Set­ting up a busi­ness

Rules, reg­u­la­tions, pa­per­work and registering as self-em­ployed

Living France - - Contents -

For many peo­ple who de­cide to up sticks and move to France, start­ing a busi­ness or self­em­ploy­ment is of­ten the eas­ier, prefer­able or, in some cases, the only way to earn a liv­ing. That said, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the easy op­tion when it comes to get­ting started. There are, as ever, pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures to fol­low, and when you’re in a for­eign coun­try which has dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing things, not to men­tion a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, it can seem a very big moun­tain to climb.

But don’t worry, you just have to do what we all do when faced with a daunt­ing task – take it step by step…


The busi­ness plans and fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies are look­ing good, but there’s an­other fac­tor to take into ac­count be­fore you give your­self the green light – do you have, or can you ob­tain, the nec­es­sary qual­i­fi­ca­tions and li­cences re­lated to your cho­sen line of work?

Your UK diplo­mas and work ex­pe­ri­ence aren’t nec­es­sar­ily suf­fi­cient. You may well be re­quired to pass an equiv­a­lent French exam or do fur­ther train­ing to val­i­date your work ex­pe­ri­ence for the rel­e­vant French gov­ern­ing bod­ies.

Se­condly, make en­quiries about pos­si­ble fi­nan­cial aid avail­able from regional and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, as well as any spe­cific sec­tor fund­ing – for ex­am­ple, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in ru­ral ar­eas are of­ten sub­sidised.

Sim­i­larly, de­pend­ing on your lo­ca­tion and type of busi­ness, you might be el­i­gi­ble for busi­ness cre­ation loans or sub­si­dies. There are a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions that can help you with this type of early re­search, in­clud­ing the AFE (l’Agence France En­tre­pre­neur), your lo­cal cham­ber of com­merce, or the lo­cal Com­mu­nauté/ Ag­gloméra­tion des Com­munes.


Be­fore do­ing any­thing, you must reg­is­ter your busi­ness with the rel­e­vant body and get your­self a SIRET or SIREN num­ber, es­sen­tially a busi­ness iden­tity num­ber, is­sued by IN­SEE. This num­ber must ap­pear by law on all your in­voices.

The safest and sim­plest way to reg­is­ter is to go to the CFE (Cen­tre de For­mal­ités des En­treprises) in per­son, par­tic­u­larly if you would also like some ad­vice about the best le­gal statute for your busi­ness. When you reg­is­ter, you will be asked for proof of any req­ui­site qual­i­fi­ca­tions, li­cences and ac­cred­i­ta­tions.


The French busi­ness sec­tor is ba­si­cally di­vided into four cat­e­gories: com­merce; trades­peo­ple and ar­ti­sans; free­lance pro­fes­sions and agri­cul­tural work­ers. De­pend­ing on your busi­ness, you will be af­fil­i­ated to the rel­e­vant so­cial wel­fare fund that will col­lect your so­cial con­tri­bu­tions ( charges so­ciales).

Cur­rently, the ma­jor­ity of self-em­ployed peo­ple are reg­is­tered with the RSI (Régime So­cial des Indépen­dants), although the new pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has talked about ef­fec­tively scrap­ping this fund and af­fil­i­at­ing self­em­ployed work­ers to the same wel­fare regime as salaried work­ers. This is ex­pected to hap­pen from 1 Jan­uary 2018. The CFE, as well as pro­fes­sional bod­ies such as the Cham­bres de Com­merce et d’In­dus­trie and Cham­bres de Métiers, can as­sist you with all the rel­e­vant pa­per­work.


You may want to take pro­fes­sional ad­vice at this point, be­cause there are var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties, some with very sub­tle dif­fer­ences, and mak­ing the right choice can po­ten­tially save you money (in both tax and na­tional in­sur­ance pay­ments), and give you the nec­es­sary le­gal pro­tec­tion ( see over­leaf).

Most peo­ple set­ting up as a sole trader or free­lancer reg­is­ter as an en­treprise in­di­vidu­elle. And within this cat­e­gory, most peo­ple choose the tax regime op­tion of a mi­cro-en­treprise, which en­ables the busi­ness to ben­e­fit from sim­pli­fied tax, ac­count­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­cesses. In ad­di­tion, as a mi­cro-en­treprise, you are not sub­ject to VAT.


The two main cri­te­ria that de­ter­mine whether you can ben­e­fit from the mi­croen­treprise sys­tem are:

a busi­ness must have no more than 10 em­ploy­ees (not an is­sue for sole traders).

an­nual turnover must not ex­ceed €82,800 for sales ac­tiv­i­ties, or €33,100 for ser­vice providers. (Turnover thresh­olds

ap­plied in 2017.) Again, Em­manuel Macron promised, in his elec­tion man­i­festo, to dou­ble these turnover lim­its to en­able more busi­nesses to take ad­van­tage of the sim­pli­fied regime. As a mi­cro-en­treprise, you are re­quired to: • reg­is­ter the busi­ness and pro­vide proof of qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

• pay an­nual busi­ness rates to the CFE based on a slid­ing scale ac­cord­ing to rev­enues – the min­i­mum charge in 2017 is €214. (For rev­enues up to €10,000 the rates are be­tween €214 and €510, from €10,001 to €32,600 rates are be­tween €214 and €1,019.) • at­tend a five-day busi­ness start-up

train­ing course (Stage de Pré­pa­ra­tion à l’In­stal­la­tion) which costs be­tween €200 and €300. • cer­tain build­ing traders must ref­er­ence

a 10-year war­ranty in­sur­ance ( as­sur­ance dé­cen­nale) on all es­ti­mates and in­voices. • reg­is­ter trad­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with the lo­cal CCI or Cham­bre de Métiers.


So, the def­i­ni­tion mi­cro-en­treprise refers to a type of tax regime, and this is not to be con­fused with set­ting up as a mi­croen­trepreneur, which is a le­gal statute. Most likely, you will choose to be­come a mi­cro-en­tre­pre­neur who ben­e­fits from the mi­cro-en­treprise tax regime.

The mi­cro-en­tre­pre­neur statute re­placed the auto-en­tre­pre­neur statute last year. It ba­si­cally seeks to sim­plify the cal­cu­la­tion and pay­ment of na­tional in­sur­ance con­tri­bu­tions ( charges so­ciales) to make it eas­ier in the early years of start­ing up a busi­ness.

Many busi­nesses will au­to­mat­i­cally out­grow the statute, how­ever for any­one who sim­ply wants to earn a ba­sic liv­ing work­ing for them­selves, you can re­main a mi­cro-en­tre­pre­neur in­def­i­nitely.

As well as the EI ( en­treprise in­di­vidu­elle), there is the EIRL ( en­treprise in­di­vidu­elle à re­spon­s­abil­ité lim­itée) which al­lows you to pro­tect your per­sonal es­tate from any fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity. De­pend­ing on your cir­cum­stances and type of busi­ness, this could be a bet­ter op­tion. HELP­ING HANDS

If you would like a help­ing hand when start­ing out, there are var­i­ous Scops ( so­ciétés coopéra­tives et par­tic­i­pa­tives) and or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer­ing portage salar­ial ser­vices, that will take care of much of the fi­nan­cial and fis­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­turn for a per­cent­age of turnover. They can be par­tic­u­larly valu­able if you’re strug­gling to un­der­stand the French busi­ness sys­tem ini­tially!

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