Posted on 06 April 2007

In Olden Days, A Glimpse of Stocking

In a moment of self-indugence – on my birthday evening – I took this picture of my new shoes and shawl. I had a wonderful day, thanks in large part to my daughter. In the evening, I went to Puycelsi with Susan, David, and Bedding to the new hotel and enjoyed the elegant setting, delicious lamb, creme brulee (don’t be too jealous, Gill), an excellent vintage from a local chateau, and my friends indulged me with poetry.

Since then I have been writing and cleaning – such a wholesome combination. My house is rented as of this evening and I am going to Northern Ireland to be coddled by my wonderfully warm, generous Irish cousins, aunts, and uncles. (There are now direct flights from Toulouse to Belfast with Jet2, a low cost airline. I’ll report back later on the quality of service but for 119 euros return, I can hardly complain.)

This past week, I have also experienced a number of frustrations. At one point, I actually thought “fuck France, I don’t want to be here any more.” Oh yes, it is still breathtakingly beautiful. The food and wine are still superb. I still have friends who love me and I am still reminded daily of the kindness of strangers.

But to get anything done, when one doesn’t speak the language fluently, doesn’t understand the rules and legal ramifications of property ownership, is difficult and more – very expensive.

Although I had to go to Toulouse twice to sort out problems that could have been solved on the telephone but couldn’t by me because I could not understand the list of instructions in the opening message of France Telecom’s helpline, we now have hi-speed internet. I have not quite worked out how to go wireless but I will when I return from N.I. I will. Hopefully.

My major frustration has to do with the house, this house, with its beautiful new space.

We were offered another house on the edge of the village with a balcony and terrace and a salon (that is ideal for writing workshops) that is completely and beautifully finished at a good price. We – Rob and I have been discussing this by telephone and email – decided to go for it. Rob went to our bank in Vancouver and it is more than willing to lend us the money until our present house sells. We thought since the other house is smaller, we might have an even trade. We did not take into account the French capital gains tax.

I will not go into the amount of work that it has taken to understand our situation. I did find a French notaire (lawyer) who speaks English through a series of inquires and she told me that as our house is owned by our company (the worst possible scenario) that we have to pay 33.33% of the profit to capital gains tax. It gets worse. Because it is company owned, the house is depreciated by 2% a year so every year we own it, we pay more tax. And unlike personal owners, we cannot deduct the cost of improvements. As a company, we also have to appoint a tax representative who charges 1% of the profit. Or is the selling price?

I asked if the company could sell us the house and then we could sell it. No. We would still have to pay capital gains as we would have to charge ourselves the going price. I spoke to our accountant in Vancouver who had owned property in France. He said, “You have got yourself into a pickle. Sell now.” He advised me to see an accountant and named the firm “KPMG” who he had dealt with before.

I found this accounting firm on the internet. It is international, offered a choice of languages, and looked highly respectable if one can judge by a website. I noted that they have a branch in Toulouse but the Toulouse website is in French. As I was going to see France Telecom in the city anyway, I decided I would drop into this office, compare it to its website, and hopefully be able to have a few words with an English-speaking accountant or make an appointment.

After walking miles to find it, I reached an impressive looking building, entered one stately wood and glass door, through a second, to face the receptionist who looked intelligent and efficient enough, sitting behind a long counter and who turned out to be one of the rudest people I have ever met. (If I were in charge of this firm, I’d fire her.)

She looked inquiringly as I approached. No smile. I apologized, in French, for arriving without an appointment but I wondered if it was possible to speak briefly with an English-speaking accountant. She did not respond. She took a white piece of paper, stamped it with the company address and phone number and told me, in French, to call for an appointment. I looked at the piece of paper – the address and phone number were blurred – and I explained to her that it was difficult for me to telephone as I didn’t speak the language well. “English,” she said. “Canadian. Could I not make an appointment now as I’m here?” “Non, telephone.”

So I left, feeling insulted and thought I do not want to use that firm. I also wondered if I should contact the main branch of KPMG in Paris and then wondered if such a small matter as a rude secretary would matter to them.

I do not want to leave France without answers to many questions re the buying and selling of property, without making a decision one way or the other (with Rob, of course.) I had a real estate agent in yesterday so we will know better what to do.

I apologize for going on at length about this but it has been a major concern keeping me away from more important matters.

So wish me well. I will probably not blog again until I return to France.

(some friends are not getting my latest posts so I will try here to republish)

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