‘Never hide money from the French taxman’

Many expats in France enjoy personal and professional success after they arrive here. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? More and more companies are going out of business but here's a rough guide for how to both deal with and avoid going bust.

'Never hide money from the French taxman'
What happens if you go bankrupt in France? And how can avoid it? Photo: Jim Corwin

Starting a new life and a new business in France is an exciting prospect that has attracted expats here for many years.

But needless to say, things don’t always go as planned, even you’re experienced and organized. With bankruptcies at record levels in France, The Local has consulted an expert – himself an expat business-owner – to guide you through the process.

Andrew Denison is an associate at ‘Mon Ami Andy’, a Nice-based consultancy firm dedicated to helping expats in France “get unstuck” from financial and bureaucratic problems.


Being over-indebted on a personal level (“surendettement”), quite simply means you can’t pay your creditors the money you owe them.

A “Commission de surendettement” will be convened, comprising you and anyone or any institution you’re in debt to, to try to figure out a payment plan. In most cases, however, such efforts will already have failed, and the next step is called “redressement.

Unlike in the US, UK and Germany, ‘redressement’ is voluntary in France, Denison notes, and involves a 12-month commitment to sell off your assets – your car, your house –  in an effort to pay off your debts.

The advantage of this process, according to Denison, is that the Commission de surendettement is very much a “conciliation panel.” And if you make a full-faith effort to pay or sell off your debts, for one year, at that point the slate should be wiped clean, and whatever debt remains is written off as a loss.

However, the major disadvantage is that in most cases your name will be placed on an “over-indebtedness blacklist” by the Banque de France. “This could prevent you getting credit or taking out loans for eight years,” warns Dennison.

The majority of over-indebtedness cases are due to mortgage defaults, Dennison notes, but the largest debts come from consumer credit, where individuals have racked up unpayable debts to several credit card companies by buying furniture, electronics, and so on, which they couldn’t afford.

The redressement process in consumer cases can take longer than 12 months of selling off assets, but in the end often prevents your name being put on a ‘surendettement’ blacklist for years, he says.

If you decide you don’t want to sell off your car or house to pay your debts, you do have the option of earning your way out. Here, a certain agreed proportion of your wages will automatically be paid to your creditors.

Be aware though, they’re not obliged to agree to this, and – although it’s rare – creditors have been known to take people to court to reclaim debts through asset sales.


If things are going badly for your company, at a certain point you will sit down and have a “very serious conversation” with your accountant, who will inform you that the company simply isn’t sustainable any longer.

At this point, it’s time for what’s called the “dépot de bilan.” You and your accountant work out your final accounts, and if you can pay your debts, you do, but in the likely event you cannot, a liquidator is appointed.

Generally this stage is called ‘voluntary administration’, although in cases where there is suspicion of fraud or embezzlement on your part, you may end up in ‘judicial administration,’ a very serious predicament with criminal repercussions.

The liquidator (administrator) essentially becomes the director of your company, says Denison, and once they’re in place, there aren’t really any decisions you can make about your business.

The liquidator will first try to sell the company. If they can’t, they will pursue anyone who owes you money. Then, they’ll try to sell off the company’s assets – company cars, office furniture, and so on.

When it comes to outgoings – in France the employees (if you have any) will always be paid first. The liquidator is responsible for terminating contracts properly, and obeying French labour law in terms of severance packages, and so on. Note that you, as the managing director, will effectively be fired.

Next, the liquidator will pay what the company owes to the state, through Social Security, and in taxes, before trying to negotiate with creditors like banks, with the overall aim of trying to break even.

How to avoid the need to go bankrupt in the first place

1. Find an excellent accountant. You might be used to doing your own accounts back home, but remember, in France your accountant is a far more crucial figure.  

“Find someone who’s well-recommended, who will give you regular feedback, tell you what’s going on and what’s ahead at all times, and that you can really trust,” says Denison.

2. The Centre de Formalité. When you first register your company in France, you’ll be offered free management workshops and courses (usually a couple of weeks long) at a Centre de Formalité, which is run by your local Chambre de Commerce.

“They are invaluable, and they’re free of charge, so take advantage of them, especially if you have any intention of employing someone,” says Denison.

3. Don’t cut corners with bureaucracy. In France, there can be many more government bodies and agencies that you have obligations to, than you might think. Stay on top which forms go to which addresses, and keep a strict schedule of payments and deadlines.

“Whatever you do,” warns Denison, “do not try to defraud the French government by hiding income earned in different countries, or registering employees back home.”

It will catch up with you in the end, he says, and it can destroy a business you may have worked decades to build.

Andrew Denison is an associate at Mon Ami Andy, a Nice-based consultancy which helps expats in France deal with problems like visas, starting a business, and owning property.

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.