Ok, first things first, let's get the disclaimer in right at the start - obviously I'm in no way an expert and nothing beats professional advice, especially regarding business. The French system is universally accepted to be one of the most complex, and definitely it's worth looking into having someone who knows their stuff helping you to navigate as you go through your process.
That being said, I can share my experience and explain broadly the process I went through to register as a one person business, or micro-entrepreneur in France.
If you're not familiar with it, the micro-entrepreneur is a popular business form for self employed people in France. There are a lot of benefits to the system, such as simplified VAT and accounting rules, and generous caps on turnover before having to convert to a more formalised business form. It's also relatively easy to set up compared to other business forms, and I think it's a great way to test a business concept thoroughly, because if you pass the income thresholds that require you to switch to a more regulated form you can be sure you're on the right path. If on the other hand you don't make sufficient income, then it's straightforward to close the business and do something else. One thing that's good to know is that there are several business formalities centers (Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (CFE)) and each one caters to different activities. I know it sounds complicated already, but bear with me!
Commercial activities covered by the Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie (CCI)
Artisanal (handmade & handcraft) activities covered by the Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA)
Liberal professions covered by URSSAF
If you're reading this then the chances are that you are interested in having your own craft business and this means that your first port of call without a doubt needs to be option 2 with the Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA). You will need to check which office serves your region as this will be your only option for registering your business. Once you've made contact with the office you'll receive an extensive package of forms and information sheets relating to your business registration. This can seem daunting at first - but don't worry, there's a good chance that not all of it will apply to you! You'll have to sift through everything to see what you need to complete and what supporting documents you need to provide.
My package contained;
Fiche de renseignements: immatriculation micro-entrepreneur This is an information sheet for the registration of your micro-enterprise used for outlining the basic information regarding your details, the type or types of activities you will do, how you wish to make social security contributions and when you intend to start your business activity.
If like me you are a crafter in a broader sense as opposed to a specialist in one item, then it's really worth taking the time to sit down and write a list of items and activities you see yourself doing. Don't fall into the trap of thinking to start simple and change later. Also, if like me, you dream of having multiple sources of income, some of which might not even be remotely craft based like running a campsite, then it's worth including all of these on your list. For example, I currently make candles, but I included crafting candle holders and selling second hand goods on my form. There's a good reason for being detailed and it's because you can do many activities under the form of the micro-enterprise. On the flip side, if you get caught out operating in an area you didn't specify then you could have some issues later on as in principle it's not allowed to take on work that's considered out of scope. Of course it's possible to add additional activities, but it costs extra and takes time to go through the administrative process again. Save yourself some time and issues by brainstorming possible income ideas and including these on your form as this leaves you freedom to develop into new areas later on and more importantly to adapt your business easily. Your main activity should be listed first as this is your initial income, but everything else can go afterwards. And don't worry - there's no obligation to carry out the additional activities. Think of it more along the lines of notifying the authorities of what you may or may not do with regards income generating ideas.
You might also be wondering, if you sell items online, possibly making some yourself and sourcing others, then you're an e-commerce business mostly and therefore perhaps you need to register with option 1 above, Chambre de Commerce et de l’Industrie (CCI) - not so! Be aware that even if your craft activity only forms a tiny amount of your business, you still need to register first Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (CMA). It sounds counter-intuitive, but that's just how it is. This is because the hand craft industries in France are highly valued and protected, so anything handmade, no matter how small a portion of your overall business activity or income, must go through the correct chamber.
Declaration de non condemnation This is basically a declaration that you are not guilty of any crime that would prevent you from carrying out a commercial activity. Attestation sur l'honneur This is a sworn statement that you have informed your spouse of the consequences of debt undertaken through your business activity on the common property you share with your spouse in the event that you default. This is a serious point because as a micro-entrepreneur you are personally liable for debt incurred. At the extreme end of the scale, it means your home and possessions could be seized if you are unable to meet your obligations. Liste activités réglementées As with many countries, certain industries require specific qualifications before being able to perform them. If you are, for example, a beautician and therefore a specialised artisan, then you are expected to hold a relevant qualification that is recognised in France. Modalités demande ACRE ACRE is a scheme in place to reduce social security contributions for new entrepreneurs that equates to roughly a 50% reduction on your contribution for up to 2 years after starting your business. It has to be applied for with a certain time period to the relevant authority, in this case URSSAF, and comes with a list of criteria that applicants need to meet in order to qualify for this reduction. Criteria can be if you are a jobseeker, within a certain age group or in a particular geographical location trying to encourage business growth. URSSAF have the final say on granting this scheme, but if you fall into the criteria then it can be a real help for new businesses. Pièces à fournir AE-RM Finally, a list of supporting documents to be provided when you submit everything! Once you've completed all your forms, declarations and supporting documentation, you need to send this to your contact person at the CMA and of course make your payment. In 2021 the fee for starting a micro-enterprise was 99 euros. And if you think that's it then think again :) one last item you will need to take care of if you complete your process with the CMA online, is anticipate a rather direct letter from the Greffe du Tribunal de commerce informing you that you have failed to provide documentation in original form and specifying a date from which this has to be provided, or your business registration will not be finalised. Anticipate this and keep your original signed documentation to hand so that you can send it to them directly, along with your proof of payment for the fee they will likely charge you for their letter. Of course there are many other things to arrange regarding your French craft business and I will be covering some of these items in future blogs, so stay tuned and subscribe if that kind of thing interests you :)