Foreign company domiciliation in France

The domiciliation of a foreign company is a mandatory step when it decides to set up in France, as for any French company. There are different possibilities to domicile a foreign company on French territory.

What is Corporate Domiciliation ?

The domiciliation of a foreign company in France consists in assigning it a French administrative, legal and tax address. This is an obligation for all companies, regardless of their legal status. Indeed, this address is essential to register the company with the RCS or rm.
In addition, the domiciliation address corresponds to the registered office of the company. It is at this official address that customers, partners and social and tax organizations communicate with the company. It must appear in the company's articles of association, as well as on all its legal and commercial documents.
Note: the domiciliation address does not necessarily correspond to the registered office of the foreign company, which is generally located abroad.

Why domicile a foreign company in France ?

From a legal point of view, the domiciliation of the foreign company is a legal obligation for any company. Indeed, the registration of the domiciliation address at the business formalities center (CFE) is necessary for the company to register. This is an essential step to carry out an activity on French territory legally.

In addition, from a tax point of view, the domiciliation allows the foreign company to obtain a French tax address. Indeed, French taxation applies to foreign companies as soon as they establish themselves in a stable manner on French territory. If this is the case, it is liable for VAT, SI or CET.
Note: a foreign company has a permanent establishment in France as long as it has material and human resources on French territory.

How to domicile a foreign company in France ?

The foreign company that wishes to set up in France has the choice between different forms of establishment. The degree of autonomy as well as the tax and legal consequences, attached to the form of establishment, generally guide the choice of the manager.
The Liaison Office
The liaison office is a form of domiciliation that is suitable for foreign companies wishing to carry out non-commercial activities in France. This is the case for companies that prospect the French market, that carry out advertising activities, or that wish to feed their professional network. Indeed, companies wishing to study the French market generally choose this implementation solution before carrying out a commercial activity there.
Good to know: French taxation and the obligation to register are not imposed on foreign companies established in the form of liaison offices.

The branch
The branch is an establishment located in France by the parent company located abroad. It does not have its own legal personality and assets. However, the legal representative has a certain autonomy in the management of the establishment. Registration of the branch is also mandatory.
Please note: French tax legislation applies to the branch. On the other hand, there is no double taxation in the country of origin when a convention has been signed between France and that country.

The subsidiary
This is probably the most successful form of implantation. Indeed, the subsidiary is a legal structure in its own right that has its own legal personality and assets. Therefore, it must be constituted under one of the legal statutes existing in French law (SARL, SAS ...). The accounting and tax obligations that apply to any French company are also imposed on the subsidiary.

What Are The Administrative Procedures To Be Carried Out ?

When a foreign company chooses to set up in France, it has the obligation to register at the Business Formalities Centre (CFE). It must also register with the RCS or the RM, depending on the activity carried out. To do this, it must determine its direct debit address. In addition, if it is a subsidiary, it will have to follow the formalities of business creation and opt for the appropriate legal form.
Good to know: the cumbersome nature of these formalities can push foreign companies to prefer a liaison office or a branch to start their activity in France.

Where to domicile a foreign company in France ?

Whatever the form of establishment chosen by the foreign company, it must have an address in France. It can :

  • Acquire or rent real estate;
  • Domicile the company at the personal home of the entrepreneur;
  • Conclude a direct debit contract with a domiciliation company;
  • Set up its head office in a business incubator;
  • Domicile the structure in a business center.

Generally speaking, foreign companies do not make the choice to acquire in a property or even to conclude a lease. Indeed, the objective is to penetrate the French market and not to invest in real estate. In addition, domiciliation at the manager's personal home is not an option. He resides, most often, abroad. Therefore, the domiciliation of a foreign company in France seems more opportune within a domiciliation company or a business incubator.