Self-employed and freelance workers

Becoming self-employed in France

Self-employed and freelance workers

In 2015, France introduced a new law that makes it easy to register as self-employed and become a ‘micro-entrepreneur’. If you don’t want to register as self-employed, you may still be able to work as a freelancer through an umbrella company (portage).


The 2015 Loi Pinel law created a new tax status specifically designed for those who are self-employed or working freelance. The micro-entreprise tax status has simple tax and accounting requirements and all taxes and social security contributions can be paid online.

Not everyone can claim the micro-entreprise status: your eligibility is based on your profession and annual turnover. You can not register as a micro-entrepreneur if:

  • your profession is a regulated liberal profession  that is not affiliated with the Caisse interprofessionnelle de prévoyance et d'assurance vieillesse (CIPAV), e.g. a lawyer or doctor.
  • your annual turnover is above the threshold for your specific business activity (e.g. sales based, service based). You can see the current thresholds here  (in French). If this applies to you, you need to follow the standard business registration procedure to set up your business.

How to register as self-employed

Registering as a micro-entrepreneur is pretty easy. You simply need to register with the Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE).

1) Choose the right CFE department

The CFE has different departments dedicated to specific business activities. For example, the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie (CCI) for commercial enterprises and the Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales (URSSAF) for liberal and intellectual professions such as consultants and translators.

Click here  for a complete list of the CFE’s departments and see which is the appropriate one for you.

2) Complete the PO PL micro-entrepreneur form

You need to download and fill out the PO PL micro-entrepreneur form . You can then either send it, along with a photocopy of your official ID, to the appropriate CFE department or take the form and your ID to the relevant CFE office in your locality.

You can also register as self-employed exclusively online here  (in French).

After your registration has been processed, you will receive three numbers; your SIREN number, SIRET number and APE code. The unique SIREN number identifies your business, the SIRET number identifies your business’ location and the APE code identifies your business activity.

Umbrella companies

If you want to do freelance work in France but do not fancy the extra ‘hassle’ of being self-employed (e.g. registering and sorting out your social security contributions), you have the option of working through an umbrella company (portage). Umbrella companies are a particularly good option for freelancers in liberal and intellectual professions (accountants, journalist, editors, writers, consultants…), especially if you have clients based abroad.

How does it work?

Umbrella companies allow you to work ‘freelance’ (choose your clients, pay, work hours) while being classed as employed. The company acts as your employer: instead of paying you directly, your clients pay the umbrella company, then, after deducting your social security contributions, the company pays you a monthly net income. As a result, you are entitled to the same benefits (unemployment, healthcare...) as employed workers.

The company will deduct their fee (usually 7-10%) from your monthly ‘salary’. You will still need to pay your own income tax and make an annual tax declaration.

Further reading

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