FRANCE

 

COUNTRY

FRANCE

REGION

Western Europe

POPULATION

68,084,217 (July 2021 est.)

note: the above figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

France, officially French Republic, French France or République Française, country of northwestern Europe. Historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world, France has also played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, France has long provided a geographic, economic, and linguistic bridge joining northern and southern Europe.

The Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation Law (Plan d'Action pour la Croissance et la Transformation des Entreprises) (PACTE Law) was adopted on 22 May 2019 to:

  • Foster businesses to grow, transform, innovate and create jobs.
  • Strengthen artificial intelligence, innovation, intellectual property (IP) rights, cybersecurity, robotics and mass data storage sectors.

The PACTE Law makes the following changes:

  • Simplifies business set-up by the introduction of an electronic one-stop shop to replace the seven current points of contact for dealing with the formalities (currently the Commercial Court Registry, Trade or Agriculture Chamber and so on) and a general online companies register by 2021.
  • Reduces the scope of the statutory auditors' intervention by increasing the turnover threshold that requires the appointment of an auditor to EUR8 million, and deletes the unique condition relating to the existence of a controlling relationship with another company in a simplified joint stock company (société par actions simplifiée) structure.
  • Shortens the liquidation procedure to a maximum of six to nine months for companies with no more than one employee and a turnover of EUR300,000 and simplifies the liquidation procedure for companies that do not own real estate, have had up to five employees in the six months before the liquidation procedure began, and a turnover of less than EUR750,000 at the end of the preceding financial year.
  • Authorises the creation of multiple voting shares and clarifies the scope of the special advantage auditors.
  • Improves accessibility to the financial market by raising the prospectus threshold to EUR8 million (but requiring a minimum disclosure document for smaller offers) and lowers the threshold for the implementation of the squeeze-out procedure from 95% to 90%.

Adjusts the statute of limitations rules for:

  • infringement actions related to patents, trade marks and designs;
  • invalidity actions regarding the above-mentioned rights (which are no longer statute-barred); and
  • trade secret violations .
  • Opposition proceedings before the French Intellectual Property Office (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle) (INPI) have been created for patents and implemented by Ordinance No. 2020-116 dated 12 February 2020 and Decree No. 2020-225 dated 6 March 2020.
  • Alternative titles to patents have been fostered (Decree 2020-15 of 8 January 229 implementing Article 118 of the PACTE Law), via adjustments brought to utility certificates and the creation of provisionary patent applications.
  • The Soilihi Bill was adopted on 19 July 2019. This Bill follows the current trend of simplification of corporate law in France.
  • One of the main measures of this Bill aims to extend the scope of the simplified merger regime, which until now, was limited to mergers and acquisitions between a parent company and its subsidiary, in which the former held 100% of the capital or at least 90% of the voting rights.

The following transactions are now eligible for the simplified merger regime:

  • The merger between sister companies, when the same parent company holds 100% of the share capital or at least 90% of the voting rights of the absorbing company and the absorbed company.
  • The demerger/split of a company to the benefit of several sister companies, when the demerged company and the beneficiary companies are all wholly-owned subsidiaries of the same parent company.
  • The partial contribution of assets, when the transferring company holds 100% of the capital of the company receiving the contribution and contrariwise when the receiving company holds 100% of the capital of the transferring company.
  • Transfers of going concerns are also simplified. The main provisions are as follows:
  •  Removal of a certain number of mandatory written statements which were required in any going concern transfer agreement under penalty of nullity.
  • Removal of the requirement that a going concern must have been operated for two years before it can be granted under a management lease (location gérance).

In response to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a Bill on the state of health emergency was published on 24 March 2020, followed by several orders. This Bill creates a legal framework for the measures taken by the French Government since 16 March 2020 and declares a state of health emergency of two months which may be extended for an additional one-month period. One of the measures taken includes the interruption of all legal time periods which have expired or are supposed to expire between 12 March 2020 and one month following the end of the state of health emergency (for example, one month following 25 May 2020 is 25 June 2020). The French Government also took a wide range of measures to support French businesses throughout the crisis, including a EUR300 billion state guarantee scheme for new loans granted by financial institutions to certain French businesses. The eligibility criteria, applicable conditions and procedure are set out in a Bill amending the 2020 Finance Act, dated 23 March 2020 and further specified in a decree of 23 March 2020. The Law on the Protection of Trade Secrets of 30 July 2018 transposed the Trade Secrets Directive ((EU) 2016/943) into French law. It introduced a harmonised definition of trade secrets and a set of protective rules into the Commercial Code. This law also provided the following requirements to the protection regime:

Three conditions must be met for information to be protected as a trade secret:

  •  the information must be secret (that is, not generally known or easily accessible to those familiar with this type of information due to their business sector);
  • the information must have commercial value; and
  • the information must be subject to reasonable protection measures on the part of its rightful holder.

The party who obtains, uses or discloses such information, without the consent of the rightful holder (that is, the party who has lawful control on the information) will be held civilly liable.

(Article L. 151-1 to L. 154-1, Commercial Code.)

Moreover, Ordinance No. 2019-1169 dated 13 November 2019 and two decrees dated 9 December 2019 implemented Directive (EU) 2015/2436 to approximate the laws of the member states relating to trade marks (New Trade Marks Directive). The resulting substantial and procedural changes include, among other things:

  • The INPI’s new and exclusive jurisdiction for main invalidity and revocation proceedings, as of 1 April 2020.
  • Fixed fees for the newly created administrative invalidity and revocation proceedings, which are intended to be time-efficient and cost-effective.
  • The removal of the requirement for a trade mark to be graphically represented.
  • An extension of the grounds for trade mark opposition proceedings beyond prior trademarks to include for example, commercial denominations, domain names, geographical indications, names of a local authorities or public entities, thereby entitling a large number of holders to bring oppositions.
  • From a tax perspective, the key developments relate to the transposition of two EU Directives into French Law.

On 21 October 2019, the French Government published Ordinance No. 2019-1068 which transposes Directive (EU) 2018/822 (DAC 6) into French law, amending Directive 2011/16/EU on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation. DAC 6 requires intermediaries (or taxpayers, if there is no intermediary) to report to the competent tax authorities all cross-border arrangements that contain one or more hallmarks (indicating a potential risk of tax evasion), as referred to in new Article 1649 AH of the General Tax Code. Reported information will automatically be exchanged with all EU tax authorities through a central European register.

In addition, the 2020 Finance Act has transposed into French law the provisions regarding hybrid mismatches of Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive ((EU) 2016/1164). These provisions aim to neutralise the tax effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements, which exploit differences in the tax treatment of an entity or instrument under the laws of two or more EU member states. The Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive extends the scope of these provisions to arrangements involving non-EU countries.

WIFI SPEED

In France, the average internet connection speed has increased from 3,071 kbps at the beginning of 2011 to 10,757 kbps

ELECTRICAL OUTLET

For France, there are two associated plug types, types C and E. France operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

PER CAPITA GDP

$46,184 (2019 est.)
$45,561 (2018 est.)
$44,827 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

CLIMATE

Metropolitan France: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as the mistral.

French Guiana: tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation.

Guadeloupe and Martinique: subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average.

Mayotte: tropical; marine; hot, humid, rainy season during northeastern monsoon (November to May); dry season is cooler (May to November);

Reunion: tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)

RESIDENCE- BY- INVESTMENT

FRENCH GOLDEN RESIDENCY PROGRAM

The French golden residency program is aimed at ultra-high net worth individuals. By investing a fixed sum, you and your family will receive a residence permit for 10 years, enjoying rights equivalent to those of French citizens.

INVESTMENTS/ REQUIREMENTS

  •  Applicants must invest at least EUR 10 million in industrial or commercial assets in France. You can make the investment personally, or via a company in which you own at least 30% of shares. No additional investment is required for including family members. The investment can be made alone, together with friends or partners, or as part of an investment program approved by the authorities.
  •  Current trends aim at developing migration policy that is more selective and focused on business immigration, with the aim of attracting qualified foreign workers and investment into France and to simplify immigration procedures for these categories.
  • This policy has already resulted in practical changes that have translated into more attractive work permit categories or processes designed for selected third-country workers and investors.
  • While working towards a more attractive and flexible immigration system, steps are being taken to ensure heightened scrutiny and sanctions, specifically for prevention of illegal immigration and fraudulent secondments.
  • The Government also aims to conduct more on-site controls every month and is recruiting agents and officers to carry these out as part of the policy of tackling illegal employment and "social dumping".
  • From 25 May 2021, France opened an online service for residence permit card requests for holders of talent passport visas. - These visa holders must now submit their application on the online platform instead of having to attend a local Prefecture.

Since April 2021, France has changed work permit application procedures, aiming to make the process more efficient:

  • The labour department (Direction Régionale des Entreprises, de la Concurrence, de la Consommation, du Travail et de l’Emploi (DIRECCTE)) is no longer in charge of processing work permit applications. Employers can no longer submit applications at local labour department offices

Employers must now submit work permit applications on a dedicated online platform. This system aims at:

  • allowing a better distribution of work permit applications and standardisation of practices between regions; and
    simplifying the list of documents to be provided.
  • On April 2021, the government updated the list of jobs in demand (per region) for which there is no prior labor market test (no requirement to first advertise the position for at least three weeks with the French official agencies and so on). This list will be updated regularly.

FRANCE TALENT PASSPORT FOR INVESTOR

France recently launched a series of immigration initiatives designed to attract skilled professionals and entrepreneurs, collectively dubbed the French Tech Visa or, alternatively, the Talent Passport. What’s interesting to those of us working in the investment migration industry is the subcategory called “Business Investor”.

Talent passport - business investor (investisseur economique). This is issued for up to four years and is renewable (replacing the previous "exceptional economic contribution" category). It is available for foreign nationals making a direct economic investment in France and wishing to settle in France to monitor the progress of their investment. Purely financial (passive) investments do not fall within the scope of this category.

INVESTMENTS/ REQUIREMENTS

  • Invest at least €300,000 in fixed tangible or intangible assets.
  • Invest either directly or via a company in which they have at least a 30% shareholding.
  • Own at least 10% of the company in which they are investing.
  •  Create or protect (or commit to create or protect) jobs within the four years following the investment.
  • Police report in respect of the applicant from the country of citizenship and/or residence where he/she lived for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.
  • Medical reports were conducted within 3 months or less from the date of application.

KEY BENEFITS

  • Renewable Residence Card valid for 4 years
  •  Right to live, work, and study in France
  • Free mobility within Schengen Area (26 countries) for a period of up to 6 months per year
  • Pathway to obtaining Permanent Resident or Citizenship after 5 years of residence in France

PROCESSING TIME

The application process only takes 2 months.

There are other variations available:

Talent passport - new business (création d'entreprise). This is issued for up to four years and is renewable. It is available for foreign nationals planning to set up a new business in France. The planned business venture can take various forms, such as a business in the foreign national's own name, a French company or an establishment of a foreign entity, for example. To be eligible, the applicant must have:

  • A qualification corresponding to a master's degree or equivalent, or at least five years' professional experience of a comparable level.
  • Proof of a real and serious plan to form an economically viable business in France.
  • Proof of an investment of at least EUR30,000 in the planned business.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources during the stay of at least the statutory national minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance) (SMIC) (EUR18,655 per year in 2021).

Talent passport - innovative business project (projet économique innovant). This is issued for up to four years, is renewable and is available for foreign nationals with an innovative business project which they want to develop in France and which has been recognised by a public-sector body.

Company Directors

Talent passport - company director (mandataire social). This is issued for up to four years, is renewable and is available for foreign nationals wishing to serve as a company's legal representative in France.

To be eligible, the person must:

  •  Be appointed as legal representative of an entity/company set up and doing business in France.
  • Have at least three months' experience as an employee or company director in an entity or affiliated company belonging to the same corporate group.
  • Receive annual remuneration of at least three times the SMIC (EUR55,965 per year in 2021).

Self-Employment

If the foreign national is not eligible for a talent passport, they can alternatively apply for a standard business activity visa, the "entrepreneur/professional services visa", as long as the activity is economically viable and can provide adequate resources for himself or herself (of at least the SMIC, EUR18,655 per year in 2021). Before submitting the visa application, the applicant must request an opinion on the economic viability of the business creation project on the government website. The visa is valid for one year and is issued for the first year by the French consulate abroad. After the first year, the applicant can apply for annual extensions, based on the business activity.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Metropolitan France: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber, arable land, fish, French Guiana, gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum, clay

ETHNIC GROUPS

Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Indochinese, Basque minorities

LANGUAGES

French (official) 100%, declining regional dialects, and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish, Occitan, Picard); note - overseas departments: French, Creole patois, Mahorian (a Swahili dialect)

RELIGIONS

Christian (overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) 63-66%, Muslim 7-9%, Buddhist 0.5-0.75%, Jewish 0.5-0.75%, other 0.5-1.0%, none 23-28% (2015 est.)

Note: France maintains a tradition of secularism and has not officially collected data on religious affiliation since the 1872 national census, which complicates assessments of France's religious composition; an 1872 law prohibiting state authorities from collecting data on individuals' ethnicity or religious beliefs was reaffirmed by a 1978 law emphasizing the prohibition of the collection or exploitation of personal data revealing an individual's race, ethnicity, or political, philosophical, or religious opinions; a 1905 law codified France's separation of church and state

MEDIAN AGE

total: 41.7years
male: 40 years
female: 43.4 years (2020 est.)

URBANIZATION

urban population: 81.2% of total population (2021)
rate of urbanization: 0.67% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)
total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

PHYSICIAN DENSITY

3.27 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

GOVERNMENT TYPE

Semi-Presidential Republic

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24
male: 20.8%
female: 18.2% (2019 est.)
total: 19.6%

TAXES

Personal Income Tax Rate (highest marginal tax rate) - Rates are progressive from 0% to 45%, plus a surtax of 3% on the portion of income that exceeds EUR 250,000 for a single person and EUR 500,000 for a married couple and of 4% for income that exceeds EUR 500,000 for a single person and EUR 1 million for a married couple.

An individual is regarded as a French tax resident if they:

  • Live with their family in France.
  • Spend most of their time in France.
  • Carry on their main profession, occupation or employment in France.
  • Have the centre of their economic interest in France.

The top personal tax rate is 45% (plus an additional levy of a maximum of 4%, resulting in a 49% maximum rate) excluding social security contributions.

Unless otherwise provided by an applicable double tax treaty, a withholding tax on the French sourced salary is levied by the French employer on a monthly basis at a rate of 0%, 12% or 20% as an advance payment of the personal income tax.

The 2020 Finance Act progressively repeals the three abovementioned tax rates in order to align the taxation of non-French tax resident employees on the tax regime of French resident employees. As a result, non-tax resident employees will be subject to the same progressive rates as French employees under the PAYE withholding tax system as of 1 January 2023.

Corporate Income Tax Rate (excluding dividend taxes) – For FY opened as of January 1, 2021, the reduced CIT rate of 15% that applies for small corporations on their first EUR 38,120 of taxable profits (according to the French tax Law definition) is extended to the corporations realizing a turnover up to EUR 10 million (compared to EUR 7,63 million for FY opened before January 1, 2021).

A corporation is considered a French tax resident if its headquarters, as set out in its articles of association, are in France, or its place of effective management is in France.

A corporation is considered to operate a business in France if it has any of the following:

  •  An autonomous establishment in France.
  • A dependent agent empowered to act on behalf of the non-resident business in France.
  • A complete cycle of activity in France (for example, manufacture and sale of a product).

The income tax base is territorial. Profits are subject to CIT only if derived from a business operated in France, real-estate assets located in France or activities taxable in France under a double tax treaty.

The standard rate of CIT in 2020 is 28%, on top of which a CIT surcharge may apply, resulting in a maximum aggregate rate of 28.92%. However, companies with a turnover exceeding EUR250 million are liable to pay a CIT at the rate of 31% for taxable profits exceeding the EUR500,000 threshold, resulting in a maximum aggregate rate of 32.02%. The CIT rate will progressively decrease as follows:

  • From 2021, the standard rate will become 26.5% (or 27.5% for companies with a turnover exceeding EUR250 million).
  •  From 2022, the standard rate will become 25%.

The corporate return filing date is no later than the second working day after 1 May for financial years based on the calendar year or otherwise within three months after the end of the financial year.

Four quarterly instalment payments are mandatorily scheduled throughout the financial year, the balance payment being made on the 15th day of the fourth month following the closing of the financial year.

Companies engaged in a business in France are subject to the territorial economic contribution (CET) that consists of two distinct taxes, capped at 3% of the added value of:
The real property contribution that is assessed on the rental value of the company's immovable assets.

The contribution on the added value that is assessed on the added value produced by the company.

Dividends paid to non-resident corporate shareholders are subject to a 30% withholding tax. The withholding tax is increased to 75% if dividends are paid to a beneficiary or on an account located in a "non-cooperative state or territory" (NCST), that is, for example Nauru, Guatemala, Brunei, Marshall Islands, Botswana, Panama and Niue for 2019.

In order to follow the CIT rate reduction, the rate of withholding tax on dividends paid to foreign corporate shareholder will also decrease as follows:

  • Rate applicable to dividends paid in 2020: 28%.
  • Rate applicable to dividends paid in 2021: 26.5%.
  • Rate applicable to dividends paid as from 2022: 25%.

However, the withholding tax is usually reduced or eliminated by the applicable double tax treaties or on the grounds of the EU parent/subsidiary directive subject to certain conditions, including that the shares are held for a minimum of two years (or it has been undertaken to do so) and the shareholding is a minimum of 5%.

France has signed approximately 125 double tax treaties and "quasi-treaties", notably with the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and the EU member states.

France has a broad tax treaty network covering more than 120 countries. Some of these treaties cover income as well as wealth tax, inheritance tax and gift tax.

Most French treaties follow the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD's) Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital. In addition, France has ratified the OECD Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (more than 70 treaties are covered).

French treaties usually contain a general anti-avoidance rule and/or provisions limiting benefits to effective beneficiaries of certain types of income (notably for dividends).

France also signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.
France has implemented the CRS into its domestic law.

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