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Understanding French VAT: Exploring the Various Value-Added Tax Rates in France

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Taxes are important for any nation to ensure smooth economic operations. The government uses the funds collected through tax for the effective functioning of different sectors. However, for any government, it is essential to decide the tax rates rationally.

Among the different types of taxes engaged during the sale of goods and services, one is VAT. In this article, we will get a comprehensive understanding of VAT, especially the French VAT, how much French VAT costs, and how to manage it effectively.

Introduction to VAT

Abbreviated for Value Added Tax, VAT is a common taxation form spread across many countries. VAT is the consumption tax that adds to the value of any goods and services at each stage of production and consumption. The VAT levies on the gross margin at every step in the supply chain and is collected at that stage only. Unlike the progressive nature of income taxes, VAT applies to each purchase equally.

Do you know why it is so popular?

Its effectiveness in generating governments’ revenue and in easing international trade.

VAT has also been known as the goods and services tax in some countries. As per data released in 2016, 165 countries have adopted this taxation system.

The intergovernmental organization OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) also has a VAT system, with the United States being an exception.

The VAT system is more common in the European Union as it basically comes from there only. It is believed to have been introduced by French authority Maurice Laure in 1954; however, the idea of levying tax at each stage of production first came from Germany a century earlier.

Overview of the French VAT System

Direction Générale des Finances Publiques" (DGFiP), the French tax authorities have the power to administer and enforce taxes in France. The tax authorities have enforced the VAT system in France on the purchase of goods and services, which is an integral part of the country's tax framework.

It is an indirect tax that is levied on each stage of the supply chain and ultimately paid by the end consumer.

If you are in France and doing some business there, you need to go through a comprehensive system of registration and reporting to stay compliant with the VAT rules. After registration and collecting tax from their customers, they need to file a return mentioning all details about the VAT paid and collected.

To ensure transparency in the system, the tax authorities conduct regular audits to ensure fair enforcement of VAT and proper collection of funds. It also verifies the proper compliance of businesses with the French VAT tax regulations. If anybody was found not complying with the French Value Added Tax regulations had to go through fines, penalties, and legal consequences.

Different VAT Rates in France

So, how much is VAT in France?

Well, the value depends on the goods and services offered. However, the authorities keep on changing VAT rates and regulations periodically to maintain economic stability, stimulate growth, and promote some specific segments.

Let’s understand the different VAT rates in France:

Normal Rate

Also known as the full rate, it is a fixed rate of 20% levied on most goods and services, which do not have any special rates. All luxury items and alcohol come under this category.

Intermediate Rate

The intermediate tax rate is 10% and is levied on ready-food items, catering, and restaurants. It also implies house renovation works and non-processed agricultural products. Other services and products for which an intermediate rate is applicable include zoos, fairs, historic monuments, passenger transport, firewood, camping services, and waste treatment. The items falling under this category offer a lower tax burden than the standard fixed VAT rate (20%).

Reduced Rate

Reserved for essential services and goods, the reduced rate of 5.5% is applicable to basic food products, newspapers, transportation costs, books, medicines, etc. The aim of this reduced rate is to make all essential products available and affordable for the general public.

Super-reduced Rate

The super-reduced rate is especially set aside for medical products, periodicals, pharmaceuticals, and admission to specific cultural events. The French tax authorities have allowed reimbursement of these rates for social security reasons.

How to Register and File VAT in France?

If you are a business owner and your annual turnover exceeds 10000 euros, then you must have VAT registration in France. You will have to collect VAT from your customers, timely deposit the collected VAT, and file a French VAT refund. You will have to maintain proper VAT records for scrutiny. If you do not comply with French VAT rules, you may have to face legal implications and penalties. You must also get acquainted with different VAT rates, as there are many exemptions for certain goods and services.

In order to register for VAT, you have to apply to the French Tax Authorities for a VAT number. You will have to file an application comprising legal identification of your business, your address proof, details of your business activity, etc. After applying, furnish any other info, if asked by tax authorities. If you are a business organization established outside the EU, you can hire tax representatives to do this application process for

If the tax authorities find your application complete, they will assign a VAT registration number to your business. This VAT number enables you to charge VAT, deposit the same with authorities, and file your VAT returns.

Filing timely and correct VAT returns is crucial for your business. Non-compliance with timelines or deficiencies in value may attract penalties. You have to accurately calculate your VAT liability, deposit the collected VAT to tax authorities, and file commensurate returns. French tax reporting requirements are stringent and must be complied with. You have to determine the VAT return filing frequency based on the tax regime you choose and your annual turnover. VAT return filing is easy and streamlined in the French tax system, as the process is completely online.

How Does VAT Apply to Freelancers and Businesses?

If you are a freelancer or small business owner, you will have to remit VAT (more popularly known in France as TVA) on the sale of your goods & services. However, the requirement to sign up for TVA depends on your turnover. If you are a pure service-based small business owner and your annual turnover does not exceed 34600 euros, you do not need to register and pay VAT. This limit is 86900 euros for a commercial business. If you fall within the ambit of VAT registration, then it will impact your accounting methodology, recordkeeping obligations, pricing, and billing. 

The general VAT rate in France is 20%. However, depending on the nature of your product and service, a lower or discounted rate may be applicable. Some specific products attract VAT rates as low as 2.1%. Therefore, as a freelancer or small business owner, you have to first find out VAT applicability and the exact VAT rate for your products/services.

Tips for Managing VAT Effectively

If you want to effectively manage your VAT, you need to understand taxation principles and implement effective strategies. Here are seven tips that will help you master VAT management:

1. Maintain Updated Records

Try to maintain accurate and updated records of each and every transaction. Apart from the legal requirements, it helps you make calculations clearly and quickly. Keeping your accounts organized also helps you assess your financial performance.

2. Be Aware of Changing VAT Regulations

Authorities make changes to VAT regulations periodically. Thus, it is essential that you keep track of any changes to ensure VAT compliance. If you fail to understand anything, ask some experts to avoid potential complexities.

3. Invest in a Good Accounting Software

Working on regular software may make it difficult to manage VAT transactions. Thus, we advise you to invest in reliable accounting software. It makes the whole process easier and more efficient, saving you time and effort.

4. Ensure Timely Audits of VAT Returns

Auditing VAT returns helps you rectify errors and inconsistencies in a timely manner. With this proactive approach, you can maintain financial accuracy and prevent any potential issues. Also, timely rectification saves you from any fines and penalties later.

5. Know VAT Schemes

There are several VAT schemes, such as annual accounting, flat rate schemes, etc., which can work in favor of your business. Understanding these schemes clearly and implementing them for your business's VAT management can be a positive approach for your business.

6. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Professional Guidance

Undoubtedly, VAT’s rules and regulations are not easy to understand for every other person. If navigating through the VAT world seems complex, seek guidance from a VAT consultant/accountant. A VAT expert can guide you to adhere to compliance.

7. Train Your Employees

For effective management, your staff must also know all the nitty-gritty of VAT and its regulations. If every employee understands its importance, he will try to stay within compliance, minimizing any risks.


Adhering to the VAT regulations is essential for a successful business. If you are a freelancer and finding it difficult to create invoices according to VAT rules, Ruul is here to help. With Ruul’s easy invoicing and payment solutions, you can save time for more productive things. 


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