France is a popular place to start a business – “entrepreneur” is a French word, after all – and it has the advantages that go with the European single market. What catches some newcomers out is the bureaucracy, which is sometimes different from what you’d encounter back home. Here are some tips to help you hit the ground running.
Getting things started
First, you’ll need to create your new company’s “statuts”. These give details such as ownership structure, address, etc. There are a few that you might not expecting, such as whether sales can be blocked by minority shareholders, so it’s a good idea to find a French lawyer. It will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but it will save you plenty of heartache. Just make sure that the lawyer has both experience with startups and perfect English.
Proof of existence
You must obtain an official document proving that your startup exists. This is called the “extrait de k-bis“. It’s vital that you get this done immediately, otherwise your life can become very difficult. You may not even receive business mail, because the post office won’t accept that letters addressed to your new company can be delivered to an address that isn’t associated with a kbis! Make sure you know your “RCS” (company registration code) and your “numero TVA” (VAT registration number), too.
Where are you?
There aren’t many restrictions in France on where your business address can be. Even if you rent, your landlord can’t stop you from using that address, though you must let them know what you’re doing in advance. Choose carefully, though: changing your registered location means not only paying a fee but having to go through the filing process again. You can rent mailboxes, which may make sense if, like many startups, you think you’re likely to move around a lot early on, though they aren’t cheap.
Banks and taxes
French banks are picky about paperwork, so make sure you have everything sorted out before you approach one. Banks will require a valid “extrait kbis” to grant you an account, and you can expect a personal interview. Internet banking is not well developed, and you’ll need to visit your local branch quite often. You’ll be assigned to one of the many regional tax offices, which will deal with your corporate tax affairs. For this, you’ll need to take along your “statuts” – again, you’ll have to go in person.
The final step
Finally, you’ll need to register the company itself. It’s a good idea to shell out €200 for the enhanced service offered by local Chambers of Commerce, since this is much faster and which will see much of the tedious checking and the documentation’s actual submission done for you. Within a week, you should receive confirmation of your business’s acceptance, and at this point you can start doing what you’ve always wanted to to: actually running a business in France!