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Setting up a business in France

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

If you are considering establishing a company in France, you should know that France has recently taken steps to make it simpler for foreign citizens to follow their aspirations of becoming entrepreneurs.

If looking for work in France is not your top priority but you are interested in starting a company there anyhow, this article will provide you the advice you need to get started on the right foot. According to the Ernst & Young G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer report 2013, starting a company in France is simpler than in the majority of other G20 nations. The research notes that starting a business in France is less expensive, involves fewer processes, and requires less time. In as little as four and a half days, you may complete all of the steps necessary to establish a small to medium-sized firm, even one that has up to fifty workers. This is even possible for larger businesses.


You want to make it as simple as possible to monitor the financial status of your new firm, right? Soldo can assist. Their cutting-edge tools assist close the information gap that exists between companies and banks, allowing you to keep track of all of your financial matters via a single, user-friendly interface. Make sure that you have Soldo at your side once you establish your own business in France. It will be much easier.

The basics

You will need to either have a residency permit or be a citizen of an EU country to launch a company in the country of France. The French government may require you to have certain degrees or certifications. After that, you will have to do research on the market, create budget projections and financial strategies, and, if required, hunt for finance. You will need to choose your legal status and register your company before you can get started. The next section of this book provides further information on establishing a company in France.

There is indeed a fair amount of red tape, but you can file your tax declaration online, starting a company does not cost anything, and taking care of the necessary paperwork is an excellent way to hone your French business sense.

Are you currently in search of employment in France? Locate It Right Away

You should always receive professional assistance from a French accountant or financial expert when establishing your own company in France. The information that has been provided here only offers a broad overview of the situation.

Businesses located in France: Pick one category

Businesses in France are classified into one of the following five categories:

Activities that are primarily commercial or industrial, such as operating a store, restaurant, or factory;

Craftsmen and tradespeople, who work in areas such as construction, other manual labor, and even some manufacturing;

Professionals who operate individually and provide their services, such as a dentist, writers, translators, or musicians, are said to be freelance or independent professionals.

In the role of the commercial agent, one acts on behalf of another firm in many capacities, including sales and negotiations.


Each of them is equipped with its registration facility, known as a Centre de Formalités des Entreprises or CFE, which is situated in each of France's regions. To legally operate a company, you are required to register it with the relevant CFE and to keep them updated on any changes.

Structures juridiques françaises applicable to businesses

You will need to select what kind of business structure, as well as what kind of tax regime, would work best for your company. In France, there are two distinct categories of legal company structures:

a solo merchant (enterprise individuelle or EI);

a corporation (société), such as a EURL, SARL, SA, and SAS.

Determined by the kind of company you intend to launch, your choice of legal structure is something you should discuss with the local chamber of commerce or another appropriate professional organization. You should also consider whether you want to be solely responsible for the business, the size of your turnover, whether you have personal assets that you want to protect, and whether you want to pay taxes via income tax or corporation tax when making your decision regarding the appropriate legal structure for your enterprise.

Sole trader

You and the company are considered to be a single legal entity under this framework. Your professional and personal assets are combined, however, you have the option of filing a declaration of seizure to safeguard your residence. You have the option of establishing yourself as a micro-business thanks to this organizational framework. The previous auto-entrepreneur and micro-enterprise systems will be merged as a result of this. Check out our guide on going into business for yourself in France if you are interested in learning more about starting a micro-enterprise there.

You also have the option of establishing your company as an EIRL, which stands for "Entrepreneur of Individual Limited Liability." This will keep your assets distinct from those of the company. You do business under your name in any scenario, even though you are free to choose a corporation or trade name.

If you elect to be taxed as an EI, you will do so through your income tax return within the category for your business. This will either be the Industrial and Commercial Profits (BIC) category for traders and artisans or the Non-Commercial Benefits (BNC) category for independent professionals. You have the option of paying corporation tax if you want to operate under EIRL status.


If you decide to establish a corporation, also known as a société, it will be legally distinct from you. Your assets will remain safe from the reach of the company's debt collectors. However, if you utilize the company's resources for your gain, you run the risk of being punished. Your business has to have its name and location, in addition to a certain amount of assets. You do not behave in your personal best interests but rather in the best interests of the organization. You may be subject to taxation under the company tax (IS) or the régime du reel. It is more difficult to establish a business than it is to operate as a single proprietorship. Recording your status with the tax office, appointing officials, and posting legal notifications in the press are all required steps in this process.

There are two main types of companies:

A EURL, also known as an Enterprise Unipersonelle à Responsabilité Limitée, is a type of company that is owned by a single individual and managed as a limited liability single shareholder company by a gérant, also known as a managing director or company secretary. The gérant may or may not also be the owner of the company and may or may not receive a salary.

Between two and one hundred people may be partners in a limited liability business known as a SARL, which stands for Société à Responsabilité Limitée. The maximum amount of liability associated with either option is equal to the capital investment.

Regulated businesses

Certain professions in France are subject to stringent rules and guidelines, including those of accountants, veterinarians, hairdressers, builders, and even wine merchants. You are required to register your company with the proper organization if it falls under one of these categories of regulated professions. Before you are allowed to begin working, you may be required to provide evidence that you have the necessary credentials, experience, and insurance liabilities.

You may check the APCE website to see whether the industry in which you are interested in engaging in business is regulated by selecting the relevant letter of the alphabet and then scrolling down to the appropriate section.

Verify that your firm has that name.

Through the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle, you can do a search that is both online and free of charge to determine whether or not the name you intend to use for your firm is already in use by another company (INPI). If you wish to protect your company name or logo, you need to register it as a trademark (dépôt de marque) with the INPI; if you do not – and someone else begins using the same name or logo in the future - you will have no legal right to maintain it.

Whether you are going to construct a website, you should first check to see if the name you want may be registered with AFNIC, which is the registration domain names.

Financial aid

New firms in France are required to get financial aid from French banks. These include a start-up loan Prêt à la Création d'Entreprise (PCE) for up to EUR 7,000 or a company loan named Prêts Bancaires aux Entreprises (PBE).

You may get information on financial help and loans, in addition to recommendations for your company, by visiting the website of your regional conseil.

There are two programs, ACCRE and NACRE, that are worth looking into if you are currently without a job or are on the verge of losing your job.

People who are currently without work and would want to launch their own company are eligible for financial assistance from ACCRE in the form of reduced social costs. People who are currently registered as jobless with the government employment agency Pôle Emploi or who are on the verge of being rendered unemployed by a firm that has gone bankrupt or been liquidated are eligible for this program. If you establish yourself as an auto-entrepreneur, you are eligible to get a reduced rate of charges for up to three years; but, if you do not do so, you will be required to pay all social costs once your yearly income is more than €20,814 (2014 figures).

NACRE is able to provide loans with no interest as well as advise for businesses. Find out more from your local Direccte (Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l'emploi).

If you are interested in submitting an application for finance for your company that is backed by the EU, go here to locate suitable banks and venture capitalists in France.

How to get your French company off the ground.

Registering a company is the first step in establishing a new business. Before they are allowed to do business, companies are required to register. You are required to accomplish this by going via the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises, often known as the CFE, or by going online to the website

You are required to submit your application via the right CFE since there is a unique CFE designed specifically for each kind of commercial endeavor. You may locate the offices that are closest to you by using their websites. Take, for instance:

If you wish to open a store or a commercial enterprise that does not include "craft, trades, or artisan" work, you must register with the Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie (CCI).

Chambre de Métiers et de l'Artisanat (CMA), for manual/trades and crafts persons.

Les Greffes des Tribunaux de Commerce is a forum for businesses owned by professionals who are subject to regulation.

URSSAF for those working in professions and intellectual services such as translating or designing websites.

Simply click on this list to locate the CFE that is most appropriate for the kind of company that you run.

Documentation is required for the registration of a company.

The documentation requirements for registering your business may vary based on the kind of company you run, however, they may contain the following items:

Documentation to verify your residence (rental agreement or EDF electricity bill);

Valid ID (valid passport or national travel ID, residency card);

Evidence that your partner is aware of their legal responsibilities.

Simply generate an online CFE file by clicking on the link provided.

If you are in the process of establishing a company, you may be required to make certain financial deposits, such as with a notary or a bank; draught statutes for the company (for more information on this topic, visit APCE); appoint a chief executive officer, and publish a notice of incorporation in a legal gazette.

The activities that take place at the CFE

The CFE will process your application and forward your papers to the appropriate entities once they have been received. These might include the following, depending on the nature and scale of your company, as well as whether or not you plan to hire staff members:

National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), which will register your firm with the national business directory and assign SIRET, SIREN, and APE numbers (see the section below for more information);

The tax office, known as the Centre des Impôts;

Register du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS) — the commercial court registry;

the social security system;

labour office (Direction Departemental du Travail & de L'emploi);

health insurance (Caisse regionale D'assurance Maladie);

unemployment insurance, pension, employment office (Pole Emploi);

If you are starting a corporation or if your firm is commercial, you should go to the Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce;

Répertoire des Métiers you desire to carry out a trade or profession;

if you plan on hiring additional people, you must register with the Caisses Sociales and the Inspection du Travail.

Business administration course

Business administration course

If you want to start your own business as a tradesperson (artisan), you may be required to complete training (also known as "Un stage de préparation à l'installation" or "SPI"), attend meetings, or participate in workshops to gain knowledge about various aspects of managing your own company. These requirements will vary depending on your previous experience and qualifications. The class is open to both you and your partner. Those who are starting up commercial and industrial firms have access to elective training programs that are similar to this one. The cost of these classes is around €250; however, you may be eligible for financial assistance if you inquire with your local Chamber of Commerce.

SIREN, SIRET, and APE numbers

INSEE will provide you with a one-of-a-kind identifying SIREN number consisting of nine digits when you register your company with them. This formal business number serves as evidence that your company has been registered. When talking about your firm, the government and other official bodies will always use this phrase.

After registering, it will take around two weeks for you to get an Extrait KBIS, which will include a 14-digit SIRET number. A five-digit establishment ID number is added to the SIREN number to create the SIRET number, which identifies each location of your company. This number is in addition to the SIREN number. If you are interested in learning more about your rivals, you can enter their SIREN numbers into this website to find out when their company was founded, how many employees they have, and, if they are a limited company, their financial information such as their turnover, profit, and loss – this information could be helpful to you!

In addition to this, you will be provided with either an APE code, which stands for "Activite Principale de l'Entreprise," or a NAF code, which specifies the primary activity of your company. These codes, each of which consists of four numbers and a letter, are used to classify every company that operates in France.

The cost of employing workers It is costly to hire people in France. Consider the fact that in addition to the social costs levied on your business, you will be responsible for paying workers' salaries and benefits if you decide to expand your workforce. This implies that you are required to pay workers a net wage in addition to an additional 75% in payments from both the business and the employee (companies pay the employee contributions).

The French legal system affords a high level of protection to its workforce. Obtain the assistance of a trained expert when drafting employment contracts, as well as information on working conditions, employment law, and the minimum wage in France.

Setting up an offshore company

If you are thinking about starting an offshore company, which is defined as a business that is registered, established, or incorporated in a country other than the one in which you currently reside, there are several major advantages and disadvantages associated with this decision that you need to be aware of.

The formation of an offshore company may be accomplished quickly and easily in any of the many offshore financial centers or tax havens located all over the globe. They have the potential to provide a broad variety of advantages to the firm as well as to the proprietors of the organization.

How to put up an invoice in French (facture)

When you send out invoices in France, you are required to include the following information:

the date that appears on the invoice;

date of delivery or transaction;

a description of the product or service being sold;

pricing, and any applicable reductions;

total sum excluding VAT (also known as "Prix HT" or "horse tax"), the VAT (TVA), or a note that TVA is not levied, and total selling price (TTC);

name and address of the customer;

corporate name and company form (such as SARL), if applicable;

registered address;

SIREN number (RCS if applicable).

Taking care of your financial affairs

Keep on top of paperwork;

Keep your finances and corporate finances completely separate;

Keep all receipts;

Maintain a separate bank account for your money;

Put money aside to cover upcoming tax obligations, social levies, and VAT payments (if applicable).

Getting professional advice

When beginning a new venture, it is strongly recommended that you seek the guidance of an experienced businessperson. An accountant or expert compatible may provide advice on a variety of topics, including taxes, fees, legislation, and any refunds that may be available. Find an accountant via the French accountants' professional body known as l'Ordre des Expert-Comptables or the local Chamber of Commerce, or consider hiring an accounting center that is linked with the organization. Consult an experienced notaire via the organization known as Notaires de France if you are interested in forming a limited liability business.

Useful contacts

APCE stands for Accueil Professionnels et Entreprises and is the name of the French organization that assists new businesses in getting off the ground.

The Center for Business Formalities, often known as the CFE, is the French government agency in charge of managing the registration of businesses throughout the country. Each kind of commercial enterprise has its own specialized office.

Direccte (Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l'emploi)

The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) is responsible for trademarks, patents, designs, and corporate names among other intellectual property matters.



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