French communes bordering Geneva saw a rise in the number of those living in France but pretending to live in Switzerland coming clean in 2017. According to the newspaper Le Temps, the neighbouring commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois saw the number rise to 1,130 in 2017, more than the 1,000 in 2016 and the 600 in 2014.
Some of those living in France and working in Switzerland, declare their French home as a secondary residence and claim to reside primarily in Switzerland. This makes them Swiss taxpayers, depriving the French communes where they live of tax revenue.
Last year, after a campaign of flyers, the commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois posted a video urging “false residents” to come forward.
The film explains the risks of not setting the records straight – prosecution for tax evasion – and explains an of amnesty that will run until 30 June, whereby those coming forward will be treated as having just arrived in France. An internet page has been set up by the commune to guide people through the process of declaring French residency.
The state of Geneva deducts tax at source from the salaries of French residents. Two thirds of this tax is retained by Geneva while the other third is paid to the French tax authorities. Only those declaring their primary residence in France have their taxation treated in this way.
Last year, Antoine Vielliard, the mayor of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, told Tribune de Genève that the commune estimates there are around 20,000 “false residents” pretending to live in Geneva across all of neighbouring France.
There are a number of ways to spot false residents. In Ferney-Voltaire, the commune looks at household water consumption – a house used all week rather than just at the weekends consumes far more water.
Another tactic involves recording the number plates of Swiss-registered cars crossing the border during commuting hours. These numbers are checked to see if they belong to company vehicles, which is okay, or are personally owned cars, in which case the France-based commuter will have some questions to answer. Antoine Vielliard told Le Temps that the percentage of cross-border commuters with Swiss plates had fallen from 25% in 2016 to 20% in 2017.
In addition, Saint-Julien-en-Genevois increased the rate of property tax on secondary residences by 35%. This added a financial incentive to declare French homes as primary residences.
Residence irregularities will now be easier to spot. On 1 January 2018, automatic international exchange of bank account information swung into operation.