Freelance in France: Set Up Your Auto-Entrepreneur Status
Here in France, setting up a business usually involves a ridiculous amount of paperwork and bureaucracy. One of the few exceptions is the micro-entrepreneur status, which used to be called auto-entrepreneur.
Becoming a micro-entrepreneur is a great option whether you want to be self-employed, freelance or offer a service as a side gig. Unlike in the U.S., you must set up this status BEFORE you start to work, because you need to provide a SIRET business identification number to the companies or clients you work for.
The goal of the application process is to get this SIRET number. We will also go over how to invoice correctly and pay your taxes. But first, there are some limitations on who and which professions can use the micro-entrepreneur status, so let’s determine if it’s right for you.
WHO CAN BE A MICRO-ENTREPRENEUR?
Common usages by expats include freelance translation services, language tutors, English teachers, artists, yoga instructors, tour guides, web design, photography, stylists and marketing professionals. I use mine for freelance media consulting work. Here is a full list of qualifying métiers.
There are some important limitations including:
- You cannot employ anyone (though you are able to work with your spouse).
- You can’t make more than 70,000 euros per year (President Macron upped the max) or else you have to use a different type of services structure.
- This is not a work permit. You must already have permission to work in France before applying.
- If you want to open a boutique or sell items, micro-entrepreneur status may not work for you. Also, some employment activity is forbidden under this status such as construction and other services where you need special permits. This website can help you determine if your activity qualifies.
HOW TO APPLY
The website to apply is www.autoentrepreneur.urssaf.fr (only available in French).
Click Créer mon auto-entreprise.
Click the button that says: Déclarer mon auto-entreprise. This takes you to the start of your application.
On this page you have to choose your work activité. Be careful with this choice because it is a pain to change it after you submit.
SPOILER: This page is annoying. If you want to browse the categories, you have to go through each domaine d’activité, and then check the box on the right that says “Afficher toutes les activités du domaine,” and see if your activity is in the choisissez votre activité list. Or you can press your luck with the autocomplete field.
As soon as you select an activity, you will be taken to the main application form.
This asks for pretty straightforward information, but very much depends on your occupation, preferences and tax/fiscal situation, so I can’t give you advice on which options to fill out. There is no default, one-size-fits-all choice.
I do suggest you complete the form in order because it is also super finicky, and requires you to fill out certain fields before others.
At the end, if you aren’t finished, you can save what you have by clicking enregistrement provisoire. When you are ready, hit VALIDATION to send your application!
After you validate you will be given an application number (numéro de dossier) and a password. SAVE THIS. You should also receive an email confirmation, but you never know.
NOTE: This online application is equivalent to the form: Déclaration de début d’activité – Personne physique (P0 PL) — if you want to do this the old-fashioned paper way.
RECEIVING YOUR SIRET NUMBER
If everything you submitted is fine, you should get your SIRET number (your company ID number) via mail in about a week. Super fast for France, right?
You will actually receive two numbers: a SIREN (a personal ID number that follows you for life) and SIRET (specific to the activity you chose). You only get one SIREN, but can have multiple SIRETs if you have different business activities. You may notice your SIRET number is your SIREN number plus five unique numbers at the end. The SIRET number is what companies will need.
Félicitations, you can now legally freelance in France!
HOW TO INVOICE
Companies or clients who hire you will need some specific info in order to pay you. Here is a sample invoice:
A few details to take note of:
- When listing the fee for your service, you need to indicate that it is Prix HT (prix hors taxes). This is because when you work under a micro-entrepreneur status, YOU are responsible for the taxes, not the company and that needs to be indicated on the invoice.
- For the same reason, you need to put “TVA non applicable, art. 293B du CGI” underneath the total amount billing.
- If you want to be paid by direct deposit, be sure to include your banking info including the IBAN, SWIFT/BIC and RIB. Note: you technically need a dedicated bank account for this work activity.
DECLARING & PAYING TAXES
When you work under a micro-entrepreneur status, you are responsible for declaring and paying all the taxes on what you make, instead of the client who hired you. Companies obviously love this and France’s intention in creating this status was to better accommodate the “gig economy.”
- Declaring your revenues
You have two options for declaring: You will get a tax form in the mail, or you can set up an account on www.impots.gouv.fr. This is the same website you may already use to pay your personal taxes, but you have to set up a different account for your business activity.
Depending on which you chose on your application, you need to declare your revenue either monthly or quarterly. The first time you declare will be after your first FULL quarter (or month), and in that declaration you will include the partial quarter/month during which you created the account. The charts below indicate when you need to make your first declaration.
Don’t forget to also include your micro-entrepreneur revenue on your personal tax declarations as well.
- Tax Rate — Taux de Cotisations
Good news for les micro-entrepreneurs — beginning January 1st, 2019 everyone starting a company benefits from L’Accre, which is a gradual tax for your first three years of working under this status (see chart below). After that, the tax is 22%.
Still have questions about the process? Check out this FAQs page which has a ton of details on it. Good luck!
If this how-to guide helped you, please consider buying me a coffee to say “merci” and help keep this blog going!