Ever since Macron’s administration took office, France has established itself as a “start-up nation”. It is an attractive place for start-ups and SME’s, as the French government has demonstrated its willingness to invest in these companies as a mean to boost the French Economy.

Convinced to be part of this buoyant ecosystem and open an office in Paris Region? Great! Maupard Fiduciaire will guide you through the two main steps you’ll have to complete in order to have your business up and running.

Post written by Alexandra Israel, Business Developer

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Step 1: Choose the right type of structure

Do you simply want a sneak peek at the French market or are you ready to go full pelt? Different options are available in terms of company structure depending on the type of activities you want to have in France and how advance you are with your business development.

Liaison office:

A liaison office is a great way to test the waters in the French market. Carrying very few of the risks associated with incorporating an SAS, and with significantly fewer financial obligations (no corporate tax, no VAT, no Contribution Economique Territoriale (CFE and CVAE), though it is still necessary to pay local property tax). A liaison office is not a permanent establishment as long as you do not conduct commercial activity, but offers the parent company an opportunity to gain further insight into how their business could function in France. Employees are subject to French labor law and benefit from the French social security system, with their social contributions being managed by URSSAF (the body which specialises in the employment of workers in France, by foreign firms)

The steps: It is not necessary to register to the Chamber of Commerce as a liaison office, you must just make a declaration of existence to the CFE (the Business Formalities Centre) of the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie (Chamber of Commerce and Industry). Following this, you will receive your Siren and Siret numbers.

Estimated duration: 3 weeks

Branch:

A branch is the next level up from a liaison office and offers your company much more visibility and credibility in France because you will have an address. The branch is better for those with more of a plan to permanently set up in France (more so than just testing the waters), and, unlike a liaison office, can host commercial activity. It can also be a good way to discreetly enter the French market, as there is an option to postpone the first filing of your annual accounts (under French law, the first financial year is able to exceed December once and last up to 23 months in duration, if the financial year started in January). Once again, there is no ‘incorporation’ process; no legal forms are chosen and no bylaws have to be drawn up. However, unlike the liaison office, the branch is a fiscal entity (the formal tax definition is: permanent establishment) and therefore is liable to pay the same taxes as a resident company. Any employee recruited in France through a branch is subject to the same obligations under the French labor law as the liaison office.

The steps:

  1. All supporting documentation must be collected, and the parent company’s bylaws translated into French.
  2. Next, a “M0” tax form must be completed as well as a proxy permitting your accounting firm permission to liaise with the French administration on your behalf.
  3. Once compiled, the dossier is delivered to the Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés (RCS -The Trade and Companies Register)
  4. Once registered, you will receive your “Kbis” certificate (Document detailing official identity and address of a business) and your non-resident employer certificate issued by URSSAF.
  5. The opening of the branch must be declared in the RCS.

Estimated time frame: minimum 3 weeks.

More info here

SAS:

The SAS is the most complex of the 3 options to set up, mainly due to the requirement to apply to open a corporate bank account at the same time, which can be a lengthy process. That said, the SAS is the most flexible structure, commonly used here in France. An SAS gives you the most freedom and recognition as a fully registered company, but of course, you will be liable to pay corporate tax, VAT and CET, etc. The employees are, once again, subject to French labor law.

The steps:

  1. Supporting documents must be collected, including the company’s business plan, domiciliation and the appointment of a proxy.
  2. Then, the bylaws are prepared and must be translated into French.
  3. Once approved, a notice of the company’s incorporation is published in a local legal journal.
  4. Once everything has been sent to the CFE, you will receive your Kbis certificate, and the process is complete!

Estimated time frame: Assuming that all documentation provided is correct and accepted the first time round for the corporate bank account, this could be completed in as little as 1 month. However, to be realistic, a more feasible time frame would be up to 2 months, in anticipation of delays and further requests for documentation.

More info here

Step 2: Opening a corporate bank account

In France, the key process involved in setting up your company is the opening of a corporate bank account (for an SAS). Be aware this application can be a challenging and sometimes time-consuming process, particularly for US citizens with regards to the FATCA requirements in Europe. The key to success here is preparation: preparation of necessary documentation, business plans, cash flow projections, etc. The best practice would be to compile everything into a clear, well-presented dossier to be submitted to the bank.

To increase your chances of success, we recommend you hire an accounting firm, who will likely have trust relationships with bankers at local banks. You should investigate whether your usual bank has a French entity, it is all a question of trust. If the bankers trust you and your business plan, it is likely they will accept your application for a corporate bank account. To build this relationship of trust, you must come to France to meet with the bankers at least once during this process, so be prepared for this. Once all of the formalities have been completed and the account approved, you will receive your IBAN and the account is all ready to go!

More info here


Alexandra Israel is a modern languages graduate from Bristol University, UK. She is currently working as a Business Developer at Maupard Fiduciaire, in charge of incoming clients in Paris. Maupard Fiduciaire is a business advisory and accounting firm specialising in assisting international clients in setting up their business in Paris.