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FT: Moving up in the world: could you work from home in the Alps?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
FT: Moving up in the world: could you work from home in the Alps?

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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Pretty good article, thanks for posting. It mentions the installation of fibre optic broadband a few times. In our village the existing fixed-line broadband is poor, and would be an obstacle to teleworking (no 5G yet either). However, fibre has been laid all around the village, and we've been told we can start using it from next month (for a price, naturally). It will make a real difference.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Even our hamlet-Villarabout- gets a mention, but no way did we pay even half the price per m sq quoted..
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I didn't really understand how the person going home for a month every so often got round the 90-in-180 day Schengen rule. I thought that it's a rolling window, so basically on average, you have to spend 50% of your time over any period back home. Where we are in the Swiss 4 Vallées, we could get extended residence status as property owners, so we could stay indefinitely, but it's not really worth the bother as this isn't a limit we are likely to reach, even now we're retired.

It's also interesting that one person said that moving wholesale to France wasn't feasible for tax reasons. I'd be interested in just why that was - what were the tax issues? I can speculate, but it'd be useful to know. Other SnowHeads threads talk about it being much more complicated than people think to be effectively running a business in a foreign country.

I think that a lot of the coverage doesn't really get into the underlying issues around being an expatriate. It seems to me that the deciding factor won't be the practicality - I think it's much more practical now for a wider range of people - it'll be what you might call the 'social' factors. For example, it's one thing to be WFH on the South Coast and quite another to be up a mountain abroad: I know one person who tried it from the Haute Savoie but found that the need to go to London for occasional F2F meetings still wore them down over time and in the end, they came home to the UK. So I'd be more interested in articles including examples of where it hadn't worked out, or where they just traded one set of downsides for another, as well as people where it had worked out fine.

But overall, it's a far more balanced discussion of the topic than I usually come across. Most similar articles seem to just focus on the landscape and quote a couple of examples where it's all worked out swimmingly well for the people involved.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@LaForet, A friend of mine has a Chalet in France and was looking to get residency until it became clear he could be liable for a retrospective 'wealth tax' on his substantial UK assets. He stopped at that point!

If someone goes back to the UK for a month every other month, they will be roughly within the 90/180 rule. I can't see any confusion?
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Been WFH in the French Alps as a (non-commuting) frontalier based in CH solidly for 21 months now.
Really it just comes down to enablers and facilitators.
The principal enabler is the current Franco-Swiss agreement on cross-border workers during the pandemic, which overrides the 75%-25% rule.
The facilitator is that we get 50-60Mbps on DSL and the same on 4G.

In Morzine there is a facility for shared rented office space, or you can use your home.

The gotcha is the enabler - does your company / tax domicile arrangements allow for this?
The facilitator is also not as facile, as Morzine does not yet have fibre throughout, so until it's available, for high speed internet you need to take 2 lines plus a 4G subscription, and then aggregate (bond) them together with something like OVH. This will give you comms cost of around 140 pcm, but if your company is paying, or you can claim this as an expense or your quality of life will be so greatly enhanced that you can just take the hit.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@morningGory The wording was 'The rub is that she will need to go out for a month, and then come back, in order to spend the whole winter in France' which to me didn't compute: if the whole winter is December through April then that's 150 days. I suppose that it just about works if the window starts on the day they come back, then they're away 30 days by which time the window has moved on, and they're 90 days to the end of April. Then as the window moves forward, they can return for longer in proportion to the time past that point. Which sort of illustrates a fundamental problem of working under the Schengen regime for someone intending to be permanently resident - it doesn't really work and you'd need to get residency. And the article is primarily about WFH in the Alps: having to return to the UK every other month for a month doesn't really match this, which is what confused me, but I suppose the point they're making is that it is feasible to WFH in the Alps, even under Schengen, if you mainly wanted to be there for the winter season.

As an IT contractor, I've worked with the knowledge of the client up in the mountains for a month in the summer. I could attend conference-calls fine using their VoIP and video calls, and our apartment has 25Mbps reliable wired broadband, which was fine for remote email and document upload/download. It would have been a bit easier if I'd brought along my laser printer, but it wasn't too big an issue. Since then, during the Pandemic, I've noticed that some of my clients now have surprisingly spread-out personnel and have switched to expecting me to do most meetings and 1:1 discussions remotely anyway. So it's all becoming increasingly feasible. Of course, that this only applies to a certain proportion of organisations - some obviously can't do it to the same extent.

But it seemed to me that the article - which as I said was well-researched and written - didn't really explore the mechanics of taxation and residency and perhaps missed the opportunity to discuss some of the social pros and cons of this new way of working. But perhaps that's for a subsequent article. I also think that there's line of thought that says that once you get residency, you also have a debate that is common in Alpine countries but less so here - what is the best balance between urban and mountain? i.e. wouldn't it be better to locate yourself somewhat nearer to services and events (like concerts, exhibitions etc.) and even just people, rather than isolated in a mountain resort? I'm thinking the Alpine equivalent of the Escape to the Country syndrome, where people do that, and then find after a while that they've gone too far in the direction of isolation, however picturesque.

In Switzerland, Alpine property has seen a hike in prices thanks to the pandemic. But a significant proportion of these buyers still have a primary residence in an urban area. Yes, they want to spend longer in the mountains but not 100% of their time. And yes, good broadband and associated tech allow them to work just as well at altitude as at home, but it's only a minority that have decided to move completely to the mountains. So I think there's scope for a more nuanced discussion of what the options are for UK people who want to relocate.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Wed 24-11-21 11:37; edited 2 times in total
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Perty wrote:
Even our hamlet-Villarabout- gets a mention, but no way did we pay even half the price per m sq quoted..


I took it to mean renovated properties post work, in which case you could be quids in if you ever have to sell it!! Very Happy

Thanks for posting the article, I too found it quite well balanced, it's still a dream of mine but one which may have to wait for retirement post-Brexit.
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@LaForet, are you an independent contractor, self employed. If so would the possibility be to set up a EU company and effectively bill your clients through that, even if they are UK based? I'm currently employed in IT but the only way I could feasibly do it pre-retirement would be to go independent, set up a French company I think and work as an for that, plus getting residency etc.
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I have been able to do some work from our french Pad, but now we are going to court in person much more, it would be trickier to live there. I'm not sure that I'd really want my professional life to leak into my time away from the UK to the extent that it is full time.

A colleague whose "almost" main home was in France pre Brexit, used to commute back and forth in 2 week chunks. He made sure he was tax resident in the UK. Since COVID he's stayed put in France and conducted all his hearing remotely. When he sought tax advice in France about how that would work was "..ermm...zoot alors...we don't know".

However, the courts are shifting back to in person hearings more and more, so I'm not sure it's a long term option. The answer of course is to finally stop working altogether...Mr P is in the process of organising his exit plan, but I think I've probably got another 4 years to go.
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@dunc999 Yes, I'm as you say, I'm self-employed. Our place is in Switzerland but I'm happy as things are because our Alpine place is 'just' an apartment, not a chalet, and personally, if we were to spend longer there I think I'd want much more space. We can easily get residency (now we've owned over 10 years in the Valais) and one suggestion from my Swiss bank manager was to sell in the UK and buy a main residence in CH and a small flat back home i.e. we'd still be domiciled in the UK but could stay in CH indefinitely. But this wouldn't help tax/employment/business-wise. It would be very complicated to run a business in CH billing customers in the UK while still a UK domicile. And it'd involve a lot of suspicion from HMRC about earnings in multiple currencies and potential evasion - it just doesn't seem worth the possible hassle.

What the discussion about 'swapping' our main home to Switzerland also raised was that with ownership residency, we can now buy anywhere in Switzerland and are no longer limited to needing a Foreign Ownership License to buy a property. These are a finite pool, strictly regulated and mainly given out for properties in resorts - it's this situation that the article was referring to. But once you have owned somewhere for a while (it varies by Canton) you can then sell and buy anywhere. Once this is on the table, then you start to get into the urban vs mountain issue of whether you'd not be better to locate somewhere nearer to urban services and activities, rather than up a mountain. But the issue with this is around capital gains tax, because the Alpine property would still be your secondary residence in the eyes of HMRC, and so you'd be liable for CGT when you sold it. To make it your primary residence takes you into the domain of where you're domiciled and that's a very complex area, where you need very expert advice.

A friend of mine did exactly what you suggested re forming a French company for his consulting business. He had a main residence in France and a flat in the UK and was a UK domicile. But he got residency and reciprocal healthcare in France and had a company there and could use that to bill clients back in the UK. But I'm not sure that would work now. Or it may turn out to be as complicated as the Swiss arrangement.

It all reflects that there are three elements to WFH permanently in the Alps: (a) residency (b) domicile and (c) tax. Generally, you can get residency if you own a property (certainly, it's fairly easy in Switzerland). But that doesn't help you with domicile and tax, which is a much more complex area. A lot of the examples that get quoted in articles are of people who've simply fully emigrated - to the Alps, as it happens, but it could as well be Australia - and yes, are WFH for UK clients. But they aren't UK domiciles with UK primary residences paying UK tax who are working from the Alps for long periods i.e. there's often a big gap between the reader's circumstances and intentions, versus theirs.


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Thu 25-11-21 9:58; edited 8 times in total
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Perty wrote:
........... now we are going to court in person much more........


You should behave yourself mate wink
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Here is a good link that works out your 90 in 180 days in Schengen area
I use it as I'm in france and back and needed to make sure that I have enough days for skiing

I just put in my trips in the last 6 months and any planned, and t works out the days and if there are any left

here is an example, not using my dates, that shows that I have days left

Please, enter your stays in the Schengen area below, in chronological order.

Entry Date Exit Date Duration Last Day to Stay
07 August 2021 10 September 2021 35 days 04 November 2021

13 November 2021 20 November 2021 8 days 06 January 2022

13 December 2021 10 January 2022 29 days 28 January 2022

You have stayed for 72 day(s) in the Schengen Area. 18 day(s) left.


https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/visa-calculator/
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
LaForet wrote:
@morningGory The wording was 'The rub is that she will need to go out for a month, and then come back, in order to spend the whole winter in France' which to me didn't compute: if the whole winter is December through April then that's 150 days. I suppose that it just about works if the window starts on the day they come back, then they're away 30 days by which time the window has moved on, and they're 90 days to the end of April. Then as the window moves forward, they can return for longer in proportion to the time past that point.


It doesn't add up, as they've fundamentally misunderstood the concept - let's say you arrive in the Schengen zone on 15th December, and have not been inside the zone at any point in the last 180 days. The clock starts ticking from arrival, and you would hit the 90 day limit on 14th March. On 15th March after you've left, you still have a total of 90 days in the last 180, because the original window which started on 18th June (15/12 minus 180 days) is now from 16/09. The total time spent in the last 180 days only starts to decrease from 14th June, i.e. 90 days after you left, when your first day drops out of the 180 day window.

You would think the FT would understand numbers rolling eyes
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Something major not in the article is that it matters where you are sitting (At least in France and AFAIK the rest of the EU) not just where you are doing work for. You can't legaly sit in France working for the UK, USA etc. and just claim to be "on holiday for 90 days".
This has become apparent with the tightening of the previously lax rules post brexit.
I had heard of this in Chamonix. But I have had it and other employment rulles explaind to me as a brit going through job interviews for French jobs. They are having to be very carefull this winter.
I am working directly for a Maire (Town hall) this winter. When I handed them my permenent CDS they were relived as work permits are taking 3 months minimum to prcess, so no good for seasonal work at the last min!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Unless there is a specific agreement in place like the Franco-Swiss Sanitary Emergency one, then if you work more than 25% of your time in France, they consider that you are working in France, and while that is not necessarily illegal, your employer would need to pay the (expensive) French social charges.
This is why most WFH frontalier contracts only permit 1 day a week of WFH.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@WindOfChange, and you would need a french work permit to work remotely more than x% of your working time. I remember when I was moving to Morzine and they asked for my 3 nearest offices which were Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble. It came back VERY quickly that I would not be a french employee!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Bet the tax authorities are looking forward to filling their boots on people who become accidentally or deliberately tax resident without declaring it. And employers will be looking very dimly on employees who create taxable permanent establishments in countries without their knowledge.
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Perty wrote:
The answer of course is to finally stop working altogether...Mr P is in the process of organising his exit plan, but I think I've probably got another 4 years to go.


This was exactly it for us - there was no point getting residency until I finished work. Mrs t_m still has a job here in CH, but that's dead simple with taxation at source. It's actually been much simpler than we anticipated.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Children are another reason folks don't just move to a different country.

My son would go into melt down pulling him away from his friends and football teams. Never-mind moving him to another country that speaks a different language. We might have gotten away with it when he was little, but at 14 there is no chance.
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@russ_e, I quite agree. You have until the end of elementary school to move about then they need stability.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
My employer has categorically ruled out anyone working from abroad, even for a single day. Very short sighted in my view.

I managed to get away with it in summer 2020, before they brought the rules in, spending 4 weeks in the Dordogne, 2 of which I worked.

I'd give up my left testicle to be able to do that in the Alps.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Timmycb5, it gets boring in interseason. Even in a busy town, like Morzine, barely anything is open.
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@Nadenoodlee, I was thinking 6 weeks over winter. Work on dull days, out on bluebird days.

Going to have to wait until retirement for that I guess!
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@Timmycb5, take a sabbatical and give it a go.
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Nadenoodlee wrote:
@Timmycb5, it gets boring in interseason. Even in a busy town, like Morzine, barely anything is open.

I think this underlines what I mentioned about whether relocating to a ski resort is the best option, as opposed to living somewhere near to skiing, but more urban. If I was relocating to our area, for example, I'd probably live in/near somewhere like Sion or Martigny, and then drive/bus to resorts all around the area (Verbier, Crans, Zermatt, Les Diablerets, Zinal-Grimentz, the PdS and many others.). Obviously, being in-resort has its attractions in the ski season and summer, but you have to balance that against most resorts being pretty quiet in spring and autumn. And being in one resort often means a much longer drive to somewhere else, compared ti being in the valley.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
LaForet wrote:
Nadenoodlee wrote:
@Timmycb5, it gets boring in interseason. Even in a busy town, like Morzine, barely anything is open.

I think this underlines what I mentioned about whether relocating to a ski resort is the best option, as opposed to living somewhere near to skiing, but more urban. If I was relocating to our area, for example, I'd probably live in/near somewhere like Sion or Martigny, and then drive/bus to resorts all around the area (Verbier, Crans, Zermatt, Les Diablerets, Zinal-Grimentz, the PdS and many others.). Obviously, being in-resort has its attractions in the ski season and summer, but you have to balance that against most resorts being pretty quiet in spring and autumn. And being in one resort often means a much longer drive to somewhere else, compared ti being in the valley.


This by LaForet makes a lot of sense. My UK employer had a strict rule this summer that we could not WFH in the EU (from my apartment in Chatel, FR) for more than three weeks to avoid issues around tax and social security liabilities. As we were staying for five weeks, we worked around this by renting the cheapest studio apartment with internet we could find over the border in Morgins, CH and hiked over the col every morning with the dog (c. 40 mins) to log in for a few hours away from the kids.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Ozboy, jesus you are an honest soul. And resourceful!

@LaForet, we did 5yrs in Morzine and I got bored. Our current set up is much more sustainable and enjoyable, especially with young kids.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@russ_e, We moved over here a couple of years before we were really ready for that reason, so the kids were 2,3 & 4 when we moved thus avoiding any resentment about taken away from their friends.

@Nadenoodlee, I don't know how you get the chance to be bored inter-season.
it's the only time of year to get stuff done.
Varnishing the chalet, fixing any errant bits of balcony, getting the garden ready for winter, laying concrete (before the frosts come), putting in a new fire and flue, winterising the cars and motorbikes, cleaning down and putting away the summer water sports stuff. Walking the dogs, yoga classes, music lessons, full time job. Throw in a few day trips to Montreux, halloween, fireworks night, Toussaint holidays etc..
I'd love to have time to get bored....
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Nadenoodlee, Sadly this was the best solution as line of work has consequences if ever found to be winging it as their is a digital audit trail.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@WindOfChange, gosh if only i’d known about laying concrete!! NehNeh
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I'm not saying don't do it. I think that it's [living in a resort] absolutely the right option for many people. Just that it's worth considering the alternatives as well and weighing-up the downsides as well as the undoubted upsides.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I'd go in a heartbeat if my family felt the same.

We live a tourist hotspot in the UK and love the quietness of winter and having the whole place to ourselves. Would be even better if it was quiet in the summer too!

Not sure I'd risk a permanent move without it being officially approved by work and the local laws though.
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@LaForet, The lack of anything in resort out of season (swimming pool, cinema, some shops) and lack of choices (schooling) got to me. Maybe at a different stage in our lives we will go back - but I doubt permanently. Switzerland is hard to beat.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
AIUI there are issues not only about personally becoming tax resident but also about whether you inadvertently cause your company to become tax resident in that country if, by all intents and purposes, you appear to be setting up a branch there. That then brings on all the double tax issues of dual residency from that perspective too. It's not as straight forward as many would idealistically hope for it to be.
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Nadenoodlee wrote:
@russ_e, I quite agree. You have until the end of elementary school to move about then they need stability.


Spot on!
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