Second Appointment at the Préfecture Seeking Self-Employed Status

QUESTION
I have just been approved by the préfecture to start my self-employed activity and I hold the récépissé that says that. I also got a list from the préfecture of the documents I need to bring for the second meeting. When I asked the civil servant for an explanation of what these documents were, she told me to bring everything I will be receiving since the list is not complete. It is less than a month away from this meeting and I am receiving a lot of mail and most of it seems to be either scams or irrelevant to me. How can I get ready when nothing is clear?

ANSWER
You express a concern that a lot of foreigners face when they prepare their file to submit to the préfecture. For one thing the list cannot be trusted, and I am very happy that the civil servant warned you about this. Too many people just bring what is mentioned on the list and then need to go back several times since there is always something missing.

This is a rule that must be understood in most dealings with the French administration, and also sometimes with the private sector: a French list of this type identifies the information needed rather than the actual documents to submit. Once this is understood, the list becomes a lot easier and safer to use. To illustrate, here are the préfecture list and what I advise you to bring:

Dernier avis d’imposition sur le revenu
The latest income tax statement, which is sent by the administration after the income declaration has been filed, along with the 2042/2035 form. You should bring those forms too. Thus, one item equals three documents.

Justificatif de couverture sociale
Proof of health insurance coverage. To comply, you must bring the registration statement, another one showing that the coverage exists, the document showing that no money is owed and also a year’s worth of invoices showing that you are paying into the system. Thus, one item equals seven documents, since there are quarterly invoices.

Justificatif de l’inscription et du versement des cotisations à l’URSSAF, à la Maison des Artistes (pour peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, dessinateurs, graphistes) ou à l’AGESSA (pour écrivains, auteurs dramatiques, musiciens, chorégraphes)
Proof of being registered in the “social charges” system. To comply, you must bring your P-0 (pronounced pay-zero), a file comprised of two documents: the form that you signed, which is stamped; and the acknowledgement of the registration. Also bring proof that no money is owed, plus the quarterly invoices showing that you are paying into the system. Thus, one item equals seven documents.

Inscription au rôle de la taxe professionnelle
Proof that you are registered with the tax office as a professional. To comply, show the welcome letter that lists your status with the tax office, plus the questionnaire regarding the contribution foncière des entreprises,which replaced the taxe professionnelle.

I would also add to the long list of documents mentioned above:

l’attestation INSEE
This is the statement from the French statistics agency (INSEE) officially giving you your tax ID number(numéro SIRET) and the code related to your activity (code APE or code NAF).

As you can see, there are up to four items on the préfecture list and I just identified 20 documents to take. This perfectly illustrates the critical need to “translate” French administrative lists.

Finally, you should indeed make a distinction between what is official and what is not. You have been receiving both true junk mail and what I improperly call “official junk mail.” This happens because the French system is set up so that everything is taken care at the time of registration whether there is a need for it or not. Briefly, everything that comes from the following organizations should be kept: INSEE, URSSAF, RSI/RAM-GAMEX, CIPAV and les impôts (SAID). As mentioned above, except for CIPAV, which handles the retirement contribution, everything else is needed to secure the immigration status. Then there is all the “official junk mail” dealing with the régime de prévention retraite for the employees you will most likely never have.

Last but not least, you are supposed to be running a business, so it would be wise to bring copies of the invoices you sent out, bank statements where you highlight payments received and other proof that you have clients and are actively seeking clients. This is especially important, since your income tax statement does not yet show your earnings. Next year, if you earn enough, this aspect of the file will be less important.

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