Setting up a company in your own country can be fraught with difficulties, let alone tackling another country’s administrative system. Language problems, mounds of paperwork, legal obstacles and banking issues can all trip up would-be international entrepreneurs.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to expand your business globally, especially in France. You just need to know all the facts and the full requirements to prevent any mishaps.
As any French person will tell you, France used to have a reputation for dragging its heels when it came to business. French residents who tried to become small business entrepreneurs were forced to peck around for crumbs in the land of the baguette. But if you’re a foreign investor you now stand a much better chance. The French government has made an effort in recent years to aggressively attract foreign investment, so it’s good news for all you international business people out there.
There are lots of business options you can choose from. You can open a small representative office – a bureau de liaison – or set up a new business from scratch. Many clothing and accessory lines want to project a French image as part of their marketing strategy – let’s face it, being able to legally put the word ‘Paris’ on your fashion label does lend a certain exclusivity – and setting up in France is an easy way to achieve that Paris brand. But before you start dreaming up a whole new marketing concept you have to get to grips with the French incorporation system first. (Click here to see our 8 step guide to the whole process plus a free video explaining the steps).
France loves its licenses and laws and has a well-developed regulatory system. There are three main kinds of business entity in France: for small businesses, there’s a limited company option known as a SARL; for joint ventures between a French company and a foreign partner (very popular with US business people who want to set up subsidiaries in France) there’s a simplified stock corporation known as an SAS; and for bigger businesses there’s a Societé Anonyme (SA).
There are hardly any restrictions on setting up companies, except in certain areas such as banking and insurance, and there is no restriction on imports or capital from abroad. Also, thanks to strict regulation by banking administrators France still clings on with manicured nails to a strong position in the world's economy.
As a result, the system for opening companies in France is like a well-oiled and smooth running machine. But a word of warning – make sure your financial paperwork is in good shape right from the start because you don’t want to get into a battle with the dreaded tax man in France. But disaster is easy to avoid if you just follow the rules like all good French citizens.
Getting an actual business account set up in France is a very serious affair. Unlike the UK, you can’t just open a business bank account with a pound, and you can’t even register your company in France without having a bank account first.
The previous share capital for opening a business account used to be €7,500 for a SARL but luckily that’s now been reduced. They prefer you to make a “working capital” deposit of around €4,000 but it’s not mandatory and can be negotiated. And remember, after your account is set up these funds can be taken out of the account for use at any time so that should take any sting out of the tail for any initial deposit with the bank.
Related article: Business Banking in France - What NOT to Do
As French administrations go, the banking system is pretty rigorous and it can sometimes feel like certain banks go out of their way to make this procedure difficult. But instead of getting into a panic, just make sure you choose your bank carefully. The French have a world-class banking network and there’s a wide range of financial institutions with expertise in arranging international financial transactions and transfers. On top of commercial bank loans, there’s also plenty of tax and subsidy incentives for new and innovative companies so be sure to check if you qualify for those.
Recruitment itself is reasonably straightforward in France but the laws governing employment are very complex, much more so than in most other EU countries. Unlike the UK where many companies only offer short-term contracts, in France employment contracts for a fixed term are only allowed in a limited number of situations.
Related article: How does the payroll system work in France?
Collective agreements negotiated at national level are automatically applicable to commercial and industrial sectors. But all these collective agreements cover all workers, whether or not unionized. But don’t worry, a simple meeting with a legal advisor can sort out employment contracts which will also have the benefit of protecting your company too.
How can I get more information?
This is where Euro Start Entreprises can help. Our network of contacts will help you to start your business in France with the minimum of hassle and paperwork. We can help with everything from company formation, to opening a business bank account in France, finding English-speaking French accountants that can help with specialist tax advice, finding a registered address in France for your business and we can also help you with VAT services and online payment processing. We're a one-stop shop for everything you need to start a business in France. So feel free to reach out to us by calling us on 0033 (0) 1 53 57 49 10 or email us via our contact page. Or download our free guide below.
Download our free guide on opening a business in France
Learn the ins and outs of company formation in one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious markets