Starting a business in France can be a daunting, yet rewarding adventure. While embarking on any new business endeavor requires cutting through a certain amount of red tape, France has its own flavor of bureaucracy, which you can easily navigate through with the right tools, a lot of patience, and a bit of savoir faire.
Once you’ve created your business plan, it is necessary to become acquainted with the legalities of the French system. It is necessary to write the by-laws, known as statuts, for your company, according to the established business structures in France. A few examples of these are:
- Société à Responsibilité Limitée (SARL) This is the French version of a Limited or LLC company, with at least one shareholder and one director.
- Entreprise Individuelle (EI) Business with a single trader.
- Branch – An extension of a foreign company in France.
- Societé Par Actions Simplifieé (SAS) Simplified stock company for a joint venture between a French company and foreign partner.
- There is also “Auto Entrepreneur” which is designed for extremely small businesses (less than 30k€ of sales a year)
Once you have decided on a structure for your company, you will need to register your statuts through a registered company formation agent or a lawyer.
Choose the address of your company. While this can be your home address, or a box at your local French post office, choose wisely. There is a fee for changing your business address and you will be required to register your by-laws again.
After you have these details sorted, you are ready to present your business plan to a French banker to examine the financial aspects of your company. Your business plan will be carefully scrutinized, and this is a good thing. The banker will provide you with an expert opinion as to whether or not your business is likely to succeed in France.
Incorporating your business with a Centre des Formalités des Entreprises (CFE) will be the next step. This is where your application will pass through all of the stamp-wielding government officers; the French tax authority, social security, and Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce, the French commercial court.
In a couple of weeks, you will receive confirmation from the powers that be in the form of an extrait kbis. This is the official incorporation certificate for your company. The extrait kbis is the document which contains your company ID number which will be on all of your company’s documents, invoices, and whatnot.
Now that you’ve obtained your extrait kbis, it’s a good time to find a reliable accountant. When tax time comes around, it’s best to have a seasoned professional to tackle the forms and figures.