How do you register your self-employment?

How and where you register your self-employment depends on your choice of legal structure and whether your activity is classified as a liberal profession or a business.

Unincorporated firm

As a sole proprietor you register your self-employment:

The tax office will then give you a tax number, which you will need in order to write invoices.

To register a civil-law partnership (GbR) involving two or more people, each founder first of all registers as a sole proprietor by completing and submitting the “Gewerbeanmeldung” (“Business Registration”) form to the Department of Public Order (KVR or the local government office).  Have a look at our fill-in help for registering a business in Munich. Step 2: complete and submit one additional form, the “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung Gründung einer Personengesellschaft/-gemeinschaft” (“Tax Assessment Questionnaire Founding of a Civil-Law Partnership”) to the tax office in order to register the GbR. The GbR will operate under its own tax number.

 

  • Limited liability company (GmbH) (1 or more persons)
  • Provisional company with limited liability (Unternehmergesellschaft haftungsbeschränkt, UG) (1 or more persons)

Registering an incorporated firm involves, for example, stating the planned company name and purpose (“Unternehmensgegenstand”), notarial certification of the formation record (“Musterprotokoll”) and partnership agreement, the paying in of capital stock, entry at the commercial register by the notary, and only then registration of the business and registration at the tax office.

Plan sufficient time for this entire process and calculate the costs, which can vary significantly, depending on whether you set up the company using the simplified “Musterprotokoll” procedure or individual contracts.

Registering with the tax office: online using ELSTER

Registering with the tax office: online using ELSTER

You have to inform the tax office no later than one month after starting your business or line of work. Registering at the tax office is done digitally, as all forms relating to tax registration are now only available via ELSTER, the online portal used by the government’s financial administrative authorities. Start by registering at www.elster.de – it only needs to be done once, is free, and requires no software installation. Your login details will then be sent to you, for security reasons, in two stages (by email and by post). Registration is then complete and via your user account you can go to the “Formulare & Leistungen > Alle Formulare” (“Forms & services > All forms”) section, fill out the “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung” (“Tax Assessment Questionnaire”), and submit the completed form online to the tax office using ELSTER. Only after the tax office has received the completed questionnaire and the necessary documents can the tax number be issued and a value-added tax assessment be made. You need the tax number in order to write invoices.

To sum up: Getting a tax number and registering for Umsatzsteuer (VAT) can only occur when the completed registration form and any other necessary documents have been submitted to the tax office. You need the tax number to issue invoices.

The question is often asked: What is the difference between “Steuer-ID”, “Steuernummer” and “Umsatzsteuer-ID”?

  • The “Steuer-ID” (tax identification number) consists of 11 digits, is specific to an individual, retains life-long validity, and is issued by the Federal Central Tax Office.
  •  The “Steuernummer” (tax number) consists of 10 or 11 digits, usually divided by two forward slashes. It is issued by your local tax office when registering for taxation, for example if you are an employee or starting work as a tradesperson or freelancer. It is possible to have multiple tax numbers, for example if you are employed but also have a self-employed sideline job.
  • The “Umsatzsteuer-ID” (VAT identification number, abbreviated as USt-IdNr.) starts with the EU country abbreviation, DE for Germany, followed by up to twelve digits. Entrepreneurs are given this number in addition to the above-mentioned tax number for their work as a tradesperson or freelancer. It is issued by the Federal Central Tax Office. Entrepreneurs can apply for the VAT identification number via the “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung” form (“Tax Assessment Questionnaire”). It is important for business transactions between companies in different EU countries.

Tip

Plan up to two weeks to complete your registration using the ELSTER portal. It can take a few weeks from submitting your “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung” via Elster to receiving your tax number. So you should start the ELSTER registration process before taking any other important starts to set up your business. If you have any technical difficulties, contact the ELSTER hotline here. Contact the tax office service desk here for general information over the phone. Contact a tax consultant of your choice for advice relating to taxes.

Tip

If you are starting work as a freelancer, the tax office may well want to see proof of relevant qualifications (completed degree course or comparable vocational qualification). To speed up the process of having your tax registration form checked, you can submit such documents when registering.

It is not always easy to determine which professions are classified as Freie Berufe (liberal professions) and thus qualify for freelance status. The tax office has the final say on whether your work is classified, from a taxation perspective, as freelance or trade. It often happens that people who see themselves as freelancers successfully register with the tax office without any questions arising. These people then frequently and incorrectly assume that they are now recognized as freelancers. If, despite doubts, you register as freelance (in German taxation language selbständig), no harm will be done as long as you are not subsequently classified as a tradesperson following an audit. It can be very expensive if you are later classified as a tradesperson and have to pay trade tax retrospectively.

In some cases it might even occur that the tax office accepts freelance status while the trades’ office (Gewerbeamt) demands that you register as a tradesperson. For example, the trades’ authorities recognize teaching as a freelance activity only if you can prove you have a degree from a university or university of applied sciences.

FAQ

How do I register my freelancing activity

As a freelancer starting out in business, you are required to contact the Tax Office [Finanzamt] yourself.

Register a freelancing activity with the Tax Office [Finanzamt]

Regardless of the legal form of your newly commenced entrepreneurial activity, you are obliged to inform the tax office responsible for you within one month of opening the business or commencing the activity. In general, the tax office responsible for you is determined by where the activity is expected to be carried out predominantly. In Munich turn to the Munich Tax Office [ Finanzamt München]. They require all information on the legal and factual circumstances relevant for taxation. Depending on the legal form of your business, this information is to be provided on the relevant “tax registration questionnaire” [Fragebogen für die steuerliche Erfassung]. The questionnaire is available in German language only via “Mein ELSTER”,  the financial administration portal. A one-time registration for “Mein ELSTER” is required before you can access the questionnaire. Please be careful when completing this form,  mistakes may have important consequences. If you have questions, consult your tax advisor. Please understand that for legal reasons we are not allowed to provide individual tax advice. Once you have submitted the questionnaire to the tax office you will be assigned a tax number which you will need in order to write invoices.

Munich Tax Office: information on tax registration in English language (PDF, 153 KB)

ELSTER Portal: information in easy German language

Munich Tax Office: tax registration questionnaires (German language)

Munich Tax Office: contact persons for new businesses (German language)

Munich Tax Office: information on taxes for new businesses (German language)

ELSTER Portal: guidance for the tax registration questionnaire (German language)

 

Types of new businesses: Self-employed people are either business people [Gewerbetreibende] or members of the liberal professions [Freie Berufe]. Different rules apply to these two categories. Are you not certain whether the tax office will classify your activity as one of the liberal professions [Freie Berufe]? Read on here

Further steps

Please check if you are required to inform other authorities such as the social insurance system, if you need any permits and which laws and regulations apply to your future business.

 

How do I register my business?

Before you launch your new business, you are required to register it with the Trade Office [Gewerbeamt] and the Tax Office [Finanzamt].

Step 1: Register your business with the Trade Office [Gewerbeamt]

Register your business with the city where your future business will be headquartered. In Munich, turn to the Department of Public Order [Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR)]. Submit the business registration form [Gewerbeanmeldung] which is available in German language only. Use our guidance sheet to to help you complete the form correctly. Depending on the legal structure of your business, the registration costs between EUR 50 to 60. The Trade Office will issue a confirmation [Gewerbeschein] of your business registration

Business registration form in German [Gewerbeanmeldung] (pdf, 145 KB)

Fill-in help in English (pdf, 142 KB)

You must present your ID card or passport to the Trade Office. Nationals from a non-EU country who are already living in Munich are advised to verify if their residence permit includes a permit for self-employment. Depending on the type of your business you may need further permits as listed on the website of the Munich Trade Office.
www.muenchen.de

Tel.: 089 233-96030

 

Schedule an appointment with the Trade Office to submit your business registration in person :
Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR), Hauptabteilung III, Gewerbeangelegenheiten und Verbraucherschutz, Gewerbemeldungen
Implerstraße 11, 81371 München
online booking tool

Submit your business registration by post or by email:
Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR), Hauptabteilung III, Gewerbeangelegenheiten und Verbraucherschutz, Gewerbemeldungen
Ruppertstr. 19, 80466 München
Email: gewerbemeldung.kvr@muenchen.de

 

Step 2: Register your business with the Tax Office [Finanzamt]

Regardless of the legal form of your newly commenced entrepreneurial activity, you are obliged to inform the tax office responsible for you within one month of opening the business or commencing the activity. In general, the tax office responsible for you is determined by where the activity is expected to be carried out predominantly. In Munich turn to the Munich Tax Office [ Finanzamt München]. They require all information on the legal and factual circumstances relevant for taxation. Depending on the legal form of your business, this information is to be provided on the relevant “tax registration questionnaire” [Fragebogen für die steuerliche Erfassung]. The questionnaire is available in German language only via “Mein ELSTER”,  the financial administration portal. A one-time registration for “Mein ELSTER” is required before you can access the questionnaire. Please be careful when completing this form,  mistakes may have important consequences. If you have questions, consult your tax advisor. Please understand that for legal reasons we are not allowed to provide individual tax advice. Once you have submitted the questionnaire to the tax office you will be assigned a tax number which you will need in order to write invoices.

Munich Tax Office: information on tax registration in English language (PDF, 153 KB)

ELSTER Portal: information in easy German language

Munich Tax Office: tax registration questionnaires (German language)

Munich Tax Office: contact persons for new businesses (German language)

Munich Tax Office: information on taxes for new businesses (German language)

ELSTER Portal: guidance for the tax registration questionnaire (German language)

 

 

Further steps

Please check if you are required to inform other authorities such as the social insurance system, if you need any permits and which laws and regulations apply to your future business.