Friday, October 29, 2010

The Strange Case of M. Chollet

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Those who follow this blog site will be aware that  recently I wrote and soon after scrapped the story of Monsieur Chollet. Why? How I wish that one could have a civilised dialogue with the Department of Health! We really do need a Minister for the Expatriate in Europe. There is no-one to whom one can turn in the British Government to discuss our problems. We are sidestepped and ignored. The case of M. Chollet has been placed before the European Court of Justice ever since 2006.
The case has some bizarre features. M. Chollet is a French citizen who was resident in Spain and therefore came under the Spanish regulations relating to Health Care. He was entitled to 100% of the cost in Spain.  He went on holiday to France and fell ill. In France the CPAM charged him approximately 20% of the cost of treatment. M. Chollet considered that this went against the principle of free movement and petitioned the European Commission.
The EC eventually took the matter to the European Court of Justice [ECJ]. In February 2010 the Advocate General (M. Mengozzi) gave an opinion in favour of the EC (and M. Chollet) against Spain.
Spain sought the support of the UK, Belgium, Finland and Denmark in this matter. This was my state of knowledge until recently. I had stated this case with the Department of Health [one cannot discuss!] and their reply gave me no indication that anything else had occurred. Unfortunately I have learned that the case has changed again. It is the normal circumstance that the Advocate General’s opinion is accepted in a full hearing of the ECJ. He is, after all, a learned judge of high reputation. I have recently received the account of the full hearing of the ECJ which happened in June. Once again, the Governments of the UK, Belgium, Finland and Denmark have intervened. This time the decision was reversed. The Advocate General’s opinion was rejected and the European Commission lost the case.
Why is this important? If the original opinion of M. Mengozzi were upheld then the health costs of all British Citizens visiting France would have been paid 100%. By extension one might suppose the situation of British residents in France whose competent State for health care is the UK, would have improved.
The Future? The above case was brought under the EU Regulation 1408/1971. Since then in May 2010 the Regulations have changed. This gives us hope.
The new Regulation 883/2004 seems to indicate a much stronger support in health care for pensioners who are titular holders of the form S1 (E121).  It would seem that the European Commission are inclined to support our needs.  But there remain difficulties which one suspects the UK Government will make sure are brought to the fore.

The above indicates the power of the State against the individual. We pensioners have, after 15 years non-residence in the UK, no democratic say at all in the way the British Government acts. It acts in its own interest, not in the interest of the citizen. We citizens in Europe are profoundly affected by treaties and discussions held in our name, but cannot ourselves intervene in such discussions in any manner whatsoever. There is no-one to represent us!  Unless it is the EU!  Few are interested in us.
The UK Government [Whitehall?] seems to imagine that if it had to pay 100% of the health care costs in France for us, that a bottomless pit of costs would open. This is just not true. But it seems that it is impossible to argue the case with any informed person in Whitehall.
One remains frustrated and ignored.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weird World of Government Pensions

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [HMRC] publish ‘A listof Double Taxation Agreements [DTAs].’
There is also a link to guidance on whether a particular pension is treated as being a ‘Government’ type pension in the HM Revenue & Customs International Manual. This is available at :--

The reading of these documents gives rise to several mysteries.

In relation to the DTA France/UK, we read under the column concerning Government Pensions that ‘full relief’ from taxation is available. This would mean full relief from taxation in France of this revenue for British Citizens resident in France. To this statement is attached a ‘Note’ . This note reads ‘Under new treaty, for income paid on or after 6 April 2010. No relief prior to that date.’
This is a mystery! Pensioners receiving a Government Pension (Teachers, Police, Firemen etc.) have had relief from French taxation for years. However, in a certain sense it has not been ‘full relief’. One has had to declare this revenue on the tax forms. This has affected any tax or relief (fairly or not!) on any other revenue, including the Old Age Pension which is taxable in France, by indicating a threshold of world-wide income. Thus the note seems odd.  Have I missed something?
A new DTA did come into operation this year. I have both the old and the new and cannot see any material difference between them with respect to Government Pensions. I have written to HMRC asking what has materially changed on April 6th 2010. If the declaration of this tax on the French tax forms has changed, then this would bring France into alignment with the situation in Spain and indeed it would be a very important change.

Concerning Government Pensions. Perusal of the second document shows some weird bureaucratic situations. NHS pensions are largely deemed to be ‘non-government’ pensions.
But if an NHS pensioner moved to Germany it becomes a ‘government’ pension.
A policeman's or a fireman’s UK pension in France is a ‘UK government’ pension. In Greece , Israel and quite a few other odd countries it is deemed a ‘non-government pension'!
One also notes that this table of information is a good deal out of date, since it refers to ‘Yugoslavia’! But no doubt it is still ‘legal’!