Every so often, a little magazine, free of charge of course, flatters through my letter box. It comes from the organisation called "CAF" which is a part of the French Social Services setup, and it deals mainly - almost exclusively - with Family Allowances within France. It's one of the few French Administation places that even British ex-pats consult regularly, because its main aim is to GIVE money away, and not take it, and as such, it's one of the first places everybody coming to France or coming back to France visits.
It deals with all kinds of family affairs notably financial aid for children at school, going back to school and all the rest. How much you will be accorded when the kids go back to School, to help buy pencils, paper, books, satchels and all the rest, although most of this money ends up in the hands of the Tobacco shop owners, or in the Cafés .... This is where you can "calculate" how much the French Government will pay you on a monthly basis to help you pay the rent, depending on your income and depending on how many children and lots of other things. Although the "calculating" doesn't always work correctly - everytime I use it just to check on any changes it gives me different results each time for the same details, and is hardly ever the actual amount you are "allocated" in the end anyway - I suppose it does give you an idea.They even arrange to pay some holidays!
The system is quite simple, everybody declares their income (tax declarable), their family situation (how many wifes, children and so on) how much they pay in Rent or Mortgages..... and the Administrators work out what you going to get! Once you've got your numbers, you can go to your own account on the Internet, and do all sorts of things, like finding out what you're entitled to and what your student son/daughter is allowed, when your next payment will be made, and particularly useful - what bank it's going to be paid into, and when (if you've changed banks very useful).
Now - I have no problem with this system. It seems to work as well as any Governmental system does, and when, a couple of years ago, the system was changed, personally I found it to be even better.
It was no longer necessary to lose vast amounts of time waiting in long queues to make your annual declaration of revenue/income. The Institution "CAF.fr" now went directly to the Department of Impôts (Income Tax) and were supplied with the latest tax declaration the individual had made. This was partly to save time, but also to tackle the large problem of fraud, and it seemed to work.
I still have no problem with the system, probably because I can afford to be honest, but there are a couple of things which are disturbing, and they are outlined in the latest information sheet which popped through the letter box the other day. They are all different, depending where you live, but all contain the same information....
For once, it wasn't ALL just about children and parent rights.....and it was interesting, if even a little disturbing, to find out just what personal informations the CAF is legally allowed to demand, without telling you, and without asking your permission.
They can (and do) request "exchanges of information" with the Tax offices, as we know....but also with...."Pole Emploi" (the labour exchange) to find out if you've found new work.....they have special arrangements with BANKS....(the "professional secret" or "bank secrecy" Acts are no longer applicable) .... Employers - ...required information on employees must be given if required or requested......The "energy Companies" - Gas, Electricity, Water and others....even private ones... Telephone Operators, even MOBILE ones.....Internet Suppliers....all of them....Postal or Message services...all of them - Private or State (the Post or UPS for example)...and then a little paragraph which states that ALL sources which help to ascertain the correctness of any demand made may be demanded to provide information, National or International!
I guess, for example, Landlords, Tenants, even clients....
So far as informing the individual that a control has been made, the cryptic remark is made that "unless the investigation is part of a control re FRAUD, the individual will be informed, and may make any comments known."
I guess, an educated one, that there are VERY few investigations made that are NOT in the "FRAUD" category, and I guess also that rarely are individuals notified that an investigation has been made on them.
But....really....did YOU know you were subject to all these controls, without even being asked or informed?
I STILL don't have a problem with the situation, at least not until something goes wrong, and then I will have, and so will they!
weather at Vauvert, France
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