Nearly one person in two is a member of a non profit-making association in France (association à but non-lucratif).
With numerous categories, from sport to protecting the environment, setting one up is the ideal way to pursue an interest or hobby if there is nothing suitable in your area.
Associations also include the French version of a charity - an association reconnu d'utilité publique, which is a special category under the 1901 law.
Religious bodies (with no other function, such as cultural or social ones) are set up under a separate 1905 law and known as associations cultuelles.
In terms of French bureaucracy, setting up an association 1901 is relatively simple - it requires a minimum of two people who want to join forces for an activity whose objective is other than making money.
This can be ideal for expats who want to support each other, meet locals or pursue a British pastime.
Charente-based national association Cancer Support France is a good example, set up to help English-speakers deal with the trauma of cancer.
You can set up a club without it being declared an association but it will not have official legal status. An association declaré, of which more than 1,800,000 have been set up since 1901 (with about one million in existence), can have a bank account, ask for subsidies, be paid membership fees, employ people and buy or sell in its name.
There are two formalities - the association has to be declared at the prefecture or sous-préfecture where the association is based (in Paris it is done at the Préfecture de Police), and an announcement of the declaration has to be published in the government publication Le Journal Officiel (JO).
A declaration, which is free, has to contain: The association’s name, its acronym, its aim, the address of its registered office (this can be a member’s home), the names, professions, address and nationalities of people responsible for its administration, and a copy of its statutes, dated and witnessed.
Requests to create or dissolve an association are made to the prefecture, which passes on the information to the Journal Officiel, which publishes it on paper and online. The announcement has to be published in the month which follows the declaration, and costs €39.
Changes to the administration or statutes have to be declared to the prefecture within three months as well as being recorded in a register.
They may be published in the JO, although it is not obligatory.
Alsace and the department of Moselle, which were German between 1870 and 1919, remain subject to the system in place prior to1901.
Applications are not made to the prefecture but to the local court - tribunal d'instance.
Associations benefit from tax exemptions if they fulfil three conditions: They are run on a voluntary basis, no profit is distributed and the administrators have no interest in the association's income.
Sue Gregson, member of the association Anim'Aubeterre, formed to encourage tourism in this Charente village which boasts one of France’s only monolithic churches (see page 42), said their committee found the process relatively straightforward.
She added: “It is not so different from England. If you are going to be dealing with public money you have to be accountable.
I have found the best thing in France is just to follow step by step what they want you to do.”
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