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What are 'Cerfa' forms and why does the French government want to scrap them?

The Local France
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What are 'Cerfa' forms and why does the French government want to scrap them?
France's Minister for Economy and Finances Bruno Le Maire leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris on March 6, 2024. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

France's finance minister announced on Wednesday that the government will 'get rid of' thousands of complicated French forms - here's what that is likely to mean in practice for everyday life.

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France's finance minister, Bruno Le Maire said during an interview with French newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday that he wanted to 'simplify' French bureaucracy by getting rid of certain administrative forms called 'Cerfa' documents.

The finance minister said that his goal was the elimination of all Cerfa forms by 2030, and that this would be part of his overarching plan to decrease French spending.

As for why - Le Maire said that this move would help to 'lighten the mental burden' that weighs on entrepreneurs.

"Complexity has a staggering cost in terms of jobs and hours worked," he told the French press.

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What are Cerfa forms?

Cerfa is an abbreviation for Centre d'enregistrement et de révision des formulaires administratifs (Centre for the registration and revision of administrative forms). These are are official French documents filled in either by an individual or a company. They are later sent into public authorities.

Cerfa forms are required for numerous formal procedures that are outlined by French law.

From termination of employment to vehicle registration and planning permission, plus requesting French citizenship, Cerfa documents are a large part of French life.

There are 1,800 different types of Cerfa documents. Only 600 of those forms are for private individuals, while the remaining 1,200 pertain to businesses.

“Complexity has a dizzying cost in terms of jobs and hours worked,” explained Bruno Le Maire, explaining that it is necessary to “reduce the mental load” that weighs on entrepreneurs. Thus, the government intends to eliminate all Cerfas, of which there are 1,800, within seven years, including 1,200 for businesses alone.

Non-EU foreigners living in France are likely familiar with Cerfa forms - as they are the documents listing the requirements for different French visas and residency cards.

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A Cerfa form usually has five digits associated with it - it looks like: 'Cerfa XXXXX'. Occasionally, there may be two additional digits added on to offer further specification.

For example, a long-stay visa application would be done via a 'Cerfa 14571-05'. Meanwhile, the generic tax declaration form is 'Cerfa 10330'.

Some of these processes have moved online in recent years. 

What does he mean by 'getting rid of them'?

Le Maire told Le Monde that his goal is to see 80 percent of Cerfa documents pre-filled by the administration by 2026.

This is already possible for several French administrative forms - including the online version of the annual income tax declaration. If you declare online, the form will 'remember ' your answers from last year and will be already mostly filled out, requiring you only to check the details and amend anything that has changed.

So 'getting rid' of the forms might be an overstatement, but simplifying them is more likely.

"The administration will make it clear to users what data they already have, and they will only ask them for the information that is missing," Le Maire explained.

The finance ministry elaborated to Franceinfo later that the government's aim is to move more procedures online, with paper forms remaining available for those who request them.

Le Maire said that the administration will first "map out the 1,8000 forms, and find a way to improve them before substituting them."

The finance minister also discussed simplifying the existing commercial law in an effort to make things less complex for companies.

"No one can know all of the 7,000 article of the commercial code (the law regulating all commercial activity in France), so everyone ignores it," he told Le Monde.

"I propose that Éric Dupond-Moretti (the justice minister) and I bring together lawmakers, as well as legal and trade specialists, to cut the commercial code in half by 2027. 

"My administration will use artificial intelligence to help adapt the information to the specificities of businesses today," he said.

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