Registering a business
Trade refers to any activity which you engage in on a self-employed basis, for your own account, in your own name and on a permanent basis. It does not depend on whether you actually make a profit; the intention is enough. In order to have your activity classified as a trade, it has to be socially acceptable. “Clairvoyance”, for example, is not.
The following are not trades:
- independent professions (e.g. doctors, lawyers, tax consultants),
- professions which require a degree or equivalent qualification,
- agriculture, forestry, fishing,
- scientific corporate consulting,
- managing your own assets.
The purpose of registering a company is to enable the relevant authorities to inspect the running of the business and also to collect statistics.
Registering the business is the duty of
- the sole trader where applicable,
- all partners authorised to act as executives if the business is a partnership (Personengesellschaften) (e.g. OHG, KG, BGB), and
- the legal representative if the business is a corporation (e.g. GmbH, AG).
The municipal administration (Gemeindeverwaltung) or city council (Stadtverwaltung) responsible for your future business location
You want to
- start up a business or
- open a business branch or branch office.
You must register your business in writing or electronically with the competent authority. A simple email does not suffice. You can also register your company via the standard network contact person.
Please use the form “company de-registration” (“Gewerbe-Anmeldung (GewA1)”). You can obtain it from your municipal authority; you may also be able to download it if your municipal authority provides the appropriate service.
If you submit the registration in writing, you must sign the form.
If you have your business registered by a managing partner or legal representative rather than registering it yourself, the person authorised to register the business will require written power of attorney.
You will be sent the confirmation of your business registration, i.e. the trade licence (Gewerbeschein), within three days together with a statement of fees. If you register your business in person, you will be given the confirmation when you register.
The competent authority will forward your registration to other authorities such as the tax office, Chamber of Crafts and Trades or Chamber of Commerce and Industry, register court and employers’ liability insurance association.
Note: If a licence is required and you do not have one, the competent authority may forbid the continuation of your business.
You must register your business when you commence operations. If you fail to register your business or delay doing so, you must expect to be fined.
- completed form
- copy of your personal ID card or a comparable identification document (see above)
- Current extract from the commercial register or register of co-operatives, should the company be entered in the register; otherwise, a copy of the articles of association (for example in case of a registered partnership - GbR)
- If your company is domiciled abroad, you will require documents from the country in which it is domiciled that testify to its legal form.
Note: In some cases, you may have to provide additional documents or evidence. Please request further information from the competent authority.
Fees are calculated according to the municipal fee scale.
N.B. Additional conditions apply to businesses that are subject to licensing requirements or supervision.
The German original version of this text was drafted in close cooperation with the relevant departments. The Wirtschaftsministerium released it on 06.08.2019. Only the German text is legally binding. The Federal State does not assume any liability for the translated texts.
In cases of doubt or if you have any questions or problems, please contact the relevant authorities directly.