Last year I spent a great deal of time and energy changing the status of my carte de séjour so I could be self employed in France. The process involved a lot of headache, driving, arguing with bureaucratic paper pushers, pleading with bureaucratic paper pushers, crying in my car after getting no help from bureaucratic paper pushers, translating treaties between France and America to prove to the bureaucratic paper pushers that I had the right to be self employed, and patience. I was finally granted the right at the very end of 2006 and started my entreprise after making sure I was not going to be hit with social charges for the year of 2006. I was assured that I wouldn't be.
When you start a business in France you pay into the health system, for retirement benefits and unemployment benefits. The charges are set, they go up a lot every year and you pay them even if you haven't earned one single euro.
So, you can guess what happened. The charges were pro-rated for 2006 and the ''powers that be'' consider 2007 as my second year of business, therefore, I must pay all the second year charges.
We weren't prepared for this.
Last week I went to a couple of offices I owe money to, to plead my case. i.e.: the sous-préfecture gave me no choice, I had to start the business by December 25, 2006, even though I wanted to wait until early 2007, thus I'm not prepared to pay the second year charges. I was given a sympathetic smile and the (in)famous Gallic shrug. In other words, I'm SOL*.
*shit out of luck