Self-employed Workers and Sole Traders: Entreprise Individuelle (EI)

Details on the Entreprise Individuelle (EI) business structure for freelancers, contractors, sole traders and self-employed persons with and without employees...

The Entreprise Individuelle (EI) structure can be used to operate as a self-employed person in activities that include:

  • The professions (profession liberale) for example an architect, a lawyer, a consultant, a medical practitioner
  • Commercial or industrial activity such as owning a shop or factory
  • The trades (artisan) such as roofer, baker, builder
  • Sales
  • Agriculture

Start-up costs for an EI are low and the process takes relatively little time.

In this business structure the operator and their business are one; as such there is unlimited liability, which means that the operator is personally liable for company debts (and depending on the marital régime, a spouse may be exposed to repayment of debts). However at the point of set up it is possible to isolate and protect the principle residence by making a declaration with a notary. Further advice should be sought.

People registering EIs do not take on a trading name - they trade under their actual, personal name. However, they may choose a commercial name in addition. To see if a name is in use, consult INPI (there is a fee). It is illegal to use a name for a business that is protected by a trademark in that business sector.

Process to set up the operation

The documents required to make up the file to be submitted to the CFE vary depending on the activity but will include the following:

  • Application for registration form (demande d'immatriculation). These may be specific to the operation being started
  • Proof of address (recent EDF bill, rental contract)
  • Proof of identity (passport, residence card)
  • If the activity is regulated, then required proof of compliance to training standards
  • If married under the régime "in community of property" the spouse must provide written proof that they have been told and understand the consequences of debt
  • To find out more detail and to download the appropriate application forms, use the interactive tool to "Create a CFE dossier" (Constituer son dossier CFE, in French)

Submit the documents to the appropriate local CFE office. CFE issues a receipt (récépissé de dépôt de dossier de création d'entreprise) which states that the business is in the process of registration (en attente d'immatriculation). This document allows a person to apply for services (electricity, telephone).

The business can also be created online at Guichet Entreprises.

  • APCE have more information (in French)

A spouse or registered partner may help with the business on a regular basis but should be declared to the CFE where they will be assigned the role of collaborator (collaborateur), employee (salarié) or associate (associé).

Tax and the EI

An EI does not need to submit annual books for audit (although it may be checked at any time by tax authorities). There are certain annual tax obligations. These very depending on circumstances, and the tax régime that applies.