This article argues that situated approaches are necessary to reveal institution-specific or regime specific structures, forms and uses of fiscal welfare instruments. We base our analysis on the French case, for which we have previously built an exhaustive database of social tax expenditures (STEs) for the year 2014. We find that France displays a specific structure of fiscal welfare. Most STEs are concentrated in the fields of employment, family and health policy; most STEs concern social security contributions. We identify specific forms of fiscal welfare which might be common to other Bismarckian countries, principally centred around three types of use, i) the reduced taxation of family and couples, which is a core element of the familialist organisation of social policy after WWII ; ii) the use of STEs as a privileged instrument of employment policy in the constrained realm of minima wages and high levels of social security contributions ; iii) the use of STEs to quietly divert resources away from the sheltered social security funds and into collective private insurance plans, fuelling their development.