Today we’ll explore yet another area of infamously complicated German bureaucracy: business registration (Gewerbeanmeldung). A trade licence, known as a ‘Gewerbeschein’, is required for any newly-established commercial enterprise with a fixed premises. This also applies if you are self-employed (unless you’re truly “freelance” – what’s the difference?), moving your existing business to Berlin from another federal state or country. The Gewerbeschein allows you to run your business in the city in which you have registered it.
If you are a sole trader running your own business (self-employed), one of the managing partners of a business partnership, or a representative of a legal entity, it’s your job to take care of the business registration. Here’s everything you need to know.
Which documents do you need to register your business?
- Proof of identity – either an ID card (Personalausweis) or your passport together with your certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung) – in some cases, you can declare your identity online.
- The business registration form (Gewerbeanmeldung), filled out – either get it from the local district office, download it electronically to print and fill out or fill it out and submit it online in certain states – see below.
- Residence permit – if you’re a non-EU foreign national, you’ll need to present your residence permit. Make sure it allows self-employment – it should say Selbstständigkeit erstattet or Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet.
- Excerpt from the Trade Register – if the business is listed in the Trade Register, you’ll need to provide the excerpt proving this. For businesses listed in foreign trade registers, you’ll need to provide both the excerpt and a certified German translation.
- To register a legal entity that is still in the process of being established, you’ll need to present a statement of approval from the partners.
- To register a legal entity with multiple representatives, you will need to fill out a supplementary sheet for registering representatives.
NB: To register a foreign business in Germany, you’ll need to have a domestic representative present your paperwork, along with a power of attorney and details of a German address for the business.
Can it be done online?
In 14 out of the 16 German Federal states, you can submit this application online. Each state varies – some allow you to sign it digitally, others need your original signature. If you’re applying in Berlin, there’s a brand new online process, available in English. We’ve tested it out, it takes around 15-20 minutes and is very comprehensive! There’s also no need to print and sign anything as there is a declaration of identity (Identitätserklärung) at the very end. After you’ve paid, you should receive an email confirming your business registration within a few days.
Where can you register your business in person?
If you need to talk to a human, you can still book an appointment at your district office (Bezirksamt). However, unlike registering your address (Anmeldung einer Wohnung), which can be done at any Bezirksamt, you will have to go to your local district office. This means the district office of your business’ premises, not your home address. If you live in Pankow but you want your business registered at your co-working space in Neukölln, go to Neukölln!
How much will it cost you?
The cost of registering your business varies slightly depending on the Federal state, type of business, number of legal representatives and chosen registration process.
The prices in Berlin are as follows:
- Sole traders – EUR 26.00
- Business partnerships – EUR 26.00 per partner
- Legal entities with one legal representative – EUR 31.00 (plus an additional EUR 13.00 for each additional representative)
- Online business registration – EUR 15.00
Book a Skype coaching if you’d like some help getting through the online business registration process. Submitting the form usually takes about 15-20 minutes and once completed, we’ll help you get a self-employed tax number and take you through the basics of staying compliant as a business owner in Germany.
Another interesting resource on starting a business is available at All About Berlin.
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