CONTRARY to what happens in the UK, it is a legal requirement in France to always 'register' one’s company/activity, hence making it official and legal, before one can start operating, writes Alexandra Thevenet.
CFE (Centres de Formalités Entreprises: Business Registration Desks) deal with registering businesses, amending records in case of a new or additional activity being carried out, or cancelling registrations when businesses shut down.
Business registrations files are all centralised by the CFE which checks them thoroughly and passes them onto the various bodies and administrations related to creating a business, namely:
* INSEE (National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies) which is in charge of registering businesses with the Répertoire National des Entreprises (Business National Directory) and allocates both a SIREN number and a SIRET number, along with an activity code: the APE code.
The SIREN number is used by all public organizations and administrations the business is linked to and contains three times three numbers.
The SIRET number is used to identify the business, a sort of id often requested by the welfare services, tax authorities, and unemployment services (ASSEDIC). The SIRET number is based on the SIREN number plus a further 5-number code. The APE code identifies the sector of activity.
* The tax authorities (services fiscaux)
* Social Welfare Agencies such as URSSAF, RSI who collect social contributions
* The Commercial Court Registry (le Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce) – only if the business is of a commercial nature or involves trading.
The Registry will then send the business owners a document proving that the business is registered with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCS: Registre du commerce et des sociétés).
That document is called “extrait K” for sole entrepreneurs, and “extrait Kbis” for businesses (sociétés).
* The Trade and Crafts Registry if the activity involves transforming something with ones hands (all activités artisanales such as painters, bakers, carpenters, etc).
* Social Welfare bodies (caisses sociales) dealing with employees assuming the activity does start with employees, which would be indicated in the registration papers, and the Inspection du Travail which is a control organization in charge of ensuring that work laws are applied properly and adhered to within factories and offices.
Which CFE for which activity?
If you are a merchant, shopkeeper or if your business is not related to crafts trade, you should get in touch with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie - CCI).
If you are a craftsman however, or a small-scale business dealing in the crafts industry, then you are to contact the Chamber of Trade and Crafts (Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat - CMA).
It may also be that your activity will be involved in both commercial and crafts matters in which case the CMA will register your business to both its own register, but also that of the CCI.
Non-trading companies (SCI, SCL, SCP), professions (SELARL, SELAFA, SELCA) and sales representatives should all contact the Commercial Court Registry (Greffe du Tribunal).
Professions, be they regulated or not, and employers whose businesses are not listed in the Trade Register or the Trade Directory (e.g.: trade associations) must contact URSSAF.
Artists and authors, people subjected to VAT and income taxes under the BIC (Industrial and Commercial Profit) or the IS (Companies Tax), and not falling into any of the above mentioned categories (e.g.: partnerships, associations), must register with the Tax Office (Centre des Impôts).
Finally, individual and moral entities that mainly deal with agricultural activities should contact the Chamber of Agriculture (Chambre d’Agriculture).
However, please note that going to a CFE to register your business is only an administrative formality which should only take place once you have received all the advice necessary regarding your project on matters such as the best suited legal status (there are other legal status aside from the auto-entrepreneur!), compulsory qualifications regarding all trades of the craft industry, tax implications and so on.
It is not the CFE’s mission to give you business guidance and support so it is strongly recommended that you should do all your “homework” prior to the registration process, which includes doing research on your target market, potential competitors, drawing up a business plan including a financial plan and business forecasts, etc.
Alexandra Thevenet has created a business networking service in the Dordogne called The Link to help bring English and French-speaking communities and businesses together. On February 10 a talk on setting up a business in France (and in the Dordogne specifically) will be run by The Link, and also look ahead at retirement for British entrepreneurs based in France and there will be Q&A time too. It takes place at the Salle Communale next to the Mairie - 24800 Saint Pierre de Cole, from 5pm to 7pm, and is held in partnership with Allianz.