How to start a business in France

Even though France is not a country that is generally considered to be a good place for foreigners to set up a business, things are changing. Free enterprise and a British or US entrepreneurial spirit at times seem to be missing in the makeup of the French economy, where the government has a ‘hands on’ approach to the business sector. Studies that are carried out from time to time reveal that many French citizens prefer to work in the public sector rather that set up their own business.

However, recently it seems that the French government has come round to the idea that it needs to encourage a more vibrant economy, and to do that needs to reduce the bureaucracy involved in setting up a company. These days, a lot of the old hurdles have been removed or lowered and there are possibly several big tax advantages for foreigners. A recent report listed the country as the third best country on the planet to develop a company from scratch. This report based its findings on:

  • Low start up costs
  • Low wage expectancy of employees
  • Good transport
  • Cheap fuel costs

Taxation for small businesses is lower than in the UK (Auto Entrepreneur)

There are a lot of regions and cities in France that want to help small businesses and because of this provide very real incentives.

Professional advice

To run a business in France, you will need to have an ‘extrait kbis.’ This is a document that is issued that certifies that your company is registered legally and has a legal existence. The document is given to you by the ‘Tribunal de commerce,’ and it details:

  • Legal status
  • Identity (name)
  • Ownership
  • The line of business

This document is vital and many banks and corporate bodies will need to see it before dealing with you. The bottom line is that without an ‘extrait kbis,’ you will find it impossible to run a company.

As a way of getting this start-up documentation, the help of a number of professionals is required:

  • An accountant will give advice on the financial side.
  • A Notaire/Avocat will provide assistance on how to register your business.

The French Chambre de Commerce is a statutory organisation that can give help with registration and business development. There is one Chambre de Commerce per state.

The ‘ACRE’ is a start-up scheme that provides advice plus interest-free loans if you qualify.

The organisations above are just a small part of the complex network of bodies that can assist you to set- up a small business in this country. Unlike the UK, French banks are obliged by law to give start-up loans to new companies that satisfy their criteria. It is always a good idea to talk to as many as possible to see what is on offer, as things can change very quickly.

If language is deemed to be a problem, then many organisations can be contacted that speak English and will also be able to help.