France

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The Amended Finance Law for 2011, which was published on 30 July 2011, contains a number of changes to the French tax system that will affect both French residents and non-residents. The changes include the reform of wealth tax, the abolition of the 'tax shield', the introduction of an exit tax and legislation designed to attack the use of trusts.

1. Trusts

French law has no doctrine of trusts. Ownership attaches not to an estate in land of various durations, but to the land itself. This does not mean that limited rights such as easements or life interests cannot exist, but it does mean that there must always be an owner and that such limited rights are regarded only as encumbrances on the ownership. There is no distinction between legal and equitable estates. A person is either owner or is not; one cannot be owner for management purposes without also being owner for the purposes of enjoyment. In this sense, unity of ownership is a fundamental principle of French law. This explains why creating a trust under French law is impossible. However, for a long time French courts have agreed to recognise the effects in France of foreign trusts, provided that they comply with the mandatory rules of French law, which in most cases can be achieved without major difficulty. According to French case law, foreign trusts are therefore recognised as such and seen as a specific legal arrangement in their own right. As a trust cannot be set up under French law, it will necessarily be governed by the law of a jurisdiction which recognises the concept.

Editorial Board
Maryse Naudin TEP
Tirard Naudin, Paris, France
Jean-Marc Tirard TEP
Tirard Naudin, Paris, France

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