6. Registering a Business in France

  1. Introduction
  2. Business Registration Centres
  3. Business Registration Number
  4. Cessation of Business Activities

6.1. Introduction

If you are resident in France and you wish to run a business you are obliged to become business registered. It does not matter that you may already own a company in another country.

If you are not proposing to set up a separate company then the registration process is relatively easy and cheap, as you merely need to go along to your local business registration centre to do so or you can do so on-line.

If you are setting up a micro-entreprise then you should refer to our Guide to Micro-Entrepreneur for information on the formalities.

We can undertake the process of micro-entrepreneur business registration for a modest charge. We are unable to assist with company registration. You can contact us at editor@french-property.com

The process is more expensive and complicated if you want to create a limited company, such as an 'EURL' or 'SARL'.

You can read more about company formation on our page Setting up a Limited Company in France.

To do so you need to proceed through a good accountant, notaire or avocat who should be able to advise you on the most appropriate structure, and complete the formalities for you.

They will probably charge you between €1,000 to €2,000 (plus registration costs), but particularly if this is accompanied by appropriate taxation and other advice you may consider it worthwhile.

If you know your way around, with suitable language competency, or you can get some informed assistance, then you can actually do it yourself, by purchasing and completing the pre-printed documents. You need to be rather cautious about doing this way, but if you do so the cost should be no more than several hundred euros.

One other approach is to make use of the services available in the business registration centre (see below) as such centres frequently assist in the formalities of company creation as well as registration.

Alternatively, consider using a local business advice centre, called a boutique de gestion.

EEA nationals need no residence or work permit to establish a business in France.

Non-EEA nationals will need to apply for a residence permit - visa de long séjour - to live in France, many of which would enable them to set up a business. If no right is granted then it is possible to later change the type of visa, for one that grants such a right eg carte de séjour temporaire “entrepreneur/profession libérale” or a carte de séjour pluriannuelle “passeport talent”. The application process is best started at the local French consulate in the country where you reside.

Alternatively, if you are a non-EEA national already resident in France with a visa that does not grant authorisation to run a business, and you wish to start one, then you need to make application to your local préfecture.


6.2. Business Registration Centres

The registration of a new business is carried out at a business registration centre, called a Centre des Formalités des Entreprises (CFE).

The CFE acts as a clearing-house for the statutory bodies who need to be made aware of your new business, notably the tax authority, commercial court, and social security organisations.

There are different types of CFE, depending on your proposed business activity.

Table: Business Registration Centres in France

Business Activity Centre des Formalités
Commercial Chambre de Commerce et d’industrie
Trade Chambre de Metiers et Artisans
'Profession Liberale' URSSAF
'Agent Commercial' Greffe
Agriculture Chambre d’Agriculture
Others Centre d’impôts

Whichever registration formalities you need to accomplish you are probably best advised to first make contact with your local 'Chambre', as the whole process can be accomplished through them, and their advice can be most useful.

There are offices located in most departments, although some are being regionalised as part of a rationalisation of the structure.

Inevitably, this can make obtaining access to the CFE sometimes difficult to organise, so if the main office is not located nearby give them a ring to establish if a local surgery or branch office is available for you to visit.

You will find location details of each of these bodies in your local telephone directory.

URSSAF is the L'Union de Recouvrement des cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiales, the main social security collections agency, which has offices in each department. It will be similarly listed in the directory.

You will need to advise the CFE whether or not you wish to be TVA registered, but if you later feel you have made the wrong choice, you still have three months in which you may change your mind.

The process is fairly straightforward and the cost of registration should not be more than €250. In the case of those registering with URSAAF as one of the professions liberales there is no registration charge.

When you visit the CFE you will need to take your passport, birth and marriage certificates with you. You should also take a utility bill as evidence of your address and certificates of your qualifications, if needed.

Your spouse is also required to sign a declaration that s/he has been made aware of any debts being incurred against assets jointly held.

The CFE will process all necessary documentation for notifying the relevant statutory bodies. You will be provided with a receipt (Récépissé de Dépôt de Création d'Entreprise - RDCE) confirming your application.

You will receive confirmation of your registration within two weeks. For those engaged in commercial activities the confirmation will be in the form of a document called an extrait K for sole trader or a extrait Kbis for companies. Artisans obtain a D1 and the profession liberales and micro-entrepreneurs merely a Siret number. The document may be best described as your official business identity card.

6.3. Business Registration Number - SIRET

As a new business you will be given a business registration number comprising 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.

In addition, and separately from your SIRET, you will also be given a 5 figure code which identifies your business activity, called the APE (Activité Principale Exercée). It used to be called the NAF - Nomenclature des Activités Françaises.

There are hundreds of different business activity codes, a complete list of which is contained on the website of the French national statistical agency INSEE.

If you need to register the domain name of an internet site you intend to develop then you need to register the site with AFNIC, the French domain name registration agency.

If you need to register a patent, protect a name or intellectual process then you need to contact INPI, the French patents agency.

6.4. Cessation of Business Activities

If you decide to terminate the business, then you need to go along to the Centre des Formalités des Enterprises (CFE) advising of the date your business ceased trading.

The CFE will then notify the various social security agencies.

Similarly, within 60 days of ceasing trading you should also notify your Centre d'Impôts, to whom you should also supply trading information to enable them to calculate your tax liability. This practice is variously operated across the country, with some offices prepared to await the normal submission of your annual income tax return. You need to ask.


Next: Business Premises/Running Business from Home

Back: Status of Spouse








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