2. Top Tips for Starting a Business in France

  • Before you relocate, establish whether or not the trade or profession you propose to enter is regulated and, if so, the terms of entry.

  • Undertake market research to assess the market prospects for your business and develop a commercial strategy – there is a surfeit of gîtes, estate agencies, cafes, bars and restaurants in most parts of France – all favourite targets for many relocating to the country.

  • You may be better off having more than one string to your bow, by running a couple of small (possibly related) business operations, rather than focus on any single business project. Few businesses who rely on expat trade alone are successful, so try and ensure your business also serves the French market.

  • Renting property in France (particularly furnished property) offers attractive fiscal advantages, although you need to carefully choose your market.

  • Register as unemployed with the French jobs agency ‘Pole Emploi’ whilst you plan your business, and gain an exemption from most social security contributions for up to two years.

  • Find a good commercially orientated accountant and be prepared to pay a few hundred Euros to get their advice on tax, financial assistance, the law and market related questions.

  • Consider the use of a Centre de Gestion Agréés (CGA) for verification of your accounts, as tax concessions are available.

  • Find out the likely level of your business insurance costs. Premium levels for public liability and professional indemnity insurance are high, running into several thousand of Euros a year for many professions.

  • If you commence trading before you have registered your business you can be subject to heavy fines, and you will carry no insurance cover, so get the paperwork sorted with the authorities before you start the business.

  • Consider micro-entreprise/ auto-entrepreneur tax status in the first instance, but do not jump to adopt it just because it has simplified taxation procedures.

  • Use cheap loan finance from the banks to reduce the level of your social security contributions and liability to income tax.

  • If you set up a limited company through which to run the business, then you should consider the use of dividends in partial remuneration, as a possible way of reducing your liability to social charges.

  • If you declare that your spouse assists in the business (e.g. accounts, administration) then they must be granted proper legal status in the business, and they are required to pay social security contributions.

  • The banks are obliged by the government to offer start-up loans to new companies, so do the rounds of a few banks to see what they are prepared to offer, before you give one of them your business account. You should also investigate loans and other assistance from the business development agencies.

  • Visit the web site of your Conseil Régional and enquire within about grant assistance, business advice, or soft loans. Make a visit to their offices and discuss your project and your needs.

  • Consider locating the business within an urban or rural development area where there are tax breaks and relief from social security contributions.

  • If you wish to employ someone, endeavour to make use of tax and social security concessions available for recruiting those from the unemployment register.

  • If you are making little or no money in your business, remember that you may also be entitled to social security benefits, as well as having to pay into the system!

Next: Getting Start-Up Advice

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