8 Steps to Starting a Business in France

For many aspiring business owners, starting a firm is a major step ahead, but if you have the correct knowledge, the step need not be as intimidating. Since we open businesses in France on a daily basis, you can rely on our information to be accurate and up-to-date. We are true experts in the French business world. Therefore, we’ve put together a helpful list of the 8 steps you’ll need to take to establish your brand in France for those who want to start a business there.

How to start a business in France: the basics

In France, anyone can open a business. To own a business in France, you DO NOT need to reside there or be a citizen of the EU. Even if you reside and work outside the EU, you can still register a business address in France and start a company there. That might entail setting up a virtual office or locating physical space for your company. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a home or change your citizenship!

First, draft a French business plan.
A business strategy should always be the first thing you do. A business plan enables you to clarify your mission statement and vision for your business and means you can show investors – and more importantly, the French business bank account manager – exactly how your business will run, whether you’re planning to open a small business in France or dreaming of a bigger slice of the French market. (It goes without saying that the French translation of this business plan will be required.) You might have to hire a french seo agency as well.

You must think about who your French market and customers will be, how much money you or your partners are investing, your previous company expertise, and how much money you anticipate earning and spending over the following few years.

Click here to read Dawn Bournand, a businesswoman from Paris, article on how to write the best French business plan for more details on the best plan structures.

Step 2: Pick Your French Company’s By-Laws & Structure
The type of company structure for your firm must then be determined. It’s crucial to complete your research because you’ll need to identify the structure that matches your company’s industry and level of turnover.

The most typical building types in France are:

EURL is a limited liability single shareholder corporation owned and operated by a single individual.
The acronym SARL is the same as a limited company in France, a Ltd., or an LLC.
A Simplified Stock Company, or SAS, is the best option for international investors who do not want to establish residency in France.
If you want to expand your current company and register it as a branch in France, select this option.
Please refer to our page if you want more detailed information about what each of these types of structures are. What distinguishes a Micro-Enterprise, Auto-Entrepreneur, SARL, SAS, SA, and EURL?

After that, you must file your by-laws with either a reasonably priced registered company formation agent or a lawyer (although attorneys are typically much more expensive!) This involves being clear about your company, such as what goods or services you want to offer.

Businesses in France are divided into several categories:

Commercial or industrial – trades/artisan, – art and crafts, building and manual trades, as well as certain types of manufacturing; Retail, such as stores and factories; Food, such as cafés and restaurants; Consulting and services; Import and Export;
Professionals who operate alone and provide a service to people or businesses are said to be independent or freelance; agricultural.
Each of these categories has a registration center in the location you want to set up:

the Chamber des Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA), the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE), and the Chambre d’Agriculture (CA)
Because you must notify the CFE, CMA, or CA each time your business ventures into a new area, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what your company is and what it hopes to become in the future.

If you work in a profession that requires licensing before you can work with people, such as therapy, accounting, construction, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or law, you must register with the French professional organization in order to be eligible for the appropriate insurance.

Create a French business bank account in step three.
You’ll also require a business bank account. Since it is now possible to open a bank account remotely (especially given the restrictions placed on travel following the global pandemic), you should be ready to discuss your business plan and respond to any inquiries that the bank manager may have.

Because of France’s strict money laundering rules, bank account managers can be quite picky about who they let open an account. An account manager’s mind is at peace if he can see all the facts and numbers set out, which is where your business plan comes in extremely helpful.

See our informative post, Business Banking in France – What NOT to Do, for more details on how to open a bank account quickly and easily.

Step 4: Fund Your French Bank Account with Capital
The minimum share capital for a EURL, SARL, or SAS has been cut to €1, yet banks still want more money to open an account.

Although a minimum deposit of about 4,000 euros was allowed, the traditional share capital was 7,500 euros. Please remember that this is “working capital” and can be withdrawn from the account at any moment for usage.

As soon as the lender receives the Kbis, the certificate of your new company, which typically takes two weeks, your share capital will be unlocked. Your investment will be immediately reimbursed to you if you decide against forming the company.

Step 5: Promote Your New French Business Legally
The next quirky French custom is to inform the media about your company’s launch. In order to formally and publicly present your company to the business world, you must issue an announcement in an authorized newspaper, such as Le Parisien or Les Echos, or a business publication.

Step 6: French Business Incorporation
You’ll need to gather a variety of paperwork and proof in order to incorporate your French business. You will require a completed application form, a certified copy of each director’s or shareholder’s passport, and two recent utility bills (mobile phone bills are not allowed) to prove addresses.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), which will register your company with the national business directory, will thereafter need to receive these documents. The Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce and the tax agency, the Centre des Impôts, will also need to receive your paperwork.

The social security office (URSSAF), the Caisses Sociales and Inspection du Travail if you are hiring or recruiting workers, and the Centre des Formalités des Entreprises or Chambres des Métiers must all be informed in order to ensure that the correct pension and labor payments are being made.

Your application will receive all the necessary stamps that formalize your French business incorporation once your documents have been sent to all the appropriate government authorities.

As you can see, there are a lot of steps to take, but with the assistance of a French company formation agent, you can complete them all quickly and easily without having to visit several government offices repeatedly or communicate with staff members in a foreign language. You can then take advantage of any small company possibilities in France to establish your brand on the market with the time you have freed up.

If all the documentation is in order, incorporation can often take up to two weeks from the time the bank account is opened, and VAT registration can take up to two weeks.

Step 7: Setting Up a French Business Registration
A unique 14-digit registered number made up of a SIRET and SIREN number will be given to you when you receive the “Extrait Kbis” (the certificate of incorporation). This number serves as your company ID and must be written on all official documents, invoices, and websites. These are the key figures you require when opening a business in France.

The SIRET consists of your 9-digit SIREN number in addition to a 5-digit code unique to your business. Additionally, you will have an APE (Activity Principal of the Enterprise) or NAF code that designates the primary activity of your company.

Your company bank account can be activated and your share capital will be unblocked once the Kbis arrives. Along with a VAT number and contact information for the tax officer, the tax office will also send you a welcome letter. Your VAT number begins with the letters FR and is followed by a two-digit code and your SIREN.

The French Customs Authorities will require you to apply for an EORI number if you want to import and export goods internationally. Check out our article for more details: EORI number explanation what it is and why trading requires it

Step 8: Locate a French accountant
When you’re from a different country, French tax law and accounting can be particularly challenging. The best approach to avoid problems and avoid conflict with the French tax authorities is to hire a qualified French accountant known as a “expert comptable.” They will be a licensed professional who has a duty to keep you abreast of all tax regulations and who is legally accountable for the integrity of your accounts. He can also assist you with payrolls and VAT returns.

Visit our articles here for more details. How does the French payroll system operate? additionally, how do I pay French TVA or VAT?

The next actions
The next step is for you to download our comprehensive, 11-page guide, which is available for free at the end of this article, if all of this has peaked your interest in starting a business in France. As an alternative, you can watch our video guide to Starting a Business in France, which will walk you through each step in detail. With it, you’ll have everything you need to launch your new French company, including instructions on how to register a business address, open a bank account, plan your taxes, and find an accountant.