Opening a company is a big leap forward for many would-be entrepreneurs but the jump doesn’t need to be so daunting if you’re armed with the right information. For those that want to start a business in France, we’ve compiled a helpful list of the 8 steps you’ll need to take to put you on the French business map.
Step 1: Business plan
A business plan is essential, not only to get it clear in your head about your mission and vision for your business, but also so you can show investors – and more importantly the French business bank account manager exactly how your business will run. You will need to consider who your market and customers will be, how much money you or your partners will be investing, what business experience you have and how much money you are likely to make and spend during the next few years.
Step 2: By-laws & Structure
Next you’ll need to choose the type of company structure for your business. The most common structures in France are:
SARL – which is like a Limited or LLC company.
SAS – which is a Simplified Stock Company for a joint venture between a French company and a foreign partner.
Branch – if you want to extend your existing business with a branch in France.
Then you have to register your by-laws, either with a registered company formation agent or with a lawyer. This includes being specific about your business – what products you’ll sell or what services you want to provide and what your business hopes to become in the future.
Step 3: Business Bank Account
Next you’ll need a business bank account. So once you’ve arranged a meeting with a bank manager (bank account introductions can be set up by company formation agents) you need to be prepared to go through your business plan and answer any questions about your company.
Step 4: Deposit Capital
To open a business bank account in France, you’ll need to deposit at least 4000 € of share capital into the account. (The law states there is only a 1 € minimum, but no bank will actually set you up with an account with such a low amount).
Your share capital will be unblocked as soon as the banker receives the Kbis – the certificate of your new company which normally takes about 2 weeks. If you end up not going through with the company formation, then your capital will be returned to you immediately.
Step 5: Legal Publicity
Next you must publish an announcement in an authorized newspaper such as Le Figaro or Le Monde or a business publication.
Step 6: Incorporation
This is where your application will receive all the official stamps from the French government departments such as the tax office, the Centre des Formalités des Entreprises or Chambres des Métiers and the Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce that looks after all the incorporations at the Commercial Court.
Step 7. Registration
When you receive the ‘extrait Kbis’ (the certificate of incorporation) you will be provided with a registered number which is your company ID number that must be written on all official documents and invoices.
When the Kbis arrives, your bank manager can activate your business bank account and your share capital will be unblocked. You will also receive a welcome letter from the tax office with a VAT number and tax officer contact details.
Step 8. Accountant
Appoint a professional French accountant called an ‘expert comptable’. They will be a regulated professional who is legally obliged to keep you up to date with all the tax laws and is held legally responsible for the good standing of your accounts. He can also help you with VAT returns and payrolls.