As a self-employed business in France you could technically be sued for a mistake in your business and lose your house. Unlike a limited company, such as a SARL, where liability is exactly what it says it is, namely limited, with a sole trader (micro BNC, micro BIC, Auto Entreprise or Entreprise Individuelle), you could lose your personal goods and chattels as well. Take a plumber (Polish or otherwise): forget to fit an evacuation pipe below the bathtub and see what happens over the course of a winter to the apartment below. Damage running to thousands of euros and you’ve got nowhere to hide.
Since the beginning of this year things have changed and France has introduced the status of EIRL (Entreprise Individuelle à Responsibilité Limitée). This ensures that your business goods and private possessions are kept separate and that the latter cannot be seized in the event of litigation. Only in instances of fraud or fiscal investigation within the business can the personal assets be taken.
The status of EIRL can be applied for if you’re already registered, and if you’re thinking of setting up, the EIRL box is there to tick on the application forms.
What beggar’s belief is why you’d need to apply for something so obviously necessary to any small, self-employed business. It should be a “given” and automatically granted, but then that would deny some public service pen pushers the opportunity to create some extra paperwork, paperasse indispensable!
Speaking of which ... the Chambre des Métiers
Any small business of a manual nature (from secretary to plumber, painter/decorator to mobile hairdresser) has to register via the Chambre des Métiers, whatever their eventual status, be it Auto Entreprise or SARL. If you have qualifications or management experience from your country of origin you need to get these documents translated into French and then apply for recognition as a French artisan. There is then the obligatory 5-day course at the Chambre des Métiers before you can formally get registered and start work; every day you are taught the rudiments of social security contributions, bookkeeping, computer skills, accounts etc. At the end of the week you can start work!
The course is – without doubt – a complete waste of time (and costs a couple of hundred euros) for anyone who has ever run their own business in another country, and is held in French, so for those whose mastery of the French language is less than basic the course is a double waste of time. I love the story of the painter/decorator in the Vaucluse, who turned up on the Monday for the course, clearly spoke not a single word of French, and had his papers stamped and approved there and then. Sympa!
From Riviera Reporter issue 148
- Peter Johnson