For most foreigners living in France and wanting to run a small business, a micro-entreprise is the best solution.  This article explains what it is and how to register.

Micro-entrepreneur is now the name for what were formerly known as micro-entreprises and auto-entrepreneurs.  The two systems were amalgamated at the start of 2016 and some changes brought in.  This article summarises the RSI (Régime social des indépendants)’s guide to the Micro-Entreprise.

What is a micro-entrepreneur?

A micro-entrepreneur is an individual who sets up as either an entrerpise individuelle or an EURL and opts for a simplified tax system called the “régime fiscal de la micro-entreprise (micro-BIC1 or micro-BNC2)”.  Since 2016, you can also opt for the standard system (régime classique), but paying minimal contributions. This can be in a commercial or trade capacity (run by the RSI) or as a professional freelancer (pension rights run by CIPAV).  The main advantage is that the simplified tax system allows you to pay contributions in arrears and only on what you have earned.  If you earn nothing, you don’t pay anything.  The contributions are a set percentage of turnover which varies depending on the activity.

The system is particularly suited to people who want to test a project or as a secondary activity for an employee or a pensioner to supplement their income.

Micro-entrepreneurs cannot register for TVA (VAT), so are exempt from the associated paperwork.

Who can’t be a micro-entrepreneur

  • Anyone who is already registered as a professional running a company
  • Anyone who is already registered as an entreprise individuelle and not subject to the simplified tax system
  • Estate and property agents
  • Landlords of buildings let unfurnished for commercial/professional use
  • Firms renting equipment and durable consumer goods

For some professions you are not allowed to set up a business unless you have either a qualification or at least 3 years’ experience which needs to be proved by pay slips, contracts or a letter on headed paper from a firm testifying that you have worked for them.  This applies to a lot of trades jobs such as builders so do check with the relevant body what restrictions apply before setting out or see this list www.afecreation.fr.

Turnover Limits

In order to carry on being registered under the system, your turnover (ex-tax of merchandise, goods and services) must not be more than the official limits, which in 2017 are:

€82800

  • Purchase/resale: buying material goods to sell on without working on them
  • Manufacture of goods from raw materials (eg bakeries, sewing, jewellery making)
  • Sale of food either to eat in or takeaway
  • Renting lodgings: hotels, B&Bs, unfurnished residential properties

€33200

  • Provision of commercial services eg sales of intangible products (IT programmes etc)
  • Provision of trade services eg building work, repairing client’s products
  • Renting furnished lodgings
  • Provision of professional services (run by CIPAV) eg consulting, translation….

This amount is pro-rata’d in the first year of activity, so if you start on 1st May you can only earn 245/365 of this total i.e. €22285 for services and €55578 for goods.

If you are providing both goods and services your total turnover must not exceed €82800 of which services cannot be more than €33200

Take a test to see if your business idea would qualify you as a micro-entrepreneur at www.afecreation.fr.

How to register

Create an account and register on line at either www.lautoentrepreneur.fr or www.guichet-entreprises.fr, (you will need proof of identity).  The registration will then be treated by the relevant body in your area as shown in the table below:

Activity Type   Body
Trade Chambre de métiers et de l’artisanat
Commerce Chambre de commerce et d’industrie
Professional URSSAF
Sales agent Greffe du tribunal de commerce

However, at least in my experience, for tradesmen if you go into your local CMA they will do their best to see if you are eligible, help you register and complete all the formalities with you.  I would think that CCIs would do the same thing for commercial companies.

People that are registered as unemployed and eligible or likely to be eligible to receive unemployment benefit (i.e. have been employed and paid contributions in the recent past) can apply to pay social security contributions at a reduced rate known as the Accre.

You must then choose

  1. how often you will pay your social charges (monthly or quarterly)
  2. which body you want to be registered with for health insurance and advise them of any dependents.
  3. whether you want to pay a small percentage of turnover as tax (versement libératoire de l’impôt sur le revenu) and exempt yourself from further liability, or prefer to wait to fill in your tax return.
  4. if you want to be registered as an EIRL or EURL or just stay as an unlimited EI
  5. how your spouse is to be treated if they will be helping with the business

INSEE (Office of National Statistics) will then assign you a company number (Siret) and a code for your business type (APE) and you will be registered with all the bodies that you need to be for tax and social security purposes.

Other Obligations

  1. You must open a separate bank account for your business within one year of registering.  This does not have to be a business account, but bear in mind that if you are intending to pay your charges by direct debit, you can only do so with a business account as the various bodies use SEPA Interentreprises (inter-company DD) not the standard version.
  2. If you are a sales company/shopholder you must register with the registre du commerce (RCS).   You can do this at the local CCI.
  3. If you are a tradesman you must register with the registre des métiers (RM) and take a course called “le stage préalable à l’installation” (pre-start-up training) which costs around €250 and takes 4 days.  You can register for the RM and arrange the course at your local CMA.
  4. As mentioned above, for certain trades you have to show that you are qualified to do the job.  The list of regulated trades is at www.afecreation.fr.
  5. Sales agents have to register with the registre spécial des agents commerciaux.  This can be done on line at www.infogreffe.fr
  6. All micro-entrepreneurs should take out professional insurance suitable for their activity and insurance for your own and clients’ property.  Builders must have a 10 year guarantee backed policy.

Social & Tax Charges

Activity Amount Versement libératoire
de l’impôt sur le revenu
Min T/O for pension rights

Selling on goods

Sales of food to eat in or take away

Renting lodgings (BIC) except furnished lodgings

13.1% 1% €5048

Renting furnished lodgings

Supplying services (BIC)

22.7% 1.7% €2928
Supplying services (BNC) 22.7% 2.2% €2928
Professional activities (run by CIPAV (BNC) 22.5% 2.2% €2218

These amounts cover all charges for your social security protection including sickness and maternity benefits, sick pay (only payable from 2nd year of business and not for professionals), invalidity and death, basic pension, compulsory additional pension, family allowances, CSG-CRDS (contribution to social charge)

NB if you think that you will only be earning such a small amount that you will not pay enough to earn pension rights then you should opt for the régime classique and pay lower contributions.  Get in touch with RSI or URSSAF before the end of the 3rd month following the date you set up the business, or by 31st December for the following year.  But be aware that 1. if you are getting the Accre you will only be eligible for one year rather than the normal three.  2. Your charges will be paid on your income (declared once a year) rather than your turnover.  3. Your charges will be provisional and recalculated according to your actual turnover at the end of each financial year.

Company Property Tax

Most, but not all, micro-entrepreneurs are liable for this tax from the 2nd year of business.  Builders etc. are often exempt if operating from home, as the tax is based on the rental value of the premises where the business is carried out.  You must register using form 1447 C in your first year of business and register as a professional on the government tax site. You can apply for an exemption if you earned nothing.

What happens if you earn too much?

If you earn too much in your first year of turnover you will no longer be classified as an micro-entrepreneur from the second year.

From the second year on, you can earn up to €91000 or €35200 for 2 years running without being losing your status as a micro-entrepreneur.  If you continue to earn too much you will be reclassified from the 1st January of the next year.  You will be subject to TVA/VAT from the first day of the month that you went over the threshold.  You will not be able to claim exemption from being taxed on the whole of your income (i.e. lose the right to the régime libératoire) from the 1st January of the year that you passed the threshold.

No Turnover

If you don’t declare any revenue for 24 months in a row or 8 quarters, you will automatically be removed from the register of micro-entreprises.  It is worth noting that if you cease activity as an micro-entrepreneur you are not allowed to start again in the same business for 18 months.

1. BIC = Bénéfices industriels et commerciaux = sales and industrial profits
2. BNC = Bénéfices non commerciaux = Non sales profits
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