The 1901 law association in 10 key points

Freedom of association is a principle enshrined in the French law of July 1, 1901. So, in France, it's pretty easy to set up an association to get together around a common project, or to share activities or knowledge. Here are 10 key points about the 1901 law.

Association loi 1901: definition

The term " association loi 1901 " is used because it was the law of July 1, 1901 that defined the rules governing this special legal status. Indeed, the definition of an association can be found in article 1 of the law:

"Association is the agreement by which two or more persons permanently pool their knowledge or activity for a purpose other than to share profits."

The association is a "legal person" in its own right.

Since an association must be set up "for a purpose other than that of sharing profits", it is always non-profit-making. Technically, it is possible for an association to make a profit, because even if this is not the objective, the law does not forbid it. On the other hand, it is impossible to distribute these profits to individual members, whatever their status. This is the main difference between an association and a company. However, if the purpose of the association becomes profit-making, it is still possible to transform it into a company, under certain conditions.

How to set up an association under the 1901 Act

The setting up an association is fairly easy, and can be set up from the age of 16. There are two steps to setting it up:

  1. Drawing up the association's articles of association: this official document is the basis for defining the characteristics and operation of the association. It includes the association's mission statement, the constitution of the executive committee, the conditions for renewal of the executive committee and the terms and conditions of membership.
  2. Register the association with the prefecture by post or online. This declaration provides an official receipt of the association's declaration and triggers publication of the creation in the Journal Officiel.

Association members

How to draw up the articles of association for a 1901 association?

For the association's articles of association to be valid and not have your application refused by the prefecture, certain information must be included:

  • the name of the association ;
  • the goal ;
  • registered office address ;
  • the actions it can implement and the duration for which it is constituted;
  • how it works, the different types of members it brings together and the resources it has at its disposal;
  • standard clauses relating to its modification and dissolution.

Please note: if you wish to have your association recognized by a particular authority, or affiliate it with a federation, make sure you don't need any special clauses in the articles of association.

Siret number for an association: why and how?

When your association is registered with the prefecture, it is identified by an RNA number (Registre National des Associations). However, it is also possible to obtain a Siret number. This will enable the association to recruit employees, apply for subsidies or pay VAT or corporation tax where applicable. To obtain a Siret number, you need to apply to INSEE.

Do I need to draw up internal regulations?

In addition to the articles of association, it is also possible to draw up association bylaws. This document defines the association's operating rules in greater detail, supplementing the information contained in the articles of association.

This document is generally not compulsory, unless an institution needs to issue an authorization or approval, as in the case of sports federations.

Circulation association species

How to finance an association under the 1901 law?

Running an association generally entails costs (purchase of equipment, rental of premises, employees, communication expenses, etc.) that need to be financed. There are many ways of doing this:

  • Charge for membership;
  • Obtaining grants ;
  • Organize fundraising events;
  • Make donation requests and crowdfunding campaigns...

Can my association receive donations?

All associations can receive manual donations, i.e. hand-to-hand gifts. However, donations and bequests are reserved for certain categories only.

Manual donations are common, as they entitle the association to a tax reduction if it qualifies. As such, individuals can benefit from a tax reduction, and companies from a tax credit. To qualify, the association must issue a donation certificate (known as a tax receipt). For their part, donors must remember to declare their donations on their income tax returns.

How to organize an association event?

To obtain donations, an association can organize events. These can be festive events (concerts, meals, bingo, etc.), or sales with payment to the association (garage sales, fairs, Christmas markets, etc.). The key is to communicate well, via the Internet, posters and members, and to adapt to seasonal variations.

An association can also be set up to organize events. This is the case for a festival committee, but also, for example, for a producers' association that organizes markets throughout the year.

How to modify an association's articles of association?

During the life of an association, various parameters are liable to change. This is why, in principle, an association's articles of association can be freely modified, except in the case of mandatory provisions laid down by law or regulation.

In the bylaws, a clause generally provides for the conditions of modification, specifying the manner in which :

  • of which a draft modification may be submitted by the directors or members ;
  • how a duly submitted project can be adopted (competent body, quorum, majority, etc.).

In the absence of this clause, any modification must be adopted by a majority vote of the members present and represented at the Annual General Meeting.

Changes to the articles of association must be declared to the prefecture within 3 months.

How do I obtain charitable status?

The status of association of public utility is an official support of the state. It's a status that's not only rewarding, but also fiscally advantageous.

To qualify, the association must have been in existence for at least 3 years and meet a number of conditions. Among these conditions, the articles of association must meet very specific criteria. As a result, very few associations in France are declared to be in the public interest.

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