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How to set up a company in France: The process and Timeline for starting your Business

Setting up a company in France involves several administrative and legal steps. In this article, we will guide you through the process of registering a company in France and provide an estimate of the time it takes to receive the official registration paper to start making business within a structure.

1.      Choose Your Business Structure

The first step in setting up a company in France is to choose the appropriate business structure. You can opt for a sole proprietorship (“entreprise individuelle”), a limited liability company (SARL), a joint-stock company (SA), a simplified joint-stock company (SAS), or other types of less known structures. Each structure has its own advantages and tax implications, so it is essential to seek legal and tax advice before deciding on the appropriate structure.

2.      Choose your tax regime

Thinking about your business tax regime is as important as thinking about how it will be structured. In France, business activity is tax either under individual income tax (“impôt sur le revenu”) or corporate income tax (“impôt sur les sociétés”). Each tax regime presents its own pros and cons and it is more than important to get contact with a qualified lawyer to evaluate the most suitable regime for your activity before starting it.

3.      Reserve Your Company Name

Once you have chosen your business structure, you need to reserve your company name with the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). This process can take up to 10 days, depending on the availability of the chosen name. We recommend to appoint a lawyer in order to perform a prior art research to ensure you are not about to use a company name and securize a brand that is already reserved by a third party.

4.      Draft and Sign Articles of Association in the event you choose to set up a company

The next step is to draft and sign the articles of association, which sets out the rules governing your company’s operations. This document includes the purpose of the company, the share capital, the rights and obligations of shareholders, and the appointment of managers. This process can take up to 5 to 10 days depending on the complexity of the rules you want to include.

N.B.: Articles of association are public so anyone can access to it online. If you want to organize some confidential rules related to financial (eg dividend treatment), management or governance issues, you can ask a lawyer to perform a shareholders agreement. This written document will set up confidential rules between shareholders, it is enforceable and it can be signed either at the time of registration or later.

5.      Open a Bank Account

You need to open a bank account in the name of your company to deposit the share capital. This process can take up to 10 days, depending on the bank’s requirements. It is important to emphasize that you are not allowed to sign the articles of association before the capital is deposited on the bank account.

6.      Register Your Company

To register your company, you need to file the articles of association and other required documents with the Registry of the Commercial Court. The registration process can take up to 15 days, depending on your business structure complexity and the workload of the Registry. Once the registration is completed, you will receive what is called in France “KBIS”, this is the official “identity card” of the company.

7.      Obtain Business Permits and Licenses

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to obtain permits and licenses from the relevant authorities. The time required to obtain these permits and licenses varies depending on the type of business and the regulatory framework. Your lawyer is qualified to list all the permits and licenses to get before starting your business and provide you the documents to sign to be aligned with law requirements.

8.      Receive the Official Registration Paper

Once your company is registered, you will receive the official registration paper from the Registry of the Commercial Court. This process generally takes between two weeks and a month, depending on the workload of the Registry.

9.      Start Making Business

Once you have received the official registration paper and obtained all the necessary permits and licenses, you can start making business with your structure.

In conclusion, setting up a company in France involves several administrative and legal steps that can take up to several weeks depending on the type of business structure and the required permits and licenses. It is important to seek legal and tax advice before starting your business to ensure that you comply with all legal and regulatory requirements. If you have any questions and want to set up a company in France, please get in contact with our dedicated lawyers on:

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