Registration and taxes for start-up entrepreneurs: regulations at a glance

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Before taking up your self-employment, you should consider, together with your advisor, which authorities have to be notified of the company's establishment or where you must register. There are, in particular:

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Freelance work: registration with the tax office

If you wish to pursue a freelance activity, you must in any case inform the financial authority responsible for you. As a rule, you will receive a comprehensive questionnaire asking all tax-related information (for example: type of activity performed, start of self-employment, estimated turnover and profit).

If you are self-employed, you are not obliged to keep an account even if the characteristics listed below in the section on the commercial register are exceeded. However, you can always book books voluntarily at any time.

Registration with the trade office

Commercial activities must be registered with the competent trade office. In particular, it must be ensured that the company's object is precisely identified.

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When you register a business, you usually do not need to provide a separate account. As soon as you register a business with the commercial office, the tax office will automatically receive a copy of your commercial application and will also send you a questionnaire.

Only for craftsmen: Membership in the Chamber of Crafts

If you intend to become self-employed in a craft profession, you should contact the responsible Chamber of Crafts in advance. Even after the reform of the craft code, the so-called “master compulsion” still exists in many professions.

Tradesmen: Membership in the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK)

commercial CompanyNon-manual workers are required to be members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The registration takes place here also automatically at the time of registration of the trade.

Merchants: Entry Commercial Register

Under certain circumstances, you as a tissue provider are required to register in the commercial register. According to § 238 HGB you are then obliged as a merchant within the meaning of § 1 HGB for the management of books, that is an accounting. This obligation always exists when the entrepreneur:

  • is already required under the provisions of the German Commercial Code (140 AO)
  • certain size characteristics are exceeded (§ 141 AO).

Whom concerns this duty

This applies in particular to the so-called “actual merchant” (§ 1 HGB), who runs a basic trade (for example a textile retail). With the so-called “Kannkaufmann” (§ 2 HGB), the commercial law bookkeeping obligation only occurs if this has been entered in the commercial register.

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Commercial partnerships (e.g. OHG or KG) are also obliged to keep accounts due to the obligation to register in the commercial register. In the case of corporations, due to their legal form, there is always an obligation to keep books (so-called “form merchant”; § 41 GmbHG; § 91 AktG).

In addition, there are special accounting obligations for hospital bearers (hospital accounting regulations) and for nursing care facilities (nursing bookkeeping regulations)

How does the transition to accounting work?

When the value limits are exceeded, the Finanzamt will require a separate administrative act (§ 141 Abs. 2 AO). It is sufficient if only one size feature is exceeded. The obligation to keep accounts is to be observed at the beginning of the fiscal year following the year of the financial year's request.

If you employ employees: Federal Agency for Labor

If you employ employees, you must apply for a company number at the Federal Employment Agency for your company. Under this number, all social insurance applications will be processed for your employees. Berufsgenossenschaft Depending on the type of activity and the size of your company, you as an employer must pay contributions to the professional association for your employees. Therefore, check with your advisor which professional association is responsible for your company and show the opening of your company as well as the number of your employees there.

Supplementary pension fund for the construction industry VVaG (“SoKa-Bau”)

For companies in the construction industry, there is a legal obligation to pay contributions to the supplementary pension fund of the construction industry. These are calculated according to the gross wages of your employees. If you want to become active in this area, mandatory registration of your company and your employees must take place.

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Other authorities

In individual cases, it must also be examined whether there are further disclosure obligations. For example, permits from construction or environmental authorities are conceivable.

What taxes do you have to pay?

In the private sector, entrepreneurs or freelancers are always subject to personal income tax, irrespective of their legal form. Therefore, you must notify the tax office of your income.

individual entrepreneurs

Only the type of income and the type of income distinguishes the individual entrepreneur or partners from the shareholder of a capital company.

In the case of an individual entrepreneur, the income generated during the marketing year is subject to personal income tax. Whether this is commercial or self-employed income is of no importance to this extent. In addition, the amount of the taxable profit is not dependent on whether this profit was withdrawn by the entrepreneur or retained in the company for the purpose of capital reinvestment (reinvestment). The amount of income tax is dependent on many factors. In addition to the amount of the profit, the form of assessment (individual assessment or joint assessment with the spouse) as well as other income also play an important role.

Shareholder of a partnership

The shareholder of a partnership is treated in the same way as a sole proprietor in income tax. The commercial or freelance profit of the company is determined by the tax office in a separate tax assessment and distributed to the individual shareholders.

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This profit share is to be taxed by the respective shareholder in the context of his personal income tax declaration with respect to the income from business operations or with the income from independent work.

In the case of commercial income, in addition to the taxable profit share, the proportionate trade tax on the company is deducted from the income tax.

Shareholder of a corporation

For shareholders of corporations, there are generally two types of income that are relevant for tax purposes: on the one hand, the remuneration for managing the company for the company and, on the other hand, the dividends or profit distributions of the company.

The remuneration from the company's business is income from self-employment. The income tax deducted by the company, including ancillary benefits, is calculated on the personal income tax of the company.


Dividends paid by the capital company represent income from capital assets. Since these payments have already been subject to corporation tax and trade tax at the level of the capital company, taxation with the shareholder takes place only to 50% of the distributive gross amount (so-called half-income method).

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From this amount (plus further interest and dividends) the saver deduction amount is deducted, so that the profit distributions can even remain completely income-tax-free.

Capital gains tax

The withholding tax to be withheld by the corporation from the distribution amount will be credited against personal income tax on presentation of a proper tax certificate (§ 36 para. 1 No. 2 EStG).

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