French social agency has mission to support artists

Despite its name, La Maison des Artistes is not a bar, a studio or a gallery about the history of the great masters... it is the social security organisation that works on behalf of artists.

30 May 2018
By Samantha David

Think Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne or Gauguin and you think of great French artists who died penniless... today La Maison des Artistes (MDA) works to prevent that.

It collects social security, pension and healthcare contributions from freelance graphic and modern artists, and/or from their employers. That includes people who paint, draw, produce models of original designs for textiles, paper, table sets, engravings, sculptures, wallpaper, mural textiles, graphics and original ceramics, or works on brass.

MDA works with Agessa, the social security organisation which does the same for writers, illustrators, composers, film-makers, musicians making recordings (as opposed to live performers) and photographers.

They combine in La Sécurité Sociale des Artistes Auteurs régime to give people working in these fields access to payments from the family support fund Caf, health fund Cpam and pension fund Carsat in the same way as salaried workers in the ‘régime général’.

But, just as no two artworks are identical, there is no ‘one size fits all’ grouping in the categories used by La Maison des Artists/Agessa and artists also often sign up to become micro-entrepreneurs (the new name for auto-entrepreneurs) for some of the work they do.

This is because the definitions of exactly who falls into each category – and where to pay social security cotisations are complex. (See secu-artistes-auteurs.fr – in French)

Making an original one-off pot for example, could be an activity covered by MDA/Agessa, but producing a series of identical pots, even if to an original design, is not.

It can be complex but the MDA gives advice on what to do, as award-winning British artist Ben Brotherton found out for his work in Paris, where he has an exhibition of figurative paintings at the Life Drawing gallery, Montmartre, from June 2-8. Ben is married to Mollie, who is a ceramicist and said: “To register with the MDA we both had to send in large dossiers with photographs of our work, and details of where we’ve exhibited and what we’ve sold.

“Mollie’s work is original one-off pieces but for whatever reason, she was told to register as an ‘artisan micro-entrepreneur’.”

Ben is registered with the MDA for his earnings from selling paintings, and also as a micro-entrepreneur for his earnings as an art teacher.

“If you earn under around €4,500 doing related work, you can declare it via MDA but once it’s more, you have to register as a micro-entrepreneur.

“It’s not too complicated once you’re up and running, but can be a bit of a headache setting it all up because it’s so complex.”

Ben’s social charges are paid quarterly, based on the previous year’s earnings in the case of the MDA and based on his  last three months’ earning for the micro-entrepreneur scheme.

“The contributions are the same and the money goes to the same place in the end, but the advantage of being registered via the MDA is that you get slightly better benefits.

“For example, you get an ‘indemnité journalière’ which you don’t get if registered as an auto-entrepreneur.”

He also notes that registering with the MDA means you have to contribute to a pension top-up scheme via IRCEC, the social security agency dealing with complementary pensions.

“It’s an added expense at the beginning, but in the long run I think it’s advantageous and gives you a better pension when you do finally retire.”

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