Guide to Micro-Entrepreneur Business in France

  1. What is a Micro-Entrepreneur?
  2. Business Registration
  3. Social Security
  4. Income Tax
  5. Business Rates
  6. Status of Spouse
  7. Should You Elect for Micro-Entreprise Status?
  8. VAT
  9. Payment of Taxes and Social Insurance
  10. Business Accounting
  11. Running a Chambre d'Hôte
  12. Multiple Business Activities

2. Business Registration


2.1. Registration Centres

Until 2015 the simplicity of the formalities of business creation for micro-entrepreneurs was one of the guiding design principles of this business status.

All that was required was to go to the official government website and complete the on-line application form for inclusion on to the Registre National des Entreprises (RNE), the national business register.

Once completed you would be given a business number and you could start your business. No fees and no fuss.

In recent years that process has been replaced by the need to register with an official business registration centre, and incorporation on the trade and companies register, a process that requires greater effort and cash. There is also greater control on entry requirements.

The immatriculation process, as it is called, has been introduced directly as a result of pressure from the building trades associations, who considered that there were not enough controls on micro-entrepreneurs.

The registration centre (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises - CFE) and trade/companies register depends on the nature of your activity, as follows:

Activity Centre Register
Artisan Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA) Registre du Métiers (RM)
Commercial Sales Chambre du Commerce et de l'Industrie (CCI) Registre du Commerce (RCS)
Libérale URSSAF Only applicable for company registration - RCS
Sales Agent Tribunal de Commerce (Greffe) Registre Spécial des Agents Commerciaux

Unfortunately, although there are separate business professional categories, the lines between them are not always clear-cut, as many activities can fall into more than one category. Thus, a business might be either commercial, artisanal or liberal, depending on the precise nature of the activity being undertaken. In some cases, the activity may fall into two categories, such is often the case with the building trades.

The formalities are different if you are in one of the artistic professions (painter, sculptor etc) as you then to contact La Maison Des Artistes, whilst authors will need to make contact with AGESSA, although both need to also undertake prior registration as a business with URSSAF. We wrote an article in our Newsletter concerning affiliation to one of these insurance regimes, which you can read at Becoming An Artist or Author in France.

Agricultural activities are excluded from micro-entrepreneur status.

To register you need to visit the CFE. The chambres do often make a charge for assistance with the process, which varies but averages around €100. The 'Greffe' also impose a token charge.

Since January 2019 the business training course that was previously mandatory for those seeking to set up business as an artisan has been abolished, although you can still take it on a voluntary basis.

Be careful of scam mails you may receive following registration, which purport to come from an official body, seeking upwards of €100 as the charge for your business registration number.

The registration process also be can done on-line, although not always without difficulty as there are regular changes to the routing and registration requirements, and the chambres who ultimately process the application do not operate on a nationally uniform basis. The documentation requirements differ by chambre and region.

  • The main site is Autoentrepreneur.fr, a platform that is not available to artisans, but some local registration offices will also not accept 'commercial' business registrations, only the professions libérales.

  • You can also use Guichet Entreprises, a generic platform, but a website that is not always fully functional, somewhat out of date, and applications from it do sometimes go astray.

  • Trade based activities can also be done at CFE-Metiers, but this site is not accepted by some chambres.

In general the process normally takes several weeks, but the registration authorities (chambres, URSSAF) are poor at communicating progress on the application, and there are delays in some regions.

The government have realised the unsatisfactory nature of current arrangements, as a result of which a law passed in 2018 provides for the creation of a single on-line registration portal for all businesses (guichet unique électronique), although it will not be operational until 2021.

Some important points to consider in the on-line registration process are:

  • There is some variation in local practices, so although a national set of rules apply they are interpreted in a different manner by local offices, eg strict or lax;

  • Ensure you use passport identity photo, with approved manuscript certification text beneath it;

  • Non-EEA nationals will need to provide a copy of their residence permit/visa, which must show that a business activity is permitted;

  • You will need to attach other documentation, notably recent evidence of occupation/ownership of your French property, and a signed declaration that you have no criminal convictions;

  • Ensure you meet the entry requirements (qualifications, experience, certificates of competence) for the business activity; you will need to produce and attach appropriate evidence;

  • If you do not have an appropriate qualification to gain entry to the activity, but entry is possible on the basis of experience alone, you need to provide suitable evidence of that experience, eg reference, salary slips;

  • Ensure you undertake any complementary registration procedures, which are surprisingly not unusual, eg registration with the prefecture, local council, import/export, or regulatory body;

  • Ensure you select the business activity that properly reflects what you propose to do due to the different social security contribution rates that apply for different activities; there are also insurance requirements to consider;

  • If you are proposing to undertake several business activities, you need to comply with the conditions that set out in our section on Multiple Business Activities.

  • Certain business activities that are not undertaken at your business/home address, but in public areas, require a professional card;

  • You will need to determine the basis on which you will pay income tax as two options are available;

  • A selection is necessary for the spouse in terms of their legal status in the business, if any;

  • If the spouse is to be a partner in a commercial activity, then there is a declaration concerning the consequences of debt on their joint assets;

  • Health registration occurs subsequent to business registration, when the local health authority will write to you, although your spouse, if not in the business, will need to make their own separate application for health registration.

If you are encountering difficulties we can undertake the process of registration for you for a modest charge. You can contact us at Micro-Business-Registration.

2.2. Business Registration Number

In due course (normally a couple of weeks) you will receive your business registration number.

This number comprises 14 digits in total, known as your SIRET.

The first 9 numbers are your SIREN, which is your registration number on the national business register.

The last 5 digits are your NIC (Numéro Interne de Classement), which identifies the business geographically.

2.3. Qualifications

Some business activities/professions are 'regulated', with controls on access into a profession or activity.

Foremost of these are artisans and some of the professions libérales, but numerous other business activities require appropriate authorisation before you can start the business.

In most cases the authorisation required may be little more than registration with the Chambre de Commerce/Metiers, or in some cases with the prefecture.

In other cases additional criteria may apply, such as the absence of criminal convictions, the need for a licence, or the need for an appropriate qualification and/or experience.

These business activities include bars, restaurants and hotels, gîtes, camp sites, estate agency, driving schools, travel agent, hairdressing, transport business, domestic home care services and security services.

However, do not assume that because they are 'regulated' it is difficult to get into these professions as the entry requirements and procedures vary.

This does not necessarily mean you are allowed to do all aspects of work within that profession. Thus, a plumber could not legally fit gas appliances without appropriate French certification.

You also need to ensure that an insurer would be willing to offer you professional indemnity insurance.

Practice does vary between the Chambres de Metiers but, at most, provided you can demonstrate some basic level of certificated training, or at least three years experience in the relevant building trade, you can set yourself up in business.

If you hold appropriate qualifications you will normally be be asked to get them translated and certified by a professional translator, although, strictly speaking, under EU regulations you are not obliged to do this.

If you have no qualifications you would be well advised to bring testimonials, (translated into French and certified by a professional translator), which you can provide to the Chambre at the time of your registration.


Next: Social Security Contributions

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