France

Here’s everything you need to know about French VAT registration, VAT Returns, Fiscal Representation and your legal obligations within France.

France VAT Country Guide

VAT Registration in France

When you are completing activity in France you need to check if you need to register for VAT. There are many scenario’s that trigger a VAT registration, you can find some of the main reasons below

A foreign company needs to register for French VAT if;

  • Goods are stored in a French warehouse
  • You export goods directly from France outside of the European Union
  • You are an EU business and sell distance sales of goods to France and exceed the 10,000 EUR EU-wide threshold for distance sales without opting for the One Stop Shop simplification scheme
  • You are a non-EU business and sell distance sales of goods to France without opting for the One Stop Shop simplification scheme
  • Intra-Community supplies from France to other EU businesses in another EU Member State with a change of ownership
  • Reverse charge procedure for import VAT (VAT deferment at customs)
  • Reverse charge procedure for VAT on purchases of goods or services from a taxable person not based in France, when the business is already registered for VAT in France for customs purposes
  • Reverse charge procedure for VAT on subcontracting, as part of services in the construction industry
  • Letting unfurnished property for business use

A foreign company which is not based in France is not liable for VAT in France if it’s customer is a French or foreign company identified for VAT in France. It is therefore required for the customer who is already identified for VAT in France to apply the domestic reverse charge (Article 293-1 of the French General Tax Code). They would need to collect and potentially deduct the VAT on their own French VAT Return CA3 and if the foreign company does not transact any of the operations listed above which require VAT registration then they do not have to register for VAT

Registration for customs purposes

It is possible to register in France just for customs purposes and not for VAT when carrying out certain transactions. This allows businesses to fulfil their filing obligations.
If you carry out any of the following transactions then it will be required to register.

  • Intra-Community acquisitions made in France (purchases goods from EU businesses and shipping to France)
  • Assimilated intra-Community supplies (retaining ownership of goods shipped from France to another EU Member State)

French VAT Returns

Regular French VAT returns are required from non-resident traders with a VAT number. These are required to report taxable transactions in France, and to report any VAT due/refund from the tax payer. The form CA3 is used to report any taxable transactions, B2B transactions, non-taxable transactions, imports and VAT deductions.

There are different types of reporting periods in France

  • Monthly VAT returns – all VAT-registered entities will start with monthly filing unless they fall under the rules of a special scheme
  • Quarterly VAT returns – Going forward if the annual VAT liability is under €4,000 then filing periods may be reduced
  • No VAT return – for certain industries and activities, reporting can be on an activity-only basis
Reporting Type Deadline
Monthly 19th
Monthly Importers 24th
Quarterly 19th
DEB Simplified 10th
DEB Detailed (Intrastat) 10th

Any monthly or quarterly French VAT filing for a non-resident company is due on the 19th of the month following the period end. If a company is a registered importer into France then the deadline is extended to the 24th to allow for the reverse charge on imports VAT to be reported. The deadline is also extended to the 24th if you appoint a fiscal representative in France.

French Fiscal Representation

In accordance with the EU VAT Directives, a local French fiscal representative or agent is not required by a company resident in another EU member state or a non-EU country which has a reciprocity agreement with France. However, a fiscal representative, who is jointly liable for the French VAT, is required to be appointed by a non-EU company looking to carry out activity and register for VAT in France.

The fiscal representative would represent the company with the tax office for all VAT formalities and a specific mandate would need to be signed between the two companies, the mandate should include the name, business name, address and SIRET of the agent and the company to be represented and contain a wet signature. It should state the representative period, the bank details and the formalities to be carried out by the agent. It is not possible for the non-EU company to register without appointing a fiscal representative who is jointly and severable liable for any VAT owed.

A French Fiscal Representative must be a French incorporated company with a permanent establishment in France and must meet the morality, capacity and solvency criterion since January 1st 2022.
Solvency – The company must justify financial solvency through cash, real estate assets investment securities or other financial securities. Failing this they can provide a guarantee resulting from a guarantee commitment made by a mutual guarantee company, a collective guarantee organization, an insurance company, a credit institution authorized to give bail. However, when the amount of the guarantee required cannot be determined, a lump sum equal to €10,000 (3° of A of IV of article 289 A of the CGI) per company represented is then required.
Morality – Neither he nor any of his managers, when it is a legal entity, has committed serious or repeated offenses against tax provisions, has not been subject to the sanctions provided for in articles L. 651-2, L. 653-2 and L. 653-8 of the commercial code during the three years preceding nor is the subject of a ban measure in progress provided for in the same article L. 653-8;
Capacity – It has an administrative organization and human and material resources enabling it to carry out its representation.

The stringent terms and risks involved with representing a company in France makes in common practice for the representing company to ask for a deposit or bank guarantee from the registering foreign company.

Countries not requiring a fiscal representative

EU registered companies do not need to appoint a fiscal representative and the following countries are exempt of the requirement also;
Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Cook Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Ecuador, Faroe Islands, French Polynesia, Georgia, Ghana, Greenland, Grenada, India, Iceland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldavia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Saint Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Sint-Maarten, South Africa, Tunisia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Vanuatu.

 

French VAT Rates

The table below indicates the different types of VAT rates in France. Below is a list categorising the type of goods that fall within the categories of the standard, reduced and zero VAT rates. To get full clarification the commodity code will need to be checked against the French legislation.

Rate Type
20% Standard
10% Reduced
5.5% Reduced
2.1% Reduced
0% Zero
  • 20% Standard All other taxable goods and services.
  • 10% Reduced Some foodstuffs; certain non-alcoholic beverages; some pharmaceutical products; domestic passenger transport; intra-community and international road (some exceptions) and inland waterways transport; admission to some cultural services; admission to amusement parks (with cultural aspect); pay/cable TV; some renovation and repairs of private dwellings; some cleaning in private households; some agricultural supplies; hotel accommodation; restaurants (excluding alcoholic beverages); some domestic waste collection; certain domestic care services; firewood; take away food; bars, cafes and nightclubs (except supply of alcoholic beverages); cut flowers and plants for decorative use; writers and composers etc; some social housing.
  • 5.5% Reduced Some foodstuffs; some non-alcoholic beverages; school canteens; water supplies, medical equipment for disabled persons; books (excluding those with pornographic or violent content); some e-books; admission to certain cultural events; some social housing; some renovation and repair of private dwellings; admission to sports events; some domestic care services; cut flowers and plants for food production.
  • 2.1% Reduced Some pharmaceutical products; some newspapers and periodicals; public television licence fees; admission to certain cultural events; some livestock intended for use as foodstuff.
  • 0% Zero Intra-community and international transport (excluding road and inland waterways).

French VAT Refunds

If a company carries out transactions liable to VAT in France then it can likely deduct it’s expenses through the CA3 VAT return using their French VAT number if they meet the requirements for deduction. If a company does not have a French VAT number or carry out transactions liable to VAT then it may use the special schemes to be refunded the VAT connected with business expenses incurred in France.

Business established in the European Union

For businesses established in the European Union it is possible to obtain a VAT refund through the 8th Directive reclaim scheme. To obtain this you must;

  • file your claim using the electronic means placed at your disposal by the State in which you are established, in accordance with the provisions of Council Directive 2008/9/EC of 12 February 2008. For more information on how to file a claim, please contact the tax authorities in your Member State of establishment.

  • submit by electronic means scanned originals of the invoices or importation documents. Submission is mandatory when the taxable amount on an invoice is €1,000 or more (or €250 in the case of fuel). Scanned invoices must appear in the same order as their line-by-line entry.

  • comply with the refund time periods and minimums. Claims may not encompass a period greater than one calendar year (€50 minimum) or shorter than three calendar months (€400 minimum). Claims may not straddle two calendar years. In practice, you may file a maximum of four claims, each for a minimum time period of three calendar months, plus a supplementary annual claim.

  • file your claim by 30 September of the calendar year following the refund period. You may file claims prior to this date in order to speed up the processing of your claim.

  • supply your banking details in the form of IBAN and BIC codes.

Businesses established outside the European Union

For businesses established outside the EU it is possible to make your VAT reclaim through the 13th directive.
A non-EU company must appoint a tax representative in France for the purpose of reclaiming VAT on expenses. Supporting documents (bank details, invoices and importation documents when the taxable amount is €1,000 or more or €250 for fuel expenses) must be sent electronically in support of claims.

Expenses must be justified by correctly issued invoices that mention:

  • a unique number based on a continuous chronological sequence
  • your full name and address, as well as the name and address of your supplier

  • the supplier’s individual VAT identification number

  • the date the invoice was issued or delivered

  • any discounts, rebates or refunds

  • the quantity and precise name of the good or service being supplied or provided

  • the unit price net of tax, the amount of VAT owed and the legally applicable VAT rate

    To obtain a VAT refund, the tax representative must:

  • File a refund claim, written in French and denominated in euros, using the secure messaging system in their professional account.
  • Indicate the contact details (name, telephone number and email address) of a person that the department may contact if necessary
  • Send scanned originals of the invoices or importation documents together with the VAT refund claim.
  • Comply with refund minimums (€400 for quarterly claims and €50 for annual claims)
  • File the refund claim from the first day of the month following the period for which the refund is being requested and until 30 June of the year following the year concerned by the claim.
  • Supply complete and accurate details of the recipient bank account, including the name of the bank, its full address (city and country), the name of the account holder and the references of the account to be credited. This will speed up your refund and help you avoid bank charges. For refunds to a French bank account, please provide a RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire).The appointment of the tax representative is mandatory and is responsible to repay any VAT that may have been unduly refunded and must have a clean tax record.

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VAT Registration & Filings

Unlock your sales potential with our bespoke VAT registration and filings services. Our team is ready to identify your VAT obligations allowing your business to expand across the world with a dedicated team beside you.

Leave the complexities to us, our professional team provide a seamlessly fast registration service and help you keep on top of the various filing deadlines so you can keep on top of what matters most.

Import/one stop shop

The two simplification schemes allow for both EU and non-EU businesses to lower the cost of VAT compliance and report multiple transactions using only one registration.

Enrolling in the schemes allows businesses to charge the correct VAT rate of each European country without the need to register for VAT in every member state.

The One Stop Shop and Import One Stop shop have set requirements for businesses to follow to stay compliant, find out more in our service guides.

fiscal representation

When a non-European business trades with the EU, some member states impose the need for a fiscal representative to be appointed for registration, filing, imports or VAT reclaims depending on the various EU rules.

VAT Digital is a recognised and certified European Fiscal Representative allowing for our non-EU clients to trade freely with the EU. This enables a lot of benefits for businesses when registering and importing goods to the European Union.

VAT refunds

Selling internationally can be very profitable but also increase the burden of expenditure for businesses. VAT expenses on goods, services and other operations outside of your home country can be difficult to recover due to the lack of registration or non-compliance.

VAT Digitals specialist team can help identify where VAT can be recovered and process a reclaim to ensure your business is maximizing its profits.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a number of business documents required for VAT registration in France. These include but are not limited to; Photo ID, Incorporation Certificate, Articles of Association, Bank Statement, Local Country VAT Certificate, Registration Documents as well as a Power of attorney with your local tax agent in France.

Throughout the registration process the SIEE may request for additional documents and information.

Every business or application is seen differently by the tax administration and taken on it’s own merit which means the time to receive your VAT number differs per registration. This can normally range from anywhere between 6-12 weeks.

You should have applied for registration when you were close to the threshold or when you knew you were going to store goods, but in this scenario you will need to back date the returns to the date you surpassed the threshold and pay the VAT owed.

Fiscal representation is only required by businesses looking to register for VAT in France where their head office is located outside of the European Union

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