Your questions answered by an expert panel from Coopers & Lybrand

Question Time
My company is sending me to work in France. Will I have to pay French social security contributions, which I'm told are much higher than our national insurance contributions? Or can I just pay NI? Also, what happens if I fall ill? Am I still covered for medical expenses and does my wife still get child support?

French social security contributions are very high by UK standards, approximately 18 per cent for employees, and 35-40 per cent for employers.

If your UK employer posts you to France and you meet certain other conditions (if you have "special skills" for example), the Department of Social Security may issue certificate E101, exempting you from French contri-butions. In practice you can often continue paying NI for up tofive years.

Living in France you will be treated like French nationals. Family medical costs will be partially reimbursed in France (approximately 60 per cent).

On child benefit you should obtain certificate E106 from the DSS. Under EU rules, you claim family benefits from the country in which you are insured. Since you pay NI, the UK is responsble for paying Child Benefit whilst your family is in France, provided you are normally entitled to claim Child Benefit.

I normally get sent a tax return each year by the Inland Revenue. The advertisements on self assessment warn me to "avoid a nasty shock" by phoning their inquiry line to find out more. Is this going to affect me?

With effect from 6 April 1996 the burden of administering tax is being transferred from the Inland Revenue to the taxpayer. The taxpayer must disclose all sources of income and gains, must understand the tax rules governing each item and compute - and show in the tax return - the taxable value of every item. The tax return is being fundamentally redesigned to require far more detail.

It will be divided into a main return supported by schedules covering different classes of income. The latest draft of the full package runs to approximately 150 pages of (mostly A4) text.

The new returns will be issued in April 1997 and if you want the tax office to work out the tax you must return it by 30 September 1997. If you miss this deadline, or if you choose to work out the tax yourself, you will have until 31 January 1998 to submit the return.

There will be automatic penalties for late returns, penalties for errors in returns, penalties for failure to retain records in support of information in the return, and automatic interest and default surcharges for late payment of the tax.

Readers should send their questions regarding financial and investment matters to our panel of experts at Question Time, Personal Finance Department, Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. We cannot guarantee to answer all readers' questions but they will be sent to Coopers & Lybrand and a representitive selection will appear in Money each week.

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