Working in France: Top Tips & Advice

Working in France: Top Tips & Advice


Here’s a list of useful information if you thinking of working in France:

* If you register with the French jobs agency Emploi Store whilst you plan your business, you may qualify for an incentive to reduce or eliminate social contributions for a determined period of time.

* There are a number of tax breaks and relief on cotisations available for new businesses. For example, where you locate your business may make it eligible for a tax break. If you need to employ someone, try and do so from the unemployment register as that will also give you tax and cotisations concessions. For more information, visit your local Chambre de Commerce or Chambre des Metiers

* Don’t mistake France for your home country: ‘A common error made by a lot of foreign business owners who moved to my area was to think that France was basically the same as back home, except for the language and this just isn’t the case,’ says Alain Bechon who used to work for the French Chamber of Commerce.

* Do make sure you have enough capital behind you. Most expats who have businesses in France advise calculating between one to three year’s worth of expenses – including putative petrol costs and potential phone bills – and making sure you have this sum in hand before you get started.

* Don’t underestimate distance: France is a big country – it is twice as big as the UK – which means that what was once a 15 minute drive to the shops could well be a 50 minute marathon if you live outside of the larger towns.

* Do get expert advice. “You can’t beat advice, whether from others already running a business here or from professional organisations aimed at the self-employed,” says experienced businessman David Hammond in Burgundy.

‘From my experience there are three fundamental sources of help and advice for anyone thinking of setting up a business in France. They are the mairie, the Chambre de Commerce and a French-based accountant. I could also add that a trip to an UK accountant to sort out the British tax position is also a good investment.

Befriending the mayor and his assistant or in a larger town some of the staff is time well spent. The tack I find helps is to make an appointment, take a long a French translation of your business idea and ask advice. The questions to pose are ‘here is my idea, what do you think?’ followed by ‘is this something that you would support in your commune?’ and ‘what advice can you give me and what do I need to do to help make this work?’

Never forget that the mayor has probably seen it all before, is extremely well connected and much more powerful than his or her UK equivalent. They also have a tremendous amount of experience to tap in to. Generally, the mayor – particularly in rural communities – will be delighted that you are bringing economic input into the community. Cultivate the mayor and you have a friend for life. Ignore them, and you will be in deep trouble.

After visiting the mairie, take a trip to the Chambre de Commerce. In most Chambres you will find someone who speaks some English – but don’t be surprised if it is not the person who has the specialist knowledge that you seek. I often wonder if this is half the problem. People approach the Chambre with a specialist business question and through difficulties in communication don’t receive the advice they think they should. All I can say is that, in my Chambre, Saône et Loire based in Chalon sur Saône, the business support team is highly professional and dedicated to building the economy of the area. That is their job, after all.

In France a good accountant is not an option, it is a requirement. It is absolutely essential for anyone embarking on major change such as launching a business in a new country to take professional advice. Funnily enough, I often sense people are reluctant to spend a thousand or so euros on this advice while thinking nothing of spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of euros in the actual move and business launch. It is a false economy.

Many people will be able to handle the book-keeping and basic profit and loss calculations. However, because every situation is different and driven by personal circumstances, I suggest only an accountant can advise on the best structure for your business. Get it wrong at the start and changes later can be expensive. Also, an accountant will be an expert in French taxation and advise the optimum way to minimise your tax.’

Organisations that can help you:

The Franco-British Chamber of Commerce & Industry: offers ‘a comprehensive range of practical information and marketing services to companies wishing to develop trade between France and Great Britain’.

ADIE: Created in 1989 by Maria Nowak and modelled on the third-world’s micro-credit system, ADIE was initially set up to help unemployed folk who wanted to start their own businesses, but couldn’t get a bank loan . Nowadays, however, this non-profit making body opens its doors to anyone who it describes as ‘richer in ideas, than in means.’ Not only will they counsel you, they can also organize modest loans.

APCE (Agence Pour la Création d’Entreprise): A very helpful website that you can navigate in English, which has lots of information about legal structures, tax systems, procedures for creating a company, as well as advice on financial aid and assistance available, and where to get other information.

CGA (Centre de gestion agréé): you can save a considerable amount of money by doing your own accounts. But learn with the CGA first!

Chambres de Commerce et Industrie (CCI): infirmation for those wanting to start a commercial operation.

Boutiques de Gestion: has more information starting a business

DATAR (Délégation interministérielle à l’aménagement du territoire et à l’attractivité régionale): A government body, with an office in London, that gives information and advice to expats wanting to start their own business in France.

CFE (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises): this organisation assists in the process of creating a company and provides various services, some free (they will provide you with all the documents necessary for forming a company, for example), and some for a fee. This site is currently only available in French, but it’s worth sending an email to enquire, since they recently promised to introduce information in English


The Crédit Agricole, one of the largest banks in France, runs a service for UK residents relocating to France called Britline.

* Visit Notaires de France to find out more about what your French notary can do for you.

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