One of the things I find frustrating about living in France is the seeming lack of initiative on the part of a lot of French people. I’m so used to thinking that for every problem there are at least three solutions that it stops me cold for a minute every time I run across the flat out ‘non’ that is so often a response to a glitch in the process.
This is not to blanket all of France or all French people so don’t bother panicking and sending wild comments. And it’s not to say that in Canada everyone is uber-helpful, always looking for a way to solve your problem. I’ve been on the end of phone calls where I can literally hear the person at the bank or the tax office or wherever shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes as they say ‘of course, we’ll do it right away and get back to you’.
In France I can hear them shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes and mouthing ‘folle Canadienne’ to their co-workers.
Tomorrow I have an appointment, made 6 weeks ago, to meet clients at the Notaire’s office to sign a sale on a house. The offer was made and accepted 5 months ago. So the Notaire has had 5 months to get everything in order. This morning the clerk called the purchaser and told him that the sale wouldn’t close tomorrow because of a capital gains tax issue. She left me a message.
At 14.05, the end of lunch, I called her. she said that because the sellers are not fiscal residents of France, and because they are selling a house for more than 150,000 euros the Impot – tax department – has said they have to have ‘designer un representant fiscal’ – designate a fiscal representative. Never run into this before and I’ve sold a lot of houses owned by people who aren’t fiscal residents of France. Why – I asked. Because normally they send a form to the Impots in Limoux and the need for a resresentative is waived.
Right, would that be because the Notaire calculates the tax due and pays it from the proceeds of the sale?
So, the woman at the impots in Limoux is sick and they had to send the request to Carcassonne. The man in Carcassonne said that there had to be a repesentant fiscal present at the signing of the Acte de vente – the official transfer of the property. (We’ll just call it an RF from here on in)
What is an RF? – I asked. Actually I had a really difficult time saying representant so I said a bunch of things that sounded sort of like it. Someone who is at the signing – the clerk said. OK, but who?
She never was able to explain who the RF is or was or could be so I decided to try a different tactic.
Who did you talk to at the Impots? She told me. I asked her to please call again and try someone else because my experience here is that if someone says no you just keep calling til you find someone who says maybe. She said why would she phone again, he’d already said no. So I said maybe the Notaire could call. No, he isn’t available. He’s out of the office at a reunion. I’m guessing that it isn’t high school, probably it’s a conference or something. I asked her to call him on his mobile (cell) phone. No, I can’t do that, she said, her voice trembling with fear.
Eventually she gave me the number of the Impots. I called, spoke with a woman who said that decision man was away for the rest of the day. I asked her what I could do, explaining the the buyer and seller were both on their way from England to sign the Acte tomorrow. Get the Notaire to send a fax saying it’s urgent she said.
I called back the Notaire’s office. The clerk spent a good 10 minutes telling me that there was no point in faxing, he would just say no again. I said that he might change his mind and that anyway we (I thought it was quite nice of me to include myself in this) needed to be able to honestly assure two very unhappy clients that we had tried everything in our power to make it easy tomorrow.
Something clicked because she talked to the woman I had talked to at the Imports. She called me back and said that we could pick an RF. It has to be a solvent French national, she said. I asked her if this person was just there to witness something or if they would be guaranteeing something. She didn’t know what I meant. I even looked up guarantee in the Hatchet Oxford dictionary.
So then I called a friend who knows a ton about real estate. She said it didn’t have to be a national as long as it was someone who is a fiscal resident of France – someone who pays their taxes here. She said that she would do it. Very nice of her but she is the one who referred the house to me – or me to the vendors – and she is going to get a finder’s fee so I guess I don’t have to feel too guilty.
I called the impots back to make sure that it was OK to have a fiscal resident be the RF. She said yes but that I had to get the Notaries office to send a fax this afternoon with a request and with the details of the proposed RF. (Turns out they actually guarantee payment of the tax.) she said that in the morning someone had to take the original to the Import office in Carcassonne.
I didn’t even bother floating this to the Notaries clerk. I’ll go to Limoux in the morning and be at the Notaries office at 9.30 when they open. I’ll get the original request and drive the 30 minutes back to Carcassonne, take the request to the Impots, and then drive back to Limoux to the Notaire for the signing of the Acte.
It’ll be a fun morning.