Business opportunities in France

09.07.2012

 

I. General information about France 2

1. Geography 2

2. Population 2

3. Language 2

4. Currency 2

II. Relations between France and Turkey 2

III. Establishing a business in France 3

1. Establishing a local company 3

(a) The classical legal options 3

(b) Registration procedure (limited liability companies) 6

(c) Other options 7

2. Establishing a representative office or a branch of a foreign company8

IV. Taxation in France 8

1. Taxes on income 8

(a) Personal income tax 8

(b) Corporation tax 9

(c) Social levies 9 (d) Payroll taxes 10

2. Taxes on expenditure 10

(a) Value added tax 10

(b) Excise duties 10

3. Taxes on assets 11

(a) Registration duties 11

(b) Stamp duties and other similar duties 11

(c) Wealth tax 11

(d) Tax on the market value of real properties owned in France by legal entities 11

4. Local direct taxes 11

(a) Property tax 11

(b) Residence tax 12

(c) Local economic contribution 12

(d) Flat-rate tax on network business 12

(e) Other taxes 12

Being the leading tourist destination in the world, the fifth-largest economy in the world (International Monetary Found Outlook Database, April 2011) and the second-largest economy in Europe, with strong political and cultural influence both in Europe and all around the world, France in one of the top world locations where to establish a business.

However, it is well known that though the concept of ?entrepreneur? derives from the French, setting up a business in France is not as simple as ABC, considering the numerous steps that need to be performed for the business to be finally settled. Therefore this article aims at introducing France as one of the European Union members, at reviewing the relations between France and Turkey and at providing a comparative insight into the French legal environment, in order to assist both foreign investors and local businesses in understanding the major aspects of doing business in France.
 


I. General information about France

1. Geography

France is located at the western extremity of Europe, along the North Sea, the Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It shares borders with Spain, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany Luxembourg and Belgium. Multinational companies which chose France thus benefit from its strategic position at the heart of Europe, a single market of over 500 million consumers.

France also encompasses numerous territories outside the European continent (called the ?territoires d'Outre-Mer?), which include notably Guyana (South America), Guadeloupe, la Martinique (French Antilles), French Polynesia, New Caledonia, La Réunion and Mayotte (Indian Ocean)...

France extends over an area of 670,922 square kilometres, or 547,030 square kilometres for its metropolitan territory only, which make it be the largest country within the European Union.

The largest city and the capital of France is Paris. Though France is still quite centralised, other major cities include Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Lille and Rennes.

2. Population

France has an estimated population of 63,1 million inhabitants living on its metropolitan territory and of 1,9 million inhabitants living on its other territories (as of January, 1st 2012), which makes France be the second largest consumer market in Europe after Germany.

3. Language

The official language of France is French. 

4. Currency

Since January, 1st 2002 France's currency is the Euro, abbreviated as ???.


II. Relations between Turkey and France

Franco-Turkish relations cover a long period from the 16th century to the present. Though they have remained essentially for a very long time, they recently became more complex. In 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared himself against the entry of Turkey in the European Union. Furthermore, following the approval of a French bill on 22 December 2011 that would make denial of Armenian genocide a crime punishable, the Turkish government froze bilateral relations and political meetings with France. However, since the new French President François Hollande's election in 2012, Turkey and France have shown an undeniable rapprochement. 

Taking into consideration the importance of economic relations between Turkey and France, numerous crucial agreements were signed, such as the Trade and Payment Agreement (1946), the Agreement on the Formation of Joint Economic Commission (1987), the Convention to avoid Double Income Taxation (1987) the Double Taxation Prevention Treatment (1989) and the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (2006).
Moreover, with the open market conditions set off with the EU-Turkey Customs Union starting in 1996, trade figures between France and Turkey were boosted: France became Turkey's third largest partner overall, and conversely Turkey became France's third largest trade partner outside the EU.

For example, in the area of exports, France was Turkey? fourth largest goods export market in 2010, and Turkish goods exports to France in 2010 amounted to 5,1 billion $ (an increase by 15,72% when compared to 4,4 billion $ in 2009). The top export categories (2-digit SITC) for 2010 included road vehicles, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances and electrical parts, textile yarn, fabrics, made-up articles and related products, vegetables and fruit.

In the area of imports, France was Turkey?s sixth largest supplier of goods imports in 2010, while Turkish goods imports from France amounted to 7 billion $ in 2010 (an increase of 26,39 % when compared to 5,5 billion $ in 2009). The major imports categories (2-digit SITC) for 2010 were road vehicles (including air-cushion vehicles), other transport equipment, Power-generating machinery and equipment, general industrial machinery and equipment and machine parts, iron and steel.

Until recently, Turkey still attracted a modest share in global foreign direct investment trends, although France and her household brand names were markedly present in this share since the 1960s. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from France to Turkey was 621 million $ in 2010, while Foreign direct investment (FDI) from Turkey to France was 8 million $ in 2010.


IV. Establishing a business in France

Foreign investors interested in starting commercial operations in France have three main possibilities to conduct business there:
1. To establish a local company;
2. To establish a representative office or a branch of a foreign company;
3. To provide cross-border services.

1. Establishing a local company

(a) The classical legal options

There are several legal status under which to establish a business in France, depending on the size of the company and the number of partners, namely:
? S.A.R.L. (Société à Responsabilité Limitée)
? E.U.R.L (Entreprise Unipersonnelle à Responsabilité Limitée)
? S.A.S. (Société par Actions Simplifiée)
? S.A.S.U. (Société par Actions Simplifiée Unipersonnelle)
? S.A. (Société Anonyme)
? Entreprise individuelle

The most popular company legal status are the SARL, the SAS and the SA, especially the SARL because its establishment formalities are cheap. SARLs and SASs can be formed with a single partner (SASU or EURL). In comparison, at least seven partners are required to form an SA, the SA being the most sophisticated type of French company and able to launch a public offering. The SAS (or the SASU) is the most recent form of French company and is well suited to holding companies and foreign companies wishing to maintain 100% control of one of their subsidiaries. This option has gained popularity since the reform allowing partners to draft articles setting any level of capital they choose (like for SARLs). 

Below are two tables giving all the necessary information about each of these legal options, one focusing on the types of company for a ?sole? partner whereas the other on the types of company for several partners. The acronym ?BIC? used below refers to the situation where a EURL's shareholder pays income tax on the grounds of the Bénéfices industriels et commerciaux (Industrial and commercial profits), whereas the acronym ?BNC? refers to the situation where a EURL's shareholder pays income tax on the grounds of the Bénéfices non commerciaux ( Non-commercial profits).

 

TYPES OF COMPANY FOR A ?SOLE? PARTNER

Type of Firm

S.A.S.U.

E.U.R.L

Entreprise Individuelle

Capital

 

 

 

Minimum capital

1 ?

1 ?

No capital required.

Minimum capital at incorporation

50%

20%

 

Partners

 

 

 

Number required

Minimum 1 - No maximum

Minimum 1 - Maximum 100

1

Type

Natural person or legal entity.

Does not provide the qualification of merchant.

Natural person of legal entity.

Does not provide the qualification of merchant.

Natural person.

Provides the qualification of merchant if commercial acts are provided.

Financial liability

Liability limited to contribution.

Liable for all the company's debts on all his own property.

Voting rights

Possible to issue preference voting shares with multiple.

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned.

 

Rights for profits

Possible to issue preference shares offering more financial rights.

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned.

 

Authorized contribution

Cash/Kind contribution

Industry contribution is possible if some conditions are fulfilled.

Cash/Kind contribution

Industry contribution is possible.

 

Profit taxation

Corporate tax.

Income tax (BIC or BNC), but it is possible to choose Corporate tax.

Income tax on the entrepreneur's income (BIC or BNC).

Financing

 

 

 

IPO

No.

No.

No.

Stocks options, BSA, BSPCE

Yes.

No.

No.

Bankings loans

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Issuing bonds

Possibility to issue bonds in the frame of private investments.

No.

Social rights

 

 

 

Type of share transfer

Simplified system of share transfer.

Compulsory to inform about any share transfer.

No specific social rights.

Taxation of share transfer

Every possibility can be written in original status: agreement clause, pre-emption clause, inalienability clause (these clauses can apply to both partners and third parties).

Freedom of transfer between partners and to family, (spouse, descendants and ascendants) but compulsory agreement for transfers to third parties.

Freedom to sell the business or other assets.

Taxation of share transfer

Not capped decreasing registration fees with tax allowance.

Capital gains taxed by income tax.

Not capped registration fees of 3% with tax allowance.

Capital gains taxed by income tax.

Not capped registration fees of 0%/2%/0;6%/2.6% depending on the amount of money

 

TYPES OF COMPANY FOR A GROUP OF PARTNERS

Type of Firm

S.A.

S.A.S.

S.A.R.L.

Capital

 

 

 

Minimum capital

37,000 ?

1 ?

1 ?

Minimum capital at incorporation

18,500 ?

50%

20%

Partners

 

 

 

Number required

Minimum 7 - No maximum.

Minimum 1 - No maximum.

Minimum 1- Maximum 100

Type

Natural person or legal entity - Does not provide the qualification of merchant.

Financial liability

Liability limited to contribution.

Voting rights

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned (except in case of double voting shares and of preferred non voting shares).

Possibility to issue privileged multiple voting shares.

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned.

Rights for profits

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned (except in case of preferred non voting shares and of privileged shares).

Possibility to issue privileged shares benefiting specific financial rights.

Proportional to the amount of capital share owned.

Authorized contribution

Cash/Kind contribution

No industry contribution

Cash/Kind contribution

Industry contribution is possible only when some conditions are fulfilled.

Cash/Kind contribution

Industry contribution is possible.

Profit taxation

Corporate tax.

Corporate tax.

Corporate tax.

Financing

 

 

 

IPO

Yes.

No.

No.

Stocks options, BSA, BSPCE

Yes.

Yes.

No.

Bankings loans

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Issuing bonds

Possibility to issue bonds in the frame of public offering and private investments.

Possibility to issue bonds in the frame of private investments.

Social rights

 

 

 

Type of share transfer

Simplified system of share transfer.

Compulsory to inform about any share transfer.

Taxation of share transfer

Possibility to stipulate in the statutes approval clauses binding third parties or pre-emption clauses.

Every possibility can be written in original status: agreement clause, pre-emption clause, inalienability clause (these clauses can apply to both partners and third parties).

Freedom of transfer between partners and to family (spouse, descendants, ascendants), but compulsory agreement for transfers to third parties.

Taxation of share transfer

Registration fees with decreasing rate of charge.

Capital gains taxed by income tax.

Registration fees with decreasing rate of charge.

Capital gains taxed by income tax.

Not capped registration fees of 3% with tax allowance.

Capital gains taxed as income tax.

(b) Registration procedure

Only the companies which will have a legal personality need to be registered, accordingly the entreprises individuelles do not. In this later case, the only formality that needs to be fulfilled is going to a Centre de formalités des enterprises (CFE) for the new business to be registered with the Company Register (Registre du commerce et des sociétés - RCS) or with the Trade Register (Répertoire des métiers).

Moreover, even if the company is not registered yet, contracts have already to be signed for the company to be established, such as when opening a bank account for example. These contracts can be signed by the founders of the company only. French Law provides for three alternative procedures to allow the company to retroactively become a contracting party to these contracts once it obtains legal personality:
1. the list of the already subscribed contracts needs to be enclosed to the statutes of the company. The shareholders' signatures then validate the procedure;
2. the shareholders can also precisely mandate a few of them to act in the name of the company while it is not yet registered;
3. the general assembly can recover the contracts once the society is registered, but such a recovery needs to be precise and explicit for the procedure to fulfil all the legal requirements.

The formalities for setting up businesses in France have been greatly simplified and the whole procedure can be carried out over the internet. 

First of all, registration of a company must be preceded by the signature of its statutes. Such articles must comprise:
? each shareholder's financial contribution;
? its social purpose, which must be legal and respect accepted standards of behaviour and French public order;
? its name;
? the location of its head office;
? the amount of its capital;
? its duration (maximum 99 years, but this period is renewable);
? its modalities of functioning.
Once the statutes are written and signed, they need to be registered. 

All the formalities for registering a new company can be dealt with in one place: the Centre de formalités des entreprises (CFE). This centre handles all the documents required to set up, change or close down companies and delivers them to the relevant authorities, including: 
? The Commercial Court Registry, which first issues, free of charge, a business creation certificate (récépissé de dépôt de dossier de création d?entreprise), allowing procedures to go ahead for companies being set up, and then, once the company has been registered with the Company Register (RCS), issues a ?K-bis? registration certificate;
? The French Office for National Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) which allocates the APE code corresponding to the company?s primary business and the SIREN and SIRET numbers (company registration numbers) required for hiring employees;
? The tax authorities (Service des impôts des entreprises) and social security agencies, including URSSAF (Unions de recouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d?allocations familiales), which collects social security contributions. 

The CFE provides the application form (?M0 form?) and lists all the documents that need to be submitted and be translated into French. The application must be filed by a duly empowered person with written authorization from the company. It takes a few days for a company to be recorded in the Company Register (RCS). When a company is ?pending registration?, its legal representative can use the business creation certificate for dealings with the authorities and public and private-sector organizations (e.g. accessing the new company?s bank account). The cost of administrative formalities is ?84 (since January 1, 2008), plus the cost of publishing a notice in the legal gazette (approximately ?230).





The registration application for the new company must then include, in addition to the M0 form: 
? Two originals of the articles giving the names of the directors and, where appropriate, the names of the statutory auditors;
? Two copies of the independent auditor?s report, if capital contributions in kind are involved. 
? A copy of the lease or ownership deed to the business premises;
? A copy of the legal gazette containing notification of the company?s establishment;
? Copies of the directors? birth certificates, identity cards or passports, along with a certified clean criminal record and a representative?s mandate;
? If appropriate, a copy of the professional license, degree or certificate required to exercise a regulated profession;
? If appropriate, the declaration to the Préfecture by any director(s) from non-EEA countries not residing in France, or residence permit(s) of any foreign director(s) (?Business Activity? or ?Skills and Expertise? type);
? A certificate of deposit from a bank for the new company?s initial capital reserve;
? A summary of the formalities completed on behalf of the new company;
? The ?K-Bis? certificate issued by the Commercial Court Registry is proof that the company has been set up. 

However, there are some formalities that the CFE does not handle: 
? Formalities to register trade names and brands with the French Patent and Trademark Office (INPI);
? Registering internet domain names ending in ?.fr? with the French Internet Names and Cooperation Association (AFNIC);
? Registration of the company with an insurance centre;
? Registration with an employee retirement plan (obligatory within three months of registration);
? Formalities relating to hiring employees must be completed with URSSAF using a special form (Déclaration préalable à l?embauche ? DPAE). 

In principle, applications for authorization to engage in regulated or licensed professions or those registered with trade associations (lawyers, accountants, architects, doctors, transporters of goods or people, etc.) must be registered with the respective authorities or professional bodies. However, the CFEs are gradually beginning to receive all the applications for registration, authorization and declarations required to open specific lines of business, apart from actual company creation (i.e. professional licensing, registering with trade associations, filing declarations with municipal offices or the Préfecture to open a business, etc.). 

Once the company is successfully registered, such a registration must be published in the Bulletin officiel des annonces civiles et commerciales (BODAC) within eight days.

(c) Other options

Businesses present in at least two Member States of the European Union can opt for European Company status (SE for société européenne). The company will then benefit from a unique set of regulations and a unified system of management and disclosure of financial details. SEs must have a minimum capital of ?120,000. The choice of the location of the company?s headquarters (written in the statutes) is crucial, because such a location determines the business law that will apply to the company, and accordingly the procedure to be followed for the company to be registered. However, it is important to know that SEs are subject to taxation in all EU countries where they have a permanent business. 

General partnerships (société en nom collectif ? SNC), non-trading partnerships (société civile) and economic interest groupings (groupement d?intérêt économique ? GIE) could also be an option when establishing a business in France. They are less common because they require a greater level of partner liability in the event of financial difficulties. However, there are no minimum capital requirements and these structures offer fiscal transparency and significant levels of flexibility, even if decisions must usually be unanimous in SNCs and GIEs. They are very simple to set up (no RCS registration nor any legal announcements are required) which makes them attractive as subsidiary companies. A special form of company, the société en participation, is used in the construction industry and in the publishing and performing arts sectors. 

2. Establishing a representative office or a branch of a foreign company

A liaison office (bureau de liaison), also known as a representative office, is an establishment opened by a foreign company for the purpose of preparing for and facilitating its expansion into France. Liaison offices are easy to set up, and enable foreign companies to gain an initial foothold in the French market with minimal constraints and straightforward procedures. Liaison offices do not enable foreign companies to conduct direct commercial operations in France. They are intended solely for making business contacts, canvassing, gathering information, advertising and promoting the foreign company, or conducting other operations of a preparatory or auxiliary nature, such as storing merchandise. Unlike a subsidiary, a liaison office is merely an extension of the parent company. It is therefore not a separate legal entity and does not have its own business name. One important consideration to note is that liaison offices are not subject to French accounting requirements, and are not required to pay corporate tax or the local economic contribution (CET). Liaison office operations are also exempt from VAT, and the offices are entitled to reimbursement of VAT on the expenses they incur in France.

If the establishment is likely to conduct direct commercial operations, it will generally be converted into either a branch office, which is not a separate legal entity, or a subsidiary, by way of a transfer or contribution. When determining the appropriate business structure, companies should consider, among other things, how the structure will be managed and the tax costs involved in the conversion. In these two cases, registration will be mandatory, the establishment will be subject to French tax requirements, and the tax benefits associated with the liaison office will cease to apply. 

The registration application for the new branch must include, in addition to the M0 form: 
? Two copies of the parent company?s statutes (two originals and two copies translated into French and certified by the legal representative);
? Proof of address;
? Registration Certificate from the foreign company register; 
? Documents relating to the person empowered to act on behalf of the company, such as identity cards and a police clearance record; 
? A declaration to the Préfecture (for non-European directors) or residence permit as appropriate; 
? Documents certifying the required qualifications if the business is regulated.


V. Taxation in France

Legal entities and private persons living in France are obliged to pay:
1. taxes on income;
2. taxes on expenditure;
3. taxes on assets;
4. local direct taxes.

1. Taxes on income

(a) Personal income tax (impôt sur le revenu - IR)

A French resident?s income is taxed at progressively higher rates, on the basis of total household income, which comprises business profits, non-commercial profits, agricultural profits, income from real property, wages, salaries, pensions and annuities, investment income and capital gains. Overtime hours worked in addition to the statutory 35-hour week are exempt from income tax, social security and employer contributions. 
 

Tax payable in 2012

2011 Income Bracket (by allowance unit)

Tax Rates in 2012

Income up to 5,963 ? inclusive

0%

From 5,963 ? to 11,896 ? inclusive

5.5%

From 11,896 ? to 26, 420 ? inclusive

14%

From 26, 420 ? to 70,830 ? inclusive

30%

Over 70, 830 ?

41%

With a view to balancing the government budget, an exceptional tax on high incomes has been instituted for taxes filed in 2012 that amounts to 3% of taxable household income between ?250,000 and ?500,000 for people filing as single and between ?500,000 and ?1,000,000 for joint returns, and goes up to 4% for the portion of taxable household income that is higher than ?500,000 for single people and ?1,000,000 for couples.

(b) Corporation tax (impôt sur les sociétés ? IS) 

For large companies, the standard rate is 33.33% plus, for companies with taxable profits at the standard rate of over ?2,289,000, an additional ?social contribution? of 1.1%, which makes for these companies a total rate of 34.43%.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) enjoy a reduced corporate tax rate of 15% up to ?38,120 of profits and a standard 33.33% rate on the remainder. SMEs are exempted from paying an additional ?social contribution?.

There is also a reduced rate of 15% on total in the area of intellectual property. 

(c) Social levies

? General social security contribution (CSG) is levied on individuals who are domiciled in France for tax purposes and, where earned or substitution income is concerned, members of a French compulsory health insurance scheme. For income from salaried employment and similar income, the tax base comprises the gross amount of salaries and benefits in cash or in kind. 3% is deducted from this base for professional expenses, limited to four times the annual social security ceiling. The CSG is deducted by the employer at source at a 7.5% rate and paid to URSSAF, the body that collects social security contributions. The CSG is also levied at the 7.5% rate on non-wage earned income. The CSG on earned and substitution income is deductible from income tax except for a 2.4% fraction. The CSG is levied on income from personal assets, and on investment income, at 8.2%. 

? Social security debt payment contribution (CRDS). The payers are the same than the CSG, but the rate is 0.5%.

? 2.2% social levy + 0.3% and 1.1% additional contributions on income from personal assets and investment income. They are not deductible from the income tax base.

? Employee contribution on gains from exercising stock options and acquiring bonus shares. Its rate is 8%, but it is 2.5% for gains from acquiring bonus shares, the amount of which is less than half the annual social security ceiling. Such a contribution is not deductible from the income tax base.

? Contribution from beneficiaries of cloth cap pension schemes (retraites chapeaux). It is a contribution on annuities received by beneficiaries of supplementary defined benefit pension plans, which are fully-funded by the company and which are paid provided the employee is working for the company when he/she retires. The rate of the contribution is 14% but monthly annuities of less than 500 ? which have already been assessed are exempt and the rate for those between 500 ? and 1,000 ? is 7%. This contribution is not deductible from the income tax base.


? Social contribution on corporate profits (Contribution sociale sur les bénéfices des sociétés ? CSB) equal to 3.3% of the corporation tax calculated on corporate tax payers' taxable earnings at the standard rate (33.33%) or at the reduced rates (16.5% or 15%). Corporation tax payers with turnover of less than 7,630,000 ? at least 75% of whose fully paid-up capital has been held continuously by individuals or a company meeting the same conditions are exempt from the contribution. This contribution is not deductible from the corporate tax base.

? Corporate social solidarity contribution (Contribution sociale de solidarité des sociétés ? C3S). Legal entities engaged in an economic activity in the competitive sector that generate turnover excluding VAT of at least 760,000 ? are required to pay this contribution intended to finance the social protection of self-employed workers. The rate of contribution is 0.16% of sales, minus any deductions.

(d) Payroll taxes

The main ones are the wage tax, the apprenticeship tax and employers' contributions to the development of continuous vocational training and to construction. 

Salaries are taxable once social security contributions and all other mandatory contributions and business expenses have been deducted. The wage tax is payable by employers established in France who are not liable to VAT or were not liable to VAT on at least 90% of their turnover for the calendar year prior to that when the wages were paid, mainly banks and insurance companies, the medical and paramedical sector, associations and other non-profit bodies. It is deductible from the base of the tax on profits (personal income tax or corporation tax).


2. Taxes on expenditure

(a) Value added tax (VAT)

This tax is paid by consumers on their consumption of goods and services. When companies are formed, the French tax authorities assign them an EU VAT number. Companies merely collect the VAT on their own sales and deduct the amount of VAT that they have paid on purchases of goods and services. If companies have paid more VAT than they have collected, the VAT credit will be refunded to them on request. 

Exports of goods outside the European Union are fully exempted from VAT. France?s standard VAT rate on sales of goods and services is 19.6%, but there are several reduced rates. As of January 1, 2012, a 7% tax rate applies to books, restaurants, hotels, public transport, newspapers and magazines and certain leisure activities. The rate on food and certain agricultural products is 5.5% while the rate on medications is either 5.5% or 2.1%.

(b) Excise duties

Directive 2008/118/EC of 16 December 2008, Directives 92/83/EC and 92/84/EC (alcohol), Directives 92/79/EC, 92/80/EC and 95/59/EC (tobacco) and Directive 2003/96/EC (energy products) have partly harmonised indirect taxes (excise duties) at Community level.

Energy products (petroleum products, natural gas, coal) are liable to the domestic consumption tax on petroleum products (TIPP), the domestic consumption tax on natural gas (TICGN), the domestic consumption tax on coal (TICC), and VAT.

The general tax on polluting activities (TGAP) applies to the storage and disposal of household and special industrial waste, atmospheric emissions of pollutants, the operation of classified facilities presenting specific environmental risks, the distribution of unsolicited printed material, the release for consumption of certain lubricants, detergents and mined or quarried materials, fossil fuels, and the marketing and use of plastic bags. A specific tax base and rate applies to each category. 


3. Taxes on assets

(a) Registration duties

Tax is assessed on the market value of the assets at the date of the deed or transfer, and may be fixed, proportional or progressive. The main registration duties are:
? Sale of real property;
? Transfer of businesses and similar transfers;
? Incorporation;
? Dissolution;
? Transfers of shares for valuable consideration;
? Inheritance and gift duties.

(b) Stamp duties (certain administrative formalities or the drafting of certain documents)

(c) Wealth tax (Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune ? ISF) 

It is an annual tax payable by individuals on account of their ownership of personal assets, the net value of which, assessed on 1 January of the year of taxation, exceeds a certain amount (800,000 ?). 

However, business assets, shares that the taxpayer has undertaken to keep, shares resulting from subscription of the capital of a small business, shares in certain venture-capital funds, literary and artistic copyrights held by the author, certain rural properties, antiques, artworks and collector's items are partly or fully exempted. Financial investments of persons not domiciled in France for tax purposes are specifically exempted from wealth tax. 

(d) Tax on the market value of real properties owned in France by legal entities

French and foreign legal entities (corporate bodies, organisations, trusts and comparable institutions) which directly or indirectly own one or more real properties situated in France or hold real property rights relating to such properties are liable to a 3% annual tax on the market value of such properties or rights. 

However, the following legal entities may be exempted from the tax under certain conditions: 
? international organisations, sovereign States and their political and territorial subdivisions; 
? legal entities that are not deemed companies investing predominantly in real property;
? listed legal entities;
? legal entities established in the European Union or in a country or territory bound to France by an administrative assistance agreement with a view to combating tax fraud and evasion or in a country bound to France by a treaty under the terms of which they enjoy the same treatment as legal entities having their registered office in France. 

4. Local direct taxes

(a) Property tax (taxe foncière - TF)

Companies are subject to property tax on the rental value of land (property tax on non-constructed land) and buildings (property tax on constructed land). The tax base is equal to the land registry rental value (or registered income) minus a standard 50% rebate for buildings or 20% for land. Property tax is payable by the building or land owner on January 1 each year. As such, a company created after January 1 will not owe property tax for the starting year.

However, are partially or fully exempted: 
? New professional, industrial and commercial buildings for the first two years after construction is completed;
? Tools and other equipment and operational material resources for industrial units; 
? Facilities intended for photovoltaic-based electricity production (solar panels);
? Companies operating in specific regional zones that are creating a new business, expanding operations or taking over distressed businesses (between two and five years) at the discretion of the local authorities;
? Buildings owned by companies eligible for the innovative new companies (JEI) tax status, at the discretion of the local authorities for a period of seven years;
? For individuals, new housing units with an overall energy performance level higher than the level required by the legislation in force (minimum exemption period of five years). 

(b) Residence tax (taxe d'habitation ? TH)

Sufficiently furnished residential premises and their dependencies are liable to residence tax. Since 2007, communes have also been able to levy residence tax on residential premises vacant for five years or more on 1 January of the year of taxation, provided that the annual tax on vacant residential premises does not apply on their territory.

Certain premises are exempt from residence tax, either by nature or on a decision of the commune. Persons of modest means as defined by law may qualify for an exemption or for automatic relief on the amount of residence tax on their main home. For taxpayers who do not qualify for exemption or automatic relief, the amount of residence tax on their main home is capped according to income under certain conditions. 

(c) Local economic contribution 

Such a contribution encompasses the corporate property contribution (cotisation foncière des entreprises ? CFE) and the contribution for value added by businesses (cotisation sur la valeur ajoutée des entreprises ? CVAE). The CET is capped at 3% of the company?s value added and subject to several reduction measures, such as relief for curtailment of activity, relief relating to the ceiling based on the value added (plafonnement en fonction de la valeur ajoutée, PVA) generated by the company and temporary relief from the local economic contribution and ancillary taxes. 

The corporate property contribution (CFE) is assessed annually by the municipalities that set the tax rate for businesses located in their area. The tax base comprises the rental value of fixed assets subject to the corporate property contribution (buildings and land used for business purposes) which is equivalent to 8% of the cost of land, buildings and equipment and receives a 30% deduction when calculating the CFE. Facilities intended for photovoltaic-based electricity production (solar panels) are exempted from the CFE. When a company is established in Year N, the rental value of all the premises, equipment and land that the company owns as of December 31 of Year N is eligible for a 50% deduction on taxes paid in Year N+1. 

The contribution for value added by business (CVAE) must be paid by the persons carrying on a regular non salaried business activity and whose turnover is more than 500,000 ? excluding VAT. All businesses with turnover of more than 52,500 ? must file returns. At the company?s request, all exemptions and optional allowances under the business premises contribution apply to the contribution on business value added, subject to rules on decision-making by local authorities. A progressive and variable scale is applied directly according to the turnover recorded by the business when the instalments and balance are paid to fix the amount of the contribution.

(d) Flat-rate tax on network business

The network flat tax (imposition forfaitaire de réseau ? IFER) only pertains to certain utilities companies (facilities that generate electricity with wind turbines, hydro turbines or from photovoltaic or hydraulic sources; electrical generators; radio transmitters; rail rolling stock; and mainframes for the copper access network). The IFER is payable in addition to the CET and is calculated on the basis of a scale specific to each sector. 

(e) Other taxes (waste collection tax or special infrastructure taxes).



Héléne LEMOINE
Legal Counsel at Özgün Law