Starting up a Registered Business ("Gewerbe")
How can I become an independent businessperson?
Many people dream of working as self-employed and being their own boss so that they can work independently or realise a business idea. Starting your own business is called "Existenzgründung". As an independent business owner, you are the one who decides which jobs to accept or how and when to work. But working independently also requires a lot of effort: you are personally responsible for everything and have to take care of many issues. Furthermore, there are always financial risks involved in building a business: if you invest significant capital, but your business does not make much profit, you will lose your investment.
As someone who starts up a business or founds a company, you are considered to be a businessperson or "Gewerbetreibender". When you, for instance, open a shop, restaurant, factory or craft business, you need to register your business ("Gewerbe"). If you practice a liberal profession ("Freie Berufe"), e.g. you are a journalist, doctor, etc., you can find all the information you need in our chapter "Starting a business as self-employed ("Freiberufler")".
What do I need to know?
In order to work independently, your residence permit must explicitly state "Employment allowed" ("Erwerstätigkeit gestattet") or "Self-employment permitted" ("selbständige Tätigkeit gestattet"). If you have been recognised as entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection, you should be able to find one of these sentences on the small green sheet you have received, along with your residence permit, from the Immigration Office. If your residence permit does not allow self-employment, you can, under certain conditions, apply to the Immigration Office for a residence permit in accordance with §21 par. 6 Residence Act. For more information in this regard, check our chapter "Immigration to Germany".
Please note: If you have a Tolerated Stay Permit ("Duldung") or in case your asylum procedure is still ongoing, you will not be allowed to work as self-employed.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) or Chamber of Crafts (HWK)
In some fields, you can start working as a self-employed person without specific training or permit, like the car rental business. For other areas of activity, however, you need appropriate permits without which you cannot work: For example, the Innkeepers need a so-called guest house licence ("Gaststättenkonzession"); catering companies have to go through a so-called preparation course ("Belehrung") in accordance with the Infection Protection Act, and taxi drivers need a passenger transportation licence ("personenbeförderungsschein") to work. Furthermore, craftspeople (e.g. carpenters, bakers, butchers, car mechanics, hairdressers, bricklayers, etc.) need a master craftsman's certificate ("Meisterbrief") to start a business. If you are not sure whether you need a permit for your business, ask the IHK or the local Trade Office ("Gewerbeamt"). In case you plan to open a craft business, you need to register with your local Chamber of Crafts ("Handwerkskammer"). The Chamber of Crafts will then check if you have the necessary qualifications. On anerkennung-in-deutschland.de, you can see whether the qualifications you have acquired abroad meet the conditions required in Germany.
Trade Office ("Gewerbeamt")
You have to register your business at the responsible Trade Office ("Gewerbeamt"). The location of your business determines which Trade Office is responsible for you. You can find the responsible office on Behördenwegweiser: select "Gewerbeamt" on the left and enter the postal code of the place at which your business is located. Then, make an appointment at the appropriate office and present the following documents at the meeting:
- Your passport and residence permit, which must confirm that you are allowed to work as a self-employed ("selbständig") person
- If necessary: separate permission applied for from Immigration Office (see section "Can I become self-employed?")
- Confirmation from the Central Trade Register ("Gewerbezentralregister") or a Certificate of Good Conduct ("Führungszeugnis")
- If you are a craftsperson: your Craftsperson's Card ("handwerkskarte")
Try to inform yourself about the required documents in advance on the website of your local Trade Office. You have to pay a fee to register at the Trade Office, usually, about €50. You can find detailed information about the costs on the website of the responsible Trade Office.
The trade office then informs all other authorities, such as the Tax Office, the relevant professional association ("Berufsgenossenschaft") and, when appropriate, the district court about your registration. These authorities will then contact you per post, requesting you to fill in certain forms or submit further documents. Of course, you can take the initiative and contact these authorities personally or per post without waiting. Just make sure that you submit your business registration ("Gewerbeanmeldung") when you approach them.
The tax office will send you the so-called "tax collection questionnaire" ("Fragebogen zur steuerlichenErfassung")- make sure you fill the questionnaire in full and accurately. When filling the form, you have to decide whether you can and want to take advantage of the small business regulation ("kleinunternehmerreglung") and also choose an accounting model. If in doubt, seek advice from a tax consultant - keep in mind that you have to pay for such a service. You can find a tax consultant online, for instance, on steuerberater.de.
You can also pick up the questionnaire directly from the Tax Office and then fill and mail it to the Tax Office to save time. To find out which Tax Office is responsible for you, visit Behördenwegweiser: select "Finanzamt" on the left and enter the postal code of the place where your business is located on the right.
Once you have completed the questionnaire and sent it to the Tax Office, they will assign you a tax number ("Steuernummer"). You can find help online regarding the questionnaire, for instance, on www.fuer-gruender.de. You can also seek advice from a tax consultant; keep in mind that their service is provided for a fee.
You also need to specify your tax identification number (IdNr.) on the questionnaire. Everyone who registers in Germany ("polizeilich registrierung") for the first time, automatically receives such an ID number per post. Your tax identification number is valid for a lifetime. Every child born in Germany is automatically issued such an ID number. If you are not sure what your tax ID is, contact the Federal Central Tax Office ("Bundeszentralamt für Steuern").
Trade Register ("Handelsregisterbuch")
If you operate a trade, you must have your company registered at the Trade Register("Handelsregisterbuch") and the Trade Office ("Gewerbeamt"). To do so, you need the help of a notary - you can find one nearby on notar.de.
Mandatory membership of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) or Chamber of Crafts (HWK)
You must become a member of the IHK or HWK. The amount of your membership fee will depend on your annual turnover, the legal form you choose and the location of your business. You can find the IHK branch office responsible for you on the website of the IHK. To find the appropriate HWK office, visit handwerkskammer.de.
Do not forget to take into account the procedural time needed for various applications and administrative tasks. Inform yourself in advance in detail and seek advice when required, as the decisions you make at the initial stages will have significant impacts on your business's future.
As a businessperson, you can choose between two legal forms: partnership or "Personengesellschaft" (i.e. sole proprietorship, GbR, OHG, KG, GmbH & Co. KG, UG & Co KG) and corporation or "Kapitalgesellschaft" (i.e. GmbH, UG, gGmbH, gUG, AG, Ltd., KGaA, eG). The most significant difference between a partnership and a corporation is that in a partnership, you are liable to settle any possible debts, not only with your business assets but also with your private resources. That means, when you register as a corporation, your liability is limited to your business assets. In partnerships, on the other hand, the main advantage is that you do not need minimum capital to start, and accounting is easier. In addition, partnerships and corporations differ in terms of their tax obligations. To learn more about the different legal forms, visit fuer-gruender.de. If you are still unsure, seek advice from a tax consultant, your local IHK or HWK to make sure which legal form is right for you. You can search for a tax consultant online, for instance, on steuerberater.de. Keep in mind that the legal form you choose will have far-reaching legal and financial consequences in your professional life.
You must list the name of your business when registering with the Trade Office. If your business is registered in the Trade Register ("Handelsregister"), the legal form must be specified in the name. Furthermore, it is not allowed to choose a name that is already taken by another business. Generally speaking, a company's name must not mislead the customers. In principle, it makes sense to use your full name as your company's name. You can consult IHK or HWK regarding naming your company.
If your annual turnover does not exceed €22,000, you can use the so-called small business regulation. As a small business owner, you do not have to pay sales tax ("Umsatzsteuer") to the Tax Office. Thus, you are also exempt from the sales tax pre-registration ("Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung"). In addition, for small businesses, simple bookkeeping and profit determination is usually sufficient. When registering with the Tax Office, you can already indicate in the tax collection questionnaire that you would like to use the small business regulation.
Please note: As a small business owner, you are not allowed to claim sales tax on your invoices- and you must specify sales tax is not included, for instance, by adding this sentence: "Gemäß § 19 UStG wird kein Umsatzsteuer berechnet". And of course, you cannot deduct any input tax ("Vorsteuer").
As soon as your turnover increase or in case you want to forego the small business regulation for other reasons, you can inform the Tax Office in an informal letter and switch to regular taxation.
Find out more about small business regulation on existenzgruender.de.
The taxes you have to pay depend on the legal form of your choice.
If you have opted for a partnership (“Personengesellschaft”), you usually pay income tax ("Einkommensteuer"), sales tax ("Umsatzsteuer") and trade tax ("Gewerbesteuer"):
- The amount of your income tax depends on the earnings of your company: the higher your profit, the higher your due of income tax. You can deduct business expenses such as the costs of your company car or office or advertising from your tax. As a self-employed person, you usually have to pay your income tax in advance. You will be exempt from advance payment only if your estimated annual income tax is lower than €400. Also, you do not need to make advance payments if your income is below the basic exemption level of €9.984 (as of 2022). The prepayment is due on 10th March, 10th June, 10th September and 10th December. You will receive a letter from the Tax Office about the amount of the advance payment. What you pay in advance depends on the income estimations you specified in your "Tax Assessment Questionnaire" (if you have just started) or your previous earnings (if you have been working as a self-employed person for at least one year). Once you've submitted your full year tax return, possible overpayment or underpayment will be checked: If you have paid too much in advance, you will get the difference back. If you have paid too little, you will have to pay the amount left within a month. If your profit is below 9744 Euro, you do not have to pay any income tax; however, you must still submit a tax return. You can read more in our chapter Tax Declaration.
- In principle, anyone who gains a financial turnover with their work has to pay taxes for the profit he/she makes. These taxes are called "Umsatzsteuer" or sales tax. If the small business regulation does not apply to you, you will, in principle, have to pay 19% of the profit you make as sales tax in Germany. For a few goods and services, the sales tax equals 7% of the win (§12 Sales Tax Act). In principle, you must pre-pay your sales tax to the Tax Office by the 10th of each month ("voranmelden"). To do so, you must calculate your sales tax liability by deducting the sales tax you paid as a self-employed person for goods or services of other companies from the sales tax you charge for your products and services and transfer the result (which is known as "Vorsteuer" or input tax) to the Tax Office. This process is called sales tax pre-registration ("Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung"). The sales tax pre-registration must be made via the tax portal www.elster.de. If the sales tax you have charged is higher than the sales tax you have paid, you must transfer the difference to the Tax Office. If your input tax is higher than your sales tax, the Tax Office will return the difference. In the following year, the annual tax statement should follow, which also includes the sales tax return ("Umsatzsteuererklärung"). The annual tax statement must be submitted by July 31st. Please note: Small companies can be exempted from sales tax (small business regulation), which means you do not have to submit sales tax pre-registration. Keep in mind that you still have to file a sales tax return.
- All business people must pay trade tax ("Gewerbesteuer"). The amount of trade tax depends on your profit and the district in which your company is located. Each municipality determines the trade tax rate independently. In general, the trade tax rate in rural areas is lower than in large cities. You can find out how to calculate the amount of your trade tax on debitoor.de. However, partnerships ("Personnengesellschaft") only have to pay trade tax if their profits exceed €24,500; i.e. partnerships which make less are exempt from trade tax. If you are obliged to pay trade tax, the tax office will send you a notification about the amount and the deadline.
If you have opted for "corporation" ("Kapitalgesellschaft") as your legal form, you must pay corporation tax ("Körperschaftssteuer"), input tax, sales tax, trade tax ("Gewerbesteuer") and settlement tax ("abgeltungssteuer"). If you get paid as a manager, you also have to pay income tax for your salary:
- Instead of an income tax, a corporation must pay a so-called corporation tax ("Körperschaftssteuer"). The amount of corporation tax you pay depends on your profit, i.e. 15% of your company's profits go to the Tax Office as corporation tax. In contrast to the income tax, there is no tax exemption for those who are obliged to pay corporation tax, which means even if you make a small profit, you have to hand over 15% of it to the tax office. The corporate tax must be paid in advance - the prepayment is due on 10th of March, 10th of June, 10th of September and 10th of December. You will receive a letter from the Tax Office about the amount of advance payment due; what you pay depends on your estimated income specified in the "Tax Assessment Questionnaire" (if you have just started) or your earnings in previous years (if you have been working as a self-employed person for at least one year). Once you've submitted your annual tax return, possible overpayment or underpayments will be checked. If you have paid too much, you will be reimbursed; and if you have paid too little, you will have to pay the remnant amount within a month. Please note that you must submit your annual tax declaration by April 30th of the following year.
- In principle, anyone who gains a financial turnover with their work has to pay taxes for the profit he/she makes. These taxes are called "Umsatzsteuer" or Sales Tax. If the small business regulation does not apply to you, you will, in principle, have to pay 19% of the profit you make as sales tax in Germany. For a few goods and services, the sales tax equals 7% of the win (§12 Sales Tax Act). In principle, you must pre-pay your sales tax to the Tax Office by the 10th of each month ("voranmelden"). To do so, you must calculate your sales tax liability by deducting the sales tax you paid as a self-employed person for goods or services of other companies from the sales tax you charge for your products and services and transfer the result (which is known as "Vorsteuer" or input tax ) to the Tax Office. This process is called sales tax pre-registration ("Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung"). The sales tax pre-registration must be made via the tax portal www.elster.de. If the sales tax you have charged is higher than the sales tax you have paid, you must transfer the difference to the Tax Office. If your input tax is higher than your sales tax, the Tax Office will return the difference. In the following year, the annual tax statement should follow, which also includes the sales tax return ("Umsatzsteuererklärung"). The annual tax statement must be submitted by July 31st. Please note: Small companies can be exempted from sales tax (small business regulation), which means you do not have to submit sales tax pre-registration. Keep in mind that you still have to file a sales tax return.
- All businesses must pay trade tax ("Gewerbesteuer"). The amount of trade tax depends on your profit and the district in which your company is located. Each municipality determines the trade tax rate independently. In general, the trade tax rate in rural areas is lower than in large cities. You can find out how to calculate the amount of your trade tax on debitoor.de. The tax office will send you a notification about the amount and the deadline. Corporations must pay trade tax - which means there is no tax exemption for them (like partnerships).
- If the profits of your corporation are distributed among you and other shareholders, you must also pay settlement tax (“Abgeltungssteuer”), which amounts to 25% of the profits made.
Seek advice from a tax consultant, the latest, before filing your first tax return. You will have to pay for their service, but without the help of an expert, it is difficult to do your taxes accurately and free of errors. You can find a tax consultant in your area on steuerberater.de.
The tax declaration can only be submitted electronically. You can do so either on www.elster.de free of charge or by using other paid tools such as Smartsteuer. Although what you need to do is explained on the official portal (elster.de), it is sometimes difficult to understand- but paid tools are more user-friendly. Of course, you can also do your tax return with the help of a tax consultant. You have to pay for a consultant's service, but seeking advice from a professional can potentially save you money. You can find a tax consultant, for instance, on steuerberater.de. Learn more in our chapter Tax Declaration.
The type of accounting you should opt for depends on the legal form of your business and the amount of your profit:
If you have a sole proprietorship or a GbR and generate less than €600,000 in annual sales or less than €60,000 in profit per year, you can use the simple EÜR bookkeeping model (single-entry bookkeeping method). In this method, you must record all income and expenditure in an analogue or digital cash-book. To read more about different bookkeeping options, you can visit fuer-gruender.de.
If your sole proprietorship or GbR has more than €600,000 of annual turnover or more than €60,000 in profit, or in case your company is registered in the Trade Register ("Handelregister") or you have chosen corporation as the legal form, you must create a balance sheet (double-entry bookkeeping). To learn more, you can visit existenzgruender.de. If you want to do the bookkeeping yourself, you need to take an accounting course, which is available, among other institutions, at IHK or HWK. Alternatively, you can hire a tax consultant to do the bookkeeping.
Note that you must keep all the invoices that you issue and receive for ten years. When the Tax Office checks your books, they may request you to present all your invoices and bills.
Whenever you provide a service, you must issue an invoice within six months. All invoices you issue must be kept for ten years. The Tax Office can request these invoices at any time to check if your taxation has taken place correctly.
The invoices you issue must contain certain information. These are:
- your name and address
- name and address of the invoice recipient
- the date of invoice
- performance Period, i.e. the period during which you've provided the service
- type, extent and date of the service provided
- your Tax ID Number ("Steuernummer") or sales tax ID Number ("Umsatzsteueridentifikationsnummer")
- the invoice number
- the sales tax rate as well as the net and gross amount (or if you are a small business: the amount to be paid and a sentence that indicates you do not charge sales tax in accordance with § 19 Sales Tax Act)
It is also useful if your invoice contains the customer number associated with the invoice recipient, the payment deadline and your bank details. You can find more information regarding invoices on fuer-gruender.de.
As a self-employed person, you can choose between the so-called "voluntary statutory health insurances" ("freiwilligen gesetzlichen Krankenversicherung") and private health insurances. In Germany, having health insurance is mandatory. You can read more in this regard in our chapter "Health Insurance".
The pension insurance is voluntary. You can voluntarily contribute to (and benefit from) pension insurance or obtain private provisions. In any case, you should make due plans to secure your pension. You can learn more on the website of the German Pension Insurance.
Under certain conditions, you can also voluntarily contribute to and benefit from unemployment insurance. You can do so within three months of starting your self-employment at the Employment Agency of your place of residence. To learn more, visit existenzgruender.de.
In principle, you must have occupational accident insurance ("Berufsunfallversicherung") as well. To obtain one, you must register at the professional association ("Berufsgenossenschaft") responsible for your profession. If you contract an occupational disease or in case of an occupational accident, you will be supported by your professional association. If you have employees, you must have them insured as well. You can also seek advice from your professional association regarding occupational safety.
It is not compulsory, but it may make sense to consider occupational disability insurance ("berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung") as well. If you are no longer able to work because of an accident or illness, the occupational disability insurance will pay you a monthly pension. To compare different occupational disability insurances, visit Check24.
Depending on the job you do and the services you provide, it may also make sense to obtain professional liability insurance ("Berufshaftpflichtversicherung"), business liability insurance ("betriebshaftpflichtversicherung") or/and property insurance ("Sachversicherung"). The professional liability insurance covers the costs if you are responsible for another person's financial loss, e.g. by providing wrong advice. Having such insurance is particularly beneficial for lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, doctors and interpreters. The business liability insurance protects you when your mistake causes a personal injury or damage to property. Without business liability insurance, such an error can compromise your entire professional life. Property insurance (for example, equipment insurance) covers items you need for your work, such as electronic devices, in case of damage. If something breaks down, the insurance company pays for its replacement. On finanzchef24.de, you can compare the services and fees of different insurance providers
Whether you hire your staff full-time, part-time or for a mini-job (a so-called "€450 Job") is your decision. Please note that you must pay social security contributions for employees earning more than €450 per month. These contributions amount to approximately 23% of the salary you pay to the employee. For a mini jobber, you do not need to make social security contributions, but you must pay a lump-sum tax of about 30% of the wage to the Mini-job Centre ("Minijobzentrale").
When you hire employees, you must note the following:
- You must apply for a company number ("Betriebsnummer") for each employee at the company number service ("Betriebsnummern-Service" or BMS) of the appropriate Employment Agency. You will need this number for registering your employees for Social insurances or at the Minijob Center.
- You need a written employment contract. It is only with a written agreement that you can avoid misunderstandings and legal conflicts. There are specific rules that you must follow when writing a contract of employment. For more information in this regard, check the website of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. You can also find an employment contract template on the website of the IHK.
- You need to register your employees at Social insurances/Minijob Central and make appropriate contributions- even if your employee is a family member. Not doing so is considered to be an offence. Registration must be done electronically via sv.net.
- You must register your employees at the statutory accident insurance ("Unfallversicherung").
- You must pay your employees at least the statutory minimum wage. If you have any questions in this regard, you can call the citizen helpline of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The staff can be reached Monday to Thursday from 8 to 8 p.m. at 030-60280028. The service is free of charge.
- You must deduct income tax and, if applicable, the church tax at source every month and transfer it to the Tax Office's account. To learn more, visit fuer-gruender.de.
If you are officially working as a self-employed person, but, in fact, you only have a single employer and do not work independently, your work is categorised as "Scheinselbständigkeit" or "bogus self-employment"- which means that you are only self-employed on paper but actually work as an employee. In this case, the company have to hire you as an employee and make social security contributions and pay payroll tax ("Lohnsteuer"). "Scheinselbständigkeit" or "bogus self-employment" is punishable in German law both for employee and employer. You can learn more about the differences between bogus self-employment and genuine self-employment on the website of the DGB.
Yes. In addition to your job as an employee, you can also work independently as a part-time self-employed professional. No matter you work (as self-employed) on a part-time or full-time basis, the same rules apply to you. Please note that you have to pay taxes both for your salary as an employee and for the profit you make as a self-employed professional.
If you start your own business but do not have enough capital to make the necessary investments, there are various types of funds for which you can apply either from the state or development banks. When applying for these funds, your business plan is of great significance. To find out how you can write a solid, convincing business plan, visit unternehmenswelt.de.
Generally speaking, the following financial support options are available:
Grants from the Employment Agency or the Jobcentre
Start-up Grant ("Gründerzuschuss")
If you have been unemployed for at least one day and still have at least 150 days' of entitlement to unemployment benefit I ("Arbeitslosengeld I") and would like to be self-employed full-time, you can apply for the so-called start-up grant ("Gründerzuschuss") from the Employment Agency, directly at the branch office responsible for you. In order to receive the start-up grant, you must submit a convincing business plan, a copy of your tax registration and a so-called "viability certificate" ("Tragfähigkeitsbescheinigung") - i.e. a confirmation from an expert (e.g. a business consultant, the chamber of industry and commerce (IHK) or a specialist from a start-up centre or trade chamber) in which your business plan is supported as a well-thought of and reasonable one. You will also need to submit a CV and all the credentials and certificates which prove your qualifications to your case officer. If your application is approved, on top of the start-up grant, you will receive your monthly unemployment benefit I for six months plus an additional €300 for your health insurance and retirement insurance. Furthermore, you can attend various seminars and workshops on different topics (e.g. accounting, marketing, etc.) free of charge. After the first six months, there is also the possibility to receive a monthly subsidy of €300 for a further nine months. Keep in mind that you are not entitled to a start-up grant - so whether you receive it or not depends on your case officer at the Employment Agency.
Initial financial support ("Einstiegsgeld")
If you receive "Bürgergeld" and want to become self-employed full-time, you can apply for the so-called initial financial support ("Einstiegsgeld"). In order to receive it, you need to present a convincing business plan, your CV and a copy of your registration with the Tax Office. The Jobcentre may also request an expert's opinion about your business plan. The amount of the initial financial support depends on the duration of the time you have been unemployed and the size of your so-called "community of dependence" ("Bedarfsgemeinschaft"); so it is usually assessed for each case separately. You also have the option to apply for additional money for essential costs (such as a computer) that you need for your work. Altogether, you can benefit from the initial financial support for a total of up to 24 months. Whether you will be granted such financial aid depends on your case officer at the Jobcentre; i.e. you are not necessarily entitled to it.
Please note: You should convince your case officer at the Employment Agency about your qualifications and the business plan you have. Your case officer will only agree to provide you with the "Einstiegsgeld" if he/she is assured it is going to work.
Discounted loans from development banks
A loan from a development bank (such as KfW development bank) is generally more affordable than a conventional loan, as the development banks have lower interest rates. Furthermore, you can often arrange a repayment-free period, so that you do not have to start repaying from the very beginning. Keep in mind that you have to apply for these discounted loans in advance. Plus, you cannot apply for such loans directly: you must first contact your regular bank, and they will then forward your application to the development bank.
Loan Security from guarantee banks ("Bürgschaftsbanken")
A so-called "Bürgschaftsbank" can assume liability for loans on your behalf. In order to receive a credit, you usually have to prove that you can repay the loan even if your business plan fails. If you do not have collateral, a guarantee bank can assume the liability and therefore, increase your chances of securing a loan. You cannot apply for such loan security directly through the guarantee bank, but must do so through your regular bank.
The federal-state Grants
On deutschland-startet.de and fuer-gruender.de, you can search for funding options for your business idea in your federal state of residence. Depending on where you live and your personal situation, there are different support programmes available for you. On both websites, you will find a short questionnaire- after filling it, you will be presented with the suitable support programmes free of charge. You can also call 0800-5895505 (cost-free) and directly speak with experts (in German).
You can find further information on various financial support options available from banks or the state on unternehmenswelt.de.
You can find answers to your initial questions by calling the Helpline of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. Their (German-speaking) staff are available from Monday to Thursday from 8:00 to 20:00 and on Fridays from 8:00 to 12:00 at 030-340606560. You can benefit from their service free of charge. Their staff speak German.
For comprehensive business consultation with a management consultant or start-up consultant, you usually have to pay. However, in some federal states, you can receive grants to cover the consultation fees. To learn more about the options available in your federal state, visit existenzgruender.de.
If you are currently unemployed and are considering self-employment, you can apply for a so-called "activation and placement voucher" ("Aktivierungs- und Vermittlungsgutschein" or "AVGS" according to §45 I 1 No. 4 social security statute book III - MAT) at the Employment Agency. With an AVGS you can benefit from a free consultation and, for instance, attend seminars on marketing or accounting, or seek help from a coach in the preparation of your business plan or financial concept. Whether you receive an AVGS depends on your case officer at the Employment Agency. Keep in mind that you are entitled to AVGS only if you have been receiving unemployment benefit I for at least six weeks. You can apply for the AVGS either directly by telling your case officer in the Employment Agency or by sending a letter to the Employment Agency responsible for you. You can prepare the written application as an informal letter, but you have to specify your unemployment number ("Arbeitslosennummer") and mention how long you have been unemployed. Please note that you have to redeem the AVGS while you are still unemployed, i.e. before starting your business.
If you want to give up your business, you have to deregister from the Trade Office ("Gewerbeamt"). You can find the corresponding form either on the website of your Trade Office or obtain it personally at the spot. After filling the form, you must submit it back in person. When deregistering, you must also show your business licence ("Gewerbeschein"), police registration certificate ("Meldebescheinigung"), ID card and - if available - an extract from the commercial, cooperative or association register ("Handels-, Genossenschafts- oder Vereinsregister") responsible. The Trade Office then informs the Tax Office and the professional association involved.
If your company is recorded in a commercial, cooperative or association register, in addition to deregistering from the Trade Office, you must also contract a notary to officially de-list your business.
Please note: If you are not sure whether you want to deregister your business permanently, consider submitting a so-called "dormant declaration" or "Ruhendmeldung" to the Tax office instead. "Ruhendmeldung" allows you to "pause" your business for a specific time. If you then decide to continue, you do not have to reapply for all permits.
Make sure you seek advice from the IHK, the HWK, a tax consultant or a start-up adviser before registering your business. The decisions you need to make at the very start (e.g. legal form, etc.) have significant impacts on the future of your business.