Practical guide to portage for English-speakers
This article is mainly intended for English people but may well be of interest to others. The people I have in mind are mainly people like me - early retirees who have moved to France, fixed up the house of their dreams and are now wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. Perhaps they are also finding that their pension/savings aren’t stretching quite as far as they had hoped and, above all else, are bored out of their minds! Of course, some or all of this description may not be applicable but portage may work for you anyway. Read on...
Chose portage and go back to work.
The obvious solution to all of your problems is to go back to work. Perhaps full time or just part time, either way it gives you something to do and, as the French say, the extra income helps round out the end of the month.
That’s when you run into a couple of major roadblocks.
Firstly, France has high unemployment and, if it comes down to the choice between somebody with good (but non-French) qualifications and experience and somebody with the French equivalents, you can guess who is going to get the job!
Think carefully before starting your own company …
Well, you say, if nobody will employ me, I’ll just start my own company. That’s when you start to find out about the dreaded French “system”.
Basically, the French administration assumes that all small companies are set up to avoid paying a fair share of taxes and that the best way to solve that problem is to hit them with as many of them as possible, as fast as possible.
If you want to start your own company, you had better have a good accountant and a good lawyer before you even start. Remember, if they set up the company wrong, it’s you that will end up paying the extra taxes and penalties. You may think that you have a good grasp of French but wait until you start trying to talk to accountants and lawyers!
Once you get the company set up, you are immediately liable for social charges and will start receiving large bills from all kinds of official organisations identified only by acronyms such as CPAM and DRIRE. Are these bills correct? Should you pay them? What happens if you don’t (or can’t)? Well, that’s why you have an accountant. Of course, the accountant wants to be paid for all of this work... And, while you are dealing with all of this, you are not working. If you are not working, you are not earning but, guess what; you are still paying social charges!
Portage - an alternative
There is another option. Under the portage system, you have all the advantages of being an employee while still being your own boss. You still find and deal directly with your customers. The only difference is that, at the end of the month, you don’t send your bills to the customers; you send them to the portage company who then bill the customer in their name. They subtract all of the social charges and send you the rest in the form of a salary. They do all of the book-keeping, chasing up customers who are slow in paying and a large part of the overhead that running a business entails.
Portage for English consultants, translators: big advantages!
- Above all, peace of mind. What you get paid is yours and no mysterious organisations are going to grab money out of your bank account.
- You only pay social charges on what you earn, after you have earned it. If you only want to work 10 hours a week, you can.
- They already have accountants and lawyers, you don’t need either. And not having to deal with them means a significant amount of time savings for you, not to mention the financial savings.
- As an employee, you can claim expenses. These are paid out of your own earnings but they are paid before the social charges are calculated. Allowable expenses are things like half of your telephone and internet bills, office supplies, a mileage allowance and other travel expenses.
- Also as an employee, you are automatically in the health system and you start building up a pension. It won’t be a full pension if you haven’t worked in France all of your life but every little helps!
Of course, this is the real world and not Fantasy Island so there are some disadvantages too:
- The portage company is a business, not a charity and they don’t do all of this for free. They do take a commission.
- You still have to pay social charges but you only pay them on what you have made. In total, the commission and social charges will be close to half of your billing.
- While the portage company will chase slow payers, ultimately they are your customers and you will have to deal with the ones that don’t pay.
- You have to have the sort of business that sends out monthly bills. Translators, consultants, IT contractors, etc. are all suitable for portage. If you want to try something different, contact the company and see if they can help you.
It works for me
I’ve been working as a translator with Mission Cadres since 2006 - over 7 years now - and I wouldn’t do it any other way. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact them or you can contact me directly at email@example.com.
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