Teaching Assistant Program in France: Before Returning Home

Income Taxes, Closing Accounts, Breaking your Lease, etc.

TAPIF Guide | Things to Know before Applying | TAPIF Application | Acceptance Letter | Regional Placements | Getting your Visa | Packing for France | Arriving in France | Teaching English Tips and Lessons | Traveling during Vacations | Income Tax and Closing Accounts | Renewing and Staying in France | Documents and Links

US Income Tax: You should declare your earnings in France on your US income taxes because the US requires its citizens living abroad to file and sometimes pay taxes on foreign income. Convert your French income to dollars using the exchange rate that was valid for each day that you received your salary and add that amount to line 21 (other income) of Form 1040. You can also write foreign income on the line to the left. If your gross income is less than $10,000 you don't actually have to file taxes in the US, but you might want to anyways to reduce the risk of audit in the future. If your gross income is more than $10,000, then you must file and you will most likely have to pay taxes to the US government. You cannot use the Foreign Tax Credit (Form 1116) since assistants do not make enough money to actually pay taxes in France.

Don't forget there is also a legal obligation to report any foreign bank accounts, fill out more paperwork if you have more than $10,000 in them, and fill out the health insurance form stating that you are exempt for the months you lived abroad. Read through my post on Reporting Foreign Income on US Taxes for more information.

If you lived outside the US for 330 days within a 12 month period and made less than around $98,000 (stop laughing), you qualify for the Foreign Income Earned Exclusion. Assistants usually do not qualify for this because of the residency requirement. If you are a renewing assistant or a lecteur/lectrice, you may qualify, and you can use Form 2555EZ. Then write your foreign income on line 7 of Form 1040 (add it to any other income you may also need to put on line 7) and again on line 21, but in parentheses. Essentially you are subtracting out the foreign income after adding it in, so it does not increase your adjusted gross income. Note, however, that although you can exclude your foreign income from your adjusted gross income, you still pay a higher tax rate because when you get to line 44, you need to use the Foreign Earned Income Tax Worksheet to figure out the amount rather than simply looking up the tax rate for your taxable income on line 43. Basically you will be looking up two tax rates: the sum of taxable income from line 43 + foreign income and foreign income alone. Then you subtract the rate for foreign income from the rate of the sum of taxable income + foreign income to find the correct tax amount to write on line 44 of Form 1040.

For more information on filing taxes on foreign income, read Publication 54 from the IRS.


French Income Tax: Income tax is not taken out of your paycheck like in the US (only health insurance is). But assistants do not make enough money to have to pay taxes in France, so don't worry about filing if you don't want to. But if you want to, you can go to your local tax center (Hôtel des Impôts) in April and fill out a form to declare your wages from the previous year (October through December). You should receive the French equivalent of a W-2 in January stating how much money you earned in the previous year. Compared to other paperwork in France, the form is relatively simple to fill out. If you are a renewing assistant, you will make enough money to be eligible for the prime pour l'emploi. This "refund" is paid out in July or August, so make sure to keep your bank account open long enough to receive it.


Program Evaluation Form: You should receive an evaluation form to fill out in March that asks your opinions of the assistant program. I had to return one form to the CIEP (Page 1, 2) and one to the rectorat (Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) by March 30. Nowadays, the form is online at CIEP's site and you need to fill it out and print it, before giving it to the head of your school, who then gives it to the rectorat - so it is not anonymous by any means! The due date in 2009 was April 20 for 7 month assistants, and June 1 for 9 month assistants.


Closing Bank Account: You should also make arrangements at your bank for closing your account. You should wait until a few months after the end of your contract before officially closing the account though, as you might still receive money in the account (such as from CAF or reimbursement from social security) after you've left the country. So make an appointment at your bank to ask about how to close the account (you will probably just have to send a letter a month or so after you've returned home) and what you need to return to them (usually your carte bancaire and your checkbook).


Breaking Internet or Phone Contract: You can use this website to generate a letter to break your contract. But make sure to check with your provider first to find out when you must do this (usually a month in advance) and if there is a fee. Anytime you send a letter in the mail, you should send it recommandé with an accusé de reception. This way, the company cannot claim they didn't receive your letter. In addition, you should go to your bank and block the company from taking any more automatic payments out of your account. You usually have to pay for this service, but it is worth it, because sometimes even if you send a letter to break your contract, the company will continue to charge you months later!


Breaking Lease: If you are officially renting an apartment and not just subletting, you must inform your landlord three months in advance of your departure that you are breaking the lease. You may or may not want to leave a forwarding address, depending on if the landlord still owes you the security deposit. There is a special tax called taxe d'habitation that you pay on the apartment that you were living in on January 1, regardless of when you moved in or out. However, you are not informed of this tax until the fall of the same year, so if you leave France in the spring and leave a forwarding address, the French government will send you a bill for the tax at your permanent home. Furthermore, your landlord may keep part of your security deposit in order to pay this tax. The tax is calculated based on the size of your city, how much you earn, how much other revenue the city receives from other sources, etc. Recently, the TV tax (about 120 €) is automatically added to the taxe d'habitation and yes, there really is a tax for owning a TV in France. However, if you don't make enough money in France to actually pay taxes, you might be exempt from paying it, or you can at least get it reduced, but you must declare your wages at your local tax center in April in order to prove this.


Mailing stuff home: You'll most likely have too much stuff to bring back in your suitcases, so if you want to mail some packages back home, check the tarifs page for weight limits (maximum is 20 or 30 kg) and prices. You should check with your airline first to see if it would be cheaper to just check in another suitcase instead of trying to mail everything home. La Poste used to offer a cheaper & slower option for sending packages internationally (économique), but unfortunately it was discontinued in 2010. Now the only options are regular Colissimo International rates or the Colissimo Emballage International rates, where you send a pre-paid box that only comes in two sizes/weight limits: L is 31.5 x 21 x 15.7 cm for a maximum weight of 5 kg and costs 36.50€, and XL is 38.3 x 25 x 19.5 cm for a maximum of 7 kg and costs 43€. The Emballage rates tend to be cheaper provided that you don't have something that is too heavy or too big to fit inside the box.


Resume: If you need to add this job to a resume in French, you can use something like this:

Ministère de l'éducation nationale français
Académie de [x]
Département de [x]
Circonscription de [name of city]
[name of school]

For an American resume, you can use something like this:

English Language Assistant
French National Department of Education
[name of school]
[x] School District
[name of city,] France

This is also what is on my CV:

· Instructed intermediate-level English classes for French secondary school students
· Provided concentrated instruction in pronunciation, culture and verbal expression
· Worked with students in 3 different schools in the Grenoble area

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