How to register a business in France


Before undertaking any business transactions in France, it’s important to obtain legal advice to ensure that you’re operating within the law. Although registering your business means having to pay taxes and social security contributions, it also gives you access to healthcare, pension rights, family allowances and, for lower earners, various other means-tested benefits.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to register your business, as from the date of registration you must pay hefty social security, pension and health insurance payments, and are also liable for income tax and VAT). However, you should never be tempted to start work before you’re registered, as there are harsh penalties that may include a large fine, confiscation of machinery or tools, and even deportation and a three-year ban from entering France. Your local centre de formalités des entreprises is a good source of information regarding when you must register, which varies according to your activity and whether you’re considered an employee of your business or not.

If your business is to have a trading name, it’s a good idea to check whether or not your chosen name is already in use, and, in the case of original names, to ensure that it isn’t a registered trademark. For a quick check, go to . For a more detailed check, you must contact the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle ( ). A search among a particular type of business costs € 38; a search among all businesses in France costs € 760. You may then want to register the name yourself. This is done at the RNCS, costs a minimum €215 (for exclusivity in just your area of business; more if you want to prevent people in other types of business using the same name) and is valid for ten years at a time.

Forms for registration

Registration is administered by local centres de formalités des entreprises ( CFE), which checks your application and submits details to the relevant agencies (for a small fee). The CFE will provide you with a form M0, which is for the creation of a company. Among other things, form M0 asks you to list the intended activity or activities of your company, from which information the authorities will allocate to it the financial regimes under which it must operate. It’s essential to take professional advice (e.g. from an accountant) and to make sure you know the implications of your choice of activity before completing form M0.   You have three months in which to change your mind (by notifying your tax office); thereafter you’re stuck with your nominated regimes until the end of the year that follows your year of registration.

The documentation you need to register:

  • A copy of the announcement of company formation from the appropriate journal or a copy of the request for publication made to the journal, along with its confirmation of acceptance;
  • At least two copies of the articles of incorporation, which must be in French, if you’re setting up a limited company;
  • Written nomination of the managing director (MD), if it isn’t part of the articles of incorporation;
  • A signed declaration by the MD that he has no criminal convictions ( attestation sur l’honneur de non-condamnation);
  • A copy of the MD’s identity card or passport;
  • Carte de commerçant for a non-EU citizen;
  • Proof of the company’s address (e.g. a copy of a lease or recent utility bill);
  • A statement from the MD if the company is to be set up in his residence for the first two years, and proof of his residence.

When the CFE receives your completed dossier and form M0, it issues you with a receipt. The receipt itself doesn’t mean that you’re registered and doesn’t allow you to begin trading. However, it does allow you to set up utility accounts in the name of your business, to take an entry in the telephone book, and to notify the post office of your business address.

The CFE the sends your details to the following organisations:

  • The Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (INSEE), France’s national statistics office, which enters your company on the national register of businesses and issues your SIREN,  SIRET and NAF code (see below);
  • The tax authorities;
  • The social security agencies – URSSAF (for family allowances), the CAM (for medical cover) and the relevant caisse de retraite (for pensions) – which will send you demands for contributions;
  • The Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce (applies only to businesses classed as commercial or industrial), which enters your business on the Registre National du Commerce et des Sociétés (RNCS);
  • The Répertoire des Métiers if you’re an artisan;
  • The relevant social security and labour inspection organisations if you have employees.

Registration costs between around € 200 and € 350 depending on the body you must register with. When your company has been entered in the appropriate register, you receive confirmation, which takes the form of a certificate issued by the relevant authority. You need copies of your certificate to establish credit with suppliers, as well as to get the bank to release your blocked funds and to set up a company bank account.

Further reading

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