Tipping in France: What is Service Compris?


To tip or not to tip? In America, there is no question. In France… it’s complicated.

You’re sitting in a Parisian restaurant, having finished your duck confit and Bordeaux, and you’ve finally managed to get the waiter’s attention, and now you’re looking at the check, completely unsure. What is TVA? What does service compris mean? How much are you supposed to tip? Your waiter is outside smoking a cigarette. It doesn’t look like he’ll be of much help.

In the US, tipping is not optional. When you go to a restaurant, the waiter will typically be friendly and attentive, constantly refilling your water and checking in on you with a smile. At the end of your meal, you pay for the food, the tax, and add 20% as a tip for friendly service.

What is TVA in France?

In France, tipping is a little more confusing than a standard 20%. Unlike the U.S., tipping is not required in any restaurant because tax and tip are included in the price of the menu items. So when you see the price of your meal, that’s exactly what you’re paying – tip included. At the bottom of your receipt, sometimes you will see a line item marked TVA, which stands for Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée or Value Added Tax. You may also hear this tax referred to as the VAT. This is a general consumption tax, and reflects how much of your bill goes toward that tax. A VAT in France is usually around 20%.

While non-EU citizens can get a refund for the VAT on large purchases, a VAT on restaurant bills is not eligible for a refund.

What Does Service Compris Mean?

Many restaurant receipts in France will say service compris, meaning “service included.” This service charge is often noted, though legally service is included in all restaurant bills, whether they indicate it or not.

How to Tip in France

When having a coffee at a café, it’s normal to leave a couple of centimes behind to round up the bill. After a meal, you might leave behind a few euros, also know as a “pourboire” (to buy the waiter a drink), though it is not mandatory. And while leaving a tip on a credit card is customary in the US, it is not in France. Gratuity is cash only.  

At first, this might seem unsettling for Americans who are used to receiving – and paying for – attentive service. While on study abroad in Paris I was unable to leave a restaurant without giving at least 15% tip, until French friends warned me this was the mark of a tourist. 

Why don’t we tip the same way in France as we do in America, then? In France, waiters are paid a living wage. That means that they don’t depend on tips to supplement their salary, like waiters do in the US. This also accounts for the difference in waitstaff’s attitude – American waiters are extra attentive and sometimes excessively friendly compared to French waiters because they are trying to earn as much tip money as possible.

So don’t worry, if your waiter isn’t as bubbly as you’re used to, they aren’t fulfilling the stereotype of the snobby Frenchman, they’re just doing their job without having to worry about how much cash they’re going home with that night.


– Is service charge included in France?

The service charge, or “service compris,” is included in your restaurant bill in France, though you can still leave a few euros for tip.

– What is TVA on a French invoice?

TVA is the Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée, the percentage of your bill that goes to a general consumption tax.

– What is the difference between TVA and VAT?

TVA and VAT are the same thing. TVA stands for Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée, while VAT stands for the English translation, Value Added Tax.

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