From 01 January 2011, those running a small business in France can opt for the new statute - an individual enterprise with limited liability (EIRL). Those who are already self-employed or auto-entrepreneurs as well as new business creators can choose this format.
This new business model is designed to protect the entrepreneur's personal assets (such as his home) in the case of business failure, by separating personal from business assets. In the event of a business failure leading to legal action by creditors, only those assets previously declared for use exclusively in the business - known as the patrimoine d'affectation - could potentially be seized in order to repay creditors. Typical business assets would include business premises, the value of a lease, machinery and equipment.
In registering the new enterprise at the local centre de formation d'entreprise (CFE), a list of business assets is drawn up and items with a value exceeding 30,000 euros require professional valuation. Forms are available from local CFEs and registration is effected by chambers of commerce, chambers of trade etc as appropriate according to the nature of the business or occupation. Registration costs are expected to be around 55 euros.
The newly constitued EIRL is required to open a separate business bank account and to maintain proper accounts. There is also an obligation to file annual accounts and statements of affairs, details of which have yet to be published.
The owner of the EIRL can choose to be taxed individually on his revenue from the business, or the EIRL can choose to be taxed under the corporation tax régime (IS or impot sur les sociétés). The latter option offers a number of advantages if the EIRL wishes to retain funds (reserves) in the business. It is not however open to auto-entrepreneurs.
Although slightly more complicated to set up and run, the EIRL offers considerable protection to the business owner, which is similar to the position of directors of limited iability companies such as the French SARL, and guarantees protection of his personal assets such as his home.
Further information can be found on http://www.eirl.fr/ and a declaration can be made online at http://www.guichet-entreprise.fr/ or by visiting your local CFE.
Source: APCE (Agence Pour la Création d'Enreprises), January 2011.