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Lost your garden

If you are having that swimming pool put in and while they are there with the diggers extracting the earth from your land, you happen, by chance, to see a pot of gold or a buried treasure, then is it really yours?

Well, not really. First of all, this is France and the State has made provisions for every eventuality, as you already know by now. Firstly, the definition of a 'treasure'. Legally-speaking, a treasure is something that must be hidden from view and that cannot just be seen. Therefore, it is always something that is buried or needs to be discovered. The person who discovers that treasure is even called legally 'l'inventeur' of the treasure. Secondly, not only does it have to be buried or hidden, but it also has to be something that nobody can prove the ownership of. If someone can show that they own it, then it's not a treasure. So, if you find a Picasso in your attic when you move in, it's not a treasure, because it wasn't hidden and buried. Unless, of course, you knock down a wall and it is hidden behind that wall.

According to Article 716 of the Code civil, the treasure belongs to the person that finds it on the to the tune of 50%, and to the entity (the State or the town) if the land i-on which it was found is in the public domain. If its is on the property of someone else, then it belongs half to the person who found it and half to the person that owns the property. That means that you'll have to be very vigilant when the hole is excavated for that new swimming pool, otherwise the pool people will be getting half of the bounty.

Article 531 of the Code du Patrimoine (heritage laws) states that the 'inventeur' must declare the find at the local town hall, always. If you don't, then there will be a fine. If the find is of scientifically recognised value (which is most things historically), then the State takes possession of it 100% for a period of 5 years to study it. Afterwards, the State can decide to buy it from you, or give it back to you.

If you believe the stories that there are buried treasures in your back garden, then be careful. You can't just begin digging the garden up to find it. If you do, without authorisation and a permit from the State, then you will be fined 200,000 euros for starting an archeological dig in your back yard.

Whatever you find and you're allowed to keep is not considered as taxable income. But, if you do decide to sell it then there is a tax of 11.5% that is levied upon it.

Anyway, when you're buying a house, the notaire will remind you that it doesn't belong to you automatically if yuu find that buried treasure.

If you're thinking of giving away the gold coins from the treasure trove buried in the garden by that barn, then it will be considered as gold and as such is limited in terms of the amount that can be passed on in value. It's as follows:

- 100 000 € between parents and children

- 31 865 € between grandparents and grandchildren

- 5 310 € between great grandparents and great grandchildren

- 15 932 € between brothers and sisters

- 7 967 € between uncles and aunts and their nieces and nephews.

Every 15 years, they get to give exactly the same amount. Beyond those amounts, a tax of between 5% and 50% of the value is applied, according to who is giving it and to whom.

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