macron announced several emergency concessions in December 2018 as a response to the protests held in Paris and other French cities and towns dubbed the "Yellow Vest movement." These include scrapping the controversial diesel fuel tax and canceling a tax increase for low-income pensioners and on overtime pay. Among the other measures that were also approved by the French National Assembly and awaiting approval in the Senate is the increase in minimum wage by at least 6 percent or around EUR 100 per month, and giving incentives to employers to provide staff with tax-free bonuses.
Initially, France was set to impose a withholding tax for employee salaries in 2018. The previous practice meant employees were responsible for computing, filing and paying their taxes themselves. Starting January 2019, the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system will be implemented to collect income tax using progressive tax rates based on the total income and composition of the household. Employers will deduct the appropriate taxes based on each employee's individual tax rate using a payroll system, with the amounts reflected in employees' monthly pay slips.
Social Security Contributions
France boasts one of the best welfare systems in the world, with a large network of agencies and insurances that provide coverage for all kinds of eventualities including sickness, pensions, and family benefits.
The social security contributions that fund France's welfare system are provided mostly through payments made by both employers and employees. In 2017, France recorded the highest share of non-wage costs, which are employers' social contributions, at 32.8 percent versus 24 percent for the 28 EU member states. In 2018, the government increased the CSG or general social contribution meant for France's social security system by 1.7 percent,. This meant that those who earn a pension of less than EUR 1,289 are exempted while at least 60 percent are affected by the increase which amounted to EUR 25 more per month.
Since October 2018, however, employees are no longer required to contribute to unemployment insurance health insurance, translating to at least EUR 250 more over the year, especially for those earning the minimum wage in the private sector.