Authorities Involved in Setting Up a Business

Find out who you must contact when starting a business in Germany...

There are a number of official organisations that must be consulted during the process of setting up your own business in Germany.

Trade Office (Gewerbeamt)

A business must be registered with the Trade Office (Gewerbeamt) of the municipality where the business is to be opened. In order to do so, it is necessary to have:

  • A valid ID (Personalausweis) or passport
  • A residence permit
  • Depending on the sector (for example catering), a permit or authorisation
  • A craft card (Handwerkskarte), if the business is to operate in the craft sector
  • A trade card (Gewerbekarte) for activities similar to the craft sector
  • The registration fee

The Trade Office automatically contacts the other authorities involved with starting a business. These authorities include the tax office, accident insurance fund, chamber of commerce or chamber of crafts, local court (trade register), and the appropriate trade supervisory offices. It is recommended to check with each of these offices to make sure the proper information has been received.

Tax Office (Finanzamt)

If the applicant is intending only to offer professional services as a freelancer, it is only necessary to apply for a tax number from the tax office.

Health Office (Gesundheitsamt)

Certificates from the Health Office may be necessary depending on the chosen business sector. For example, businesses in catering, the sale of foodstuffs, and childcare require certificates of good conduct and the observation of standards set by the Health Office and the trade supervisory office (this varies from region to region).

Construction Office (Bauamt)

The converting or building of new buildings for commercial purposes must have the approval of the Construction Office.

Occupational Accident Insurance Fund (Berufgenossenschaft)

If a business is to employ staff, occupational accident insurance is required for all employees. Self-insurance may also be required.

  • For more information from the German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, DGUV): Click here

Commercial Register (Handelsregister)

Except for small businesses organised as a GbR (Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts) a company must be entered in the commercial register at the local court (Amtsgericht).

Chamber of Crafts (Handwerkskammer)

Setting up a German business in a craft sector is based on EU law. EU citizens will find few barriers when starting a business in this sector. Between three and six years of self-employment, as well as proper certification, are required. For non-EU citizens to acquire a certificate of registration (Gewerbeanmeldeschein), the German authorities must recognise foreign examinations as equivalent to German standards or grant permission on a case by case basis.

Information approved by Kanzlei am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Christian Regnery, Rechtsanwalt Torstr. 49/Ecke Schönhauser Allee, D-10119 Berlin Tel: 030 4404 2733, Fax: 030 4404 2777, www.regnery.de