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Moving PlannerStarting a Business in France

This article is about the process of setting up a business in France. Please remember that this article does not replace professional advice. It is an outline based on personal experience.
Please if you are planning to set up a business in France seek professional advice, at the least try to go to an orientation like an ‘Info-Créateurs’ meeting. I went to one at my local Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie) and found it very helpful.

What Type of Business

This is of course the most important question. Many expats first think about tourism, for example starting a Gîte or B&B. The problem with either of these is that there are already many other expats that have a Gîte or B&B (along with many French) and so the market has become saturated. I have in-laws who own a B&B and they tell me that business over the last few years has been flat and if it was not for repeat customers they would be in a lot of difficulty.
I personally have an internet business that started out as a hobby and has grown into part time job. Notice I said part time. I still have my ‘day job’ as I have bills to pay and I’m along way to fulltime income.
Some other business ideas are something in the trades, as France is going through a building boom right now. Another idea is a service (like a relocation company) for the many expats moving to France. But in my experience that might not be the best idea. There is a lot of free advice out there and most people don’t want to pay a relocation company.
My best advice would be something internet based. The internet offers a lot of flexibility and it something you can start before moving to France. But remember, Americans in France has been on line since October 2001 and it took a number of years before it even paid for its hosting.

Registering a Business in France

To start a business in France the first step is to register the business. In France you can’t just start a business, papers need to be filled out, and depending on the business it is possible that a diploma of some kind will need to be had. Where a business in France is registered depends on the type of business. Basically it is like this. A trade person (plumber, carpenter, electrician…) will be registered at the chamber de métiers. A service (translation, writing…) will be registered with the Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiale. Better know in France by the acronym URSSAF. Finally, if the activity is has to do with commerce (shop, ecommerce …) then you want to register at the Chamber de Commerce. You really need to think about what you will be doing and what will bring in the most money. If by chance you are going to have a business involving different activities then you will register based on the activity that will bring in the most income.

What to watch out for

In France it really pays to do your homework, once a business is set up, taxes will need to be paid! You can delay your tax burden but sooner or later you will need to pay it. This is a very good subject to bring up when getting advice.
Regardless of profit you will pay taxes. As I said before you can delay, there are a few options possible, for delaying your tax payments until the second year. Again this needs to be asked when getting advice. How much tax will need to be paid? When I set up my business I was given this as the tax burden: first year € 2,979, second year € 4,443, third year 45% of what was made in the first. Forth year would be 45% of sales (less expenses) from the second and so on.

Related:
Downside to Auto Entrepreneur

Related Links:
Start Business in France: Provides advice and forums for English speaking people who need expert help on registering, setting up and starting an Auto-Entrepreneur, Profession Liberale, Regime Micro Social, Micro Entreprise business in France.

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