French commercial law defines a rigid and comprehensive "chart of accounts" which is compulsory for all trading entities, be they French companies or branches of overseas firms. Books of account must be kept in the French language. We regularly help newly-established companies to set up their bookkeeping systems and can advise on the choice of accounting software. We act for French subsidiaries of overseas companies for which we prepare annual accounts, VAT returns and payroll.
French payroll is unusually complicated and fastidious. Different types of businesses are subject to their own collective bargaining agreements (conventions collectives) and these must be taken into account in each employee’s monthly salary slip. Accordingly, most of our French business clients outsource their payroll function to James Howes & Co.
France operates a highly regulated reporting system for Value Added Tax, corporation tax, and the multitude of other returns which companies are called upon to make at fixed intervals. Penalties for lateness and inaccuracy are severe. It follows that a business, especially a new one in which the entrepreneur's mind is on more commercial matters, has an interest in having independent accountants keep track of the tax compliance function. James Howes & Co provides this critical service to all our corporate clients.
We carry out contractual audits of small companies prior to acquisition or by way of a review of trading performance. Directors of overseas companies quickly appreciate that a professional knowledge of French accounting practices is necessary if this type of work is to be done properly.
We are authorised to act as manager (gérant) of clients’ property holding companies (SCIs), thereby ensuring that management and control of these entities remains firmly in France.
We act for individuals who are generally in the wealth tax bracket (i.e. who have net family wealth of €1.3 million or more). Such persons typically have complicated personal tax affairs, usually involving overseas assets (often owned by trusts) and foreign source income. We bring our many years of experience of France’s network of double taxation treaties to bear on each case. We then follow up the filing of annual tax returns with correspondence with the authorities where necessary.
Most of our clients stay with us for many years and in this way we build up useful knowledge of a family's affairs which helps them in planning for the future.
French succession laws and taxation are very different from the systems found in the Anglo-Saxon world. We can prepare illustrative calculations to show the effects of lifetime gifts to children and the impact of the choice of marriage contract. We work with French notaries in advising on the form of wills.
English law trusts, particularly discretionary trusts, have historically been used by clients coming to France from common law jurisdictions. An understanding of the approach to foreign trusts of the French tax authorities (particularly the rules published in summer 2011) is essential before a settlor or beneficiary takes up residence in France. This is a specialised area in which we have accumulated knowledge over many years.
James Howes & Co does not give investment advice. However, we have many contacts in both the English and the French investment worlds with whom we frequently work in devising a tax-efficient strategy for a client's investments.