UK registered or French registered new business set up, which is best / easiest?

As the subject title asks, is it folly to register a new small business in France when it would be easier to register it in the UK and trade in France?

I have seen some comment here and in other forums saying it can get to the point of having suicidal thoughts trying to get set up and started in France.

I may have missed previous threads on this subject so I will apologise now. Can anyone shed light on which path to take?

I am looking at the catering industry.


If the work is done in France and you live here then you're supposed to have a business set up in France. Maybe you need to be more specific about your circumstances and what you plan to do for more specific advice than that?

Hello Debra,

I am UK based at present but am looking to spend more time in France. Permanaent life in France is not an option yet, so the idea is to develop a mobile catering business that can be operated when I am there. As it becomes more of a reality for a long term move, so hopefully the business will be a little more established.

Working in both the UK and France? I have no idea how that could work because I would have thought you'd have to fit in with the French regulations, especially those re hygiene. Hopefully someone else will come along who knows.

Don't register in France. Catrring might be a minefield also.

I agree with Bob, if you are UK based and occasional work in France then don't even think about registering in France. It's had enough getting to grips with the UK system.

Just be wary of number hours worked over here and minimum standards for workers (pay, hours etc). These have to be the same as for French workers. As for the catering side, I don't know about licenses, hygiene certificates, liability insurance etc.

My business is based solely in France and is registered in France, French TVA etc. HiD has a UK limited Company, is contracted to a UK Company for a worldwide conglomorate but is based in France. She pays UK corporation tax and VAT, she pays a salary into our French joint account and declares that under the household tax form as ci-joint.

Both UK and French accountants have been fine with that for the past 4 years. Personally having a French and an English accountant (for 2 different businesses) was the most sensible option.

Good luck!

Hi Stuart,

We are about to set up a UK registered business in France... the reasons

1) We have run businesses in the UK and are familiar with how things work.

2) We speak and read English far better.

3) Both of the above mean that we don't have to hire someone to take us through any new system or language nuances.

4) More costs can be written off against a business in the British system than the French

We will also be receiving payments in sterling.

We might have use for your catering services but we will be in SE France, that's another discussion to be had?

I hope things go well for you



I agree with Robert.

I have done it in both countries. France is a bureacratic nightmare. Company tax is 33% and UK is 20% and reducing each year. If you are UK based, then you can easily open a UK company.

You can trade in France etc but you don't charge VAT/TVA if you issue invoices. Your clients in France when they do their TVA returns have to state this and pay TVA direct in France. Conversely, you cant claim VAT deductions in the UK on your purchases or invoices that you incur. If you live in France, then your personal earnings from the company have to be declared there.

After April 2016 the UK fell into line with France in the way that company earnings can be paid to the company owners. In years past, it was possible to avoid NI / Social charges by paying via dividends but this is no longer the case. There is a lot more cohesion between the two.

If you are not sure of your earnings, and they are likely to be meagre in the beginning, then you could try French Autoentrepreneur. You need to be resident in France, and it is limited to 3 years.

I use a UK Accountancy firm who cost a lot less than the French-based international one that I used who had no added value whatsoever. I would advise to stay clear of larger accountancies.

I don't know how you would go in France for a company account if you register in UK. I opened a euro account with HSBC in UK but it is expensive if you have a lot of small transactions. Once per month I "swept" the account via a currency house into pounds and used that for pound value for declarations in UK.

I've since stopped doing France work and to be honest, life is a lot simpler. It is complicated and if you don't have the turnover to merit it, it isn't worth the bother. Operating as owner-operator is easier, but in France you will lose around 50% in charges, URSSAF for example will still charge (or they used to) on a 0% turnover.

Hi Debra,

The food safety standards regulations are European EN standards and as such would be broadly the same across the Continent. I am in catering at the moment and as such, am less concerned with them than I am with the business registration process.

Hello Keya,

Thanks for your input. Sounds like you are well down the line for setting up your own concern. I am going to be based in 86 if we go ahead, so I am not sure in terms of distance what could be done with you SE. Keep in touch, never say never.


Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment and give me more information than I had. Always open to more if you think on anything else. It is good to see the balance between information on the lead up to incorporation, from people already trading and from some who have finished and moved on.

Cheers for that.