Business professions in France each have a distinct legal and fiscal status, but the classification is not always self-evident.
If you become resident in France and you wish to start a business you will be required to register the business with the French authorities.
The choice of activity will determine the entry requirements, registration process, your social security obligations, and your insurance requirements.
French law defines four main types of business activities:
Essentially, this is a division between sales, trade, services and agricultural activities, but some activities can span more than one category and others seem somewhat peculiarly placed.
The law only gives a general description of such activities, which are described in the Code du Commerce as 'any purchase of property for resale, either in kind or after having worked and implemented it'.
As a result, it includes a broad range of activities within it, of which the only common factor seems to be that they are ‘commercial’.
Insofar as the activities are not listed elsewhere it comprises activities related to distribution, manufacturing and services.
Specifically, those specific fields of activity that can be listed include retailing, hotels and restaurants, material hire, maritime commerce, buying and selling of property, industrial activity, transport, banking and insurance.
An artisanal activity is defined in law as 'a person who in engaged in an independent capacity in fabrication, transformation or repair, or a service related to the profession of artisan, and to the exclusion of agriculture or fishing'. The person must not employ more than 10 employees.
Contrary to popular belief an ‘artisan’ is not merely one of the building professions, but covers a range of 250 trade activities. These activities are divided into four different family groups:
i. Food – baker, butcher, fishmonger, ice-cream maker etc
ii. Construction – plumber, carpenter, bricklayer, electrician, plasterer etc
iii. Fabrication – watch making, clothes, furniture, cycle repair, printing, antique restoration, etc
iv. Services – hairdresser, florist, jeweller, removals, beauty therapist, mechanic, administrative services, taxi etc.
You can read more at What are the Artisan Professions in France?
The professions libérales similarly comprise a diverse range of business activities, but whose primary definition is ‘the provision of a service, principally intellectual, technical or care based, requiring appropriate qualifications and in accordance with the business ethics of the profession.’
Although this is the legal definition, in fact not all of the professions libérales require an appropriate qualification, including such activities as trainers, translators, publicist, illustrator, computer engineer, designer, journalist.
The main activities which are regulated (réglementées) include legal and medical professions, as well as architects, land surveyors, accountant, insurance agent, and investment advisor.
You can read more at Business in France as a 'Profession Libérale'
The legal definition of an agricultural activity is given by Article L.311.1 of the Code Rural, where it defines them as: 'all activities related to the control and operation of a biological cycle vegetable or animal in character, and constituting one or more steps in the course of this cycle, as well as the activities performed by a farmer which are an extension of the act of production or which are supporting operations.'
No defined list of activities is actually given in law, but they include growing crops, livestock and poultry, and forestry operations.
Certain equestrian activities and the rearing of domestic animals can also come within the scope of an agricultural activity, which is generally broadly defined.
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