address change

Change Your Address, Change Your SIRET

I’ve written in the past about changing addresses here in France.  In the United States whether you are dealing with the bank or the government, you simply assert that you have moved and give the new address.  In France, you must prove you have moved.  Some years ago I moved from my favorite address in Paris, in the 2nd, to my current quiet neighborhood in the 19th, and didn’t realize that my address change for my business would trigger a change for my SIRET.

What’s a SIRET?

A SIRET is a 14 digit number that identifies your particular French business.  It is made up of your SIREN and NIC.  The SIREN (Système d’Identification du Répertoire des ENtreprises) is nine digits and is permanent and cannot be changed.  The SIRET (Système d’Identification du Répertoire des ETablissements), however, depends on the number of establishments you have.  Each one will have a different SIRET.  Solopreneurs like myself just have one.

In 2016, when I first established my French business at my address in the 2nd, the NIC (Numéro Interne de Classement) which accompanied my SIREN was the identifier for the only “establishment” (location) of my company.  But when I moved to the 19th in 2018, the system “closed” the SIRET tied to the address in the 2nd and assigned a new one for my “new establishment” in the 19th.  The old number still appears in submenus in my URSSAF dashboard, for example, but for all intents and purposes I use my new SIRET and my new SIRET only when dealing with French bureaucracy.

When do you use a SIRET?

Your SIRET and APE (Activite Principale de l’enterprise) should be listed at the bottom of every invoice you send. If companies in France want to make sure you’re legitimate and in good standing, they can look up your SIREN for free on Societe (if you can’t get enough of these acronyms, I’ve got an article from when I first started my French business where you can score a few more).

Interestingly, the US equivalent to the SIREN, the EIN (Employer ID Number) is also 9 digits.  But it doesn’t change if you move.  Further, unless you are a publicly traded company, you won’t be listed in the free national directory.  However, you can easily search by name (and for free) on the Secretary of State website of the state that the company is incorporated in.  This search will give you the same type of information available on the Societe search here in France.

Learn as you go

The longer I live here in France, the more I see that I’ve learned about business practices the same way that I did in the US: by trial and error.  Native speakers don’t instinctively know how to start or maintain a business just because they speak the language.  So, be patient with yourself and continue upgrading your French so these aspects of your life in France become easier (at least in one way) or you’ll at least possess the ability to read the answers you find in Google.

Photo by form PxHere

Auto-Entrepreneur: A Tax Classification, Not a Visa Status

On more than one occasion I’ve gotten emails from people who use “auto entrepreneur” and “profession liberale” interchangeably.  They aren’t interchangeable, and more importantly for readers of this blog, auto entrepreneur is not a visa status.  It’s a tax classification, and not necessarily a desirable one at that.

How Did It Start?

In 2009 President Sarkozy created “auto entrepreneur” as a simple way for French people (and foreign nationals) to start small businesses.  With a ceiling of 32,900€/year of topline revenue, it was seen as a liberalizing measure, without committing to full Anglo-Saxon soul destruction.  You would pay your social charges “as you go” which meant if you had no sales, there were no charges, and if you went two years without earning anything, you  would simply automatically lose the classification with no penalty. This allowed holders of the status to try starting a small business “risk free” in tax terms, and potentially add on an additional stream of revenue without onerous accounting burdens.

The regime is actually now called “micro entrepreneur” and you are said to be running a “micro enterprise” if you use this tax classification.  In American terms this is a sole proprietorship, meaning you have unlimited legal liability should problems result.

Confusion

There’s a lot of bad advice on the internet and so on more than one occasion people have registered for auto-entrepreneur while on Visitor visas, thinking that they had found a legal way to work in France, not realizing that the regime that allows you to register and get a SIRET (what Americans know as an EIN – employer identification number) isn’t connected with OFII so they aren’t equipped to validate whether you’re eligible to register.  You just have to supply some basic info and then you can get a number.  But this has led to tears on more than one occasion when someone showed up to renew their visitor visa with auto-entrepreneur earnings on their bank statements and a SIRET they shouldn’t have had.  Visa renewal denied, eligibility to live in France ended, and the process of living in France had to begin all over again, back in their home countries.

Furthermore, President Macron raised the limit that micro-enterprises could earn to 70,000€, but most people don’t know that the minute you go over 33,100€ you are subject to VAT (as I outlined here), no matter what your tax classification is.  Goodbye simple accounting, hello nightmare exchanges with URSSAF and the Department of Finance.

So…

So, if you want to have a business in France, make sure you have the correct visa for it, or that your CDI allows for it.  For some foreigners here on a salarie work visa, their contract specifically prohibits their starting a business under the micro-entrepreneur classification.  If you’re here as a Visitor, you are ineligible to apply for this classification.  I know that there’s nothing on the internet that seems to say this, but it’s just a simple fact: if you don’t have a visa allowing you to work, going to a website and clicking a few buttons isn’t a magical fix.  This relates back to something I’ve said before: no one from French immigration ever tells you that as a visitor you have to file taxes in France even though you aren’t paying taxes in France.  Remember, in immigration in general and in France in particular, if it seems too good to be true, it is.  Always double and triple check before you make a major decision regarding these issues.

If you want to start a small business in France, profession liberale remains the simplest route, with many options to change it if your business becomes really successful, and zero requirement to register as a micro entrepreneur at any stage whatsoever.

Photo by slon_dot_pics from Pexels