The employment agencies and job centers are there to find work for people. They also pay out Arbeitslosengeld (unemployment benefits). The employment agencies are responsible for Arbeitslosengeld I (ALG I). People who receive Arbeitslosengeld II (ALG II) go to the job centers.
If you want to start your own business while being unemployed, the employment agencies and job centers are there to advise you. Under certain conditions, they will provide you with financial support to get started. They can also give you an placement voucher, which you can exchange for start-up advice, further training or coaching, for example.
What many self-employed people don’t know: Those who have voluntary statutory insurance can receive unemployment benefits from the employment agency. Those who are not insured can apply for basic benefits from the local job center.
District courts deal with the smaller and common disputes of daily life, where no high penalties are expected. Among other things, they are responsible for keeping records of companies (commercial register), cooperatives (cooperative register) and real estate (land register).
If you want to register your company in the commercial register or purchase a commercial property, your path will lead you to the district court. But also if a dispute arises, for example because a customer does not want to pay, the district court is responsible. And finally, it is the district courts that can open insolvency proceedings – but hopefully it will never come to that.
Foreigners Registration Offices are responsible for passport and residence issues. They also take care of the employment and integration of people who do not have a German or EU passport.
If you have a passport from one of the EU countries, then you have the freedom of trade and establishment. You are therefore allowed to set up your own business in Germany at any time. However, if you do not come from an EU country, you need a permit. The correct term for this is „Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer selbstständigen Tätigkeit“. To get it, you submit an application to the Foreigners‘ Registration Office, to which you attach a complete business plan and certificates. The permit will only be granted if the authorities believe that your project has a chance of success and that you have the necessary skills.
(More on that in our chapter „Getting the right visa“)
Residence permit (for people without EU passport) Permanent residence permit (for people without EU passport)
Building authorities deal with public and private building projects in a town or city. Almost all new buildings, conversions or expansions must be inspected and approved by the building authority. However, building authorities not only have a controlling but also an advisory function. For example, they explain the current building laws and provide information about possible funding.
If you want to build or convert your store, restaurant or office for your start-up, you must submit all plans to the building authority and have them approved beforehand. The authority checks whether all legal requirements are met and whether, for example, the statics are correct. By the way: Sometimes a change of use also has to be approved (for example, if you want to open a day-care center in a former law office).
The tax offices work to set and collect the taxes that we have to pay. For this purpose, they check and process our tax returns.
You come into contact with the tax office as soon as you register a business. If you work as a Freiberufler (freelancer), it is even the first address where you register your activity. You will receive a Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (questionnaire for tax registration) from the tax office and, as soon as you have completed it and returned it, a tax number. On the basis of the information you provide in the questionnaire, the tax office will calculate your estimated tax and determines whether and how much you have to pay in advance or whether you can have paid sales tax (input tax) refunded. Later, you submit your quarterly VAT returns and your annual tax return. The latter is the basis for determining the final amount of tax you have to pay.
Health offices have a wide range of tasks. They provide advice on health issues, conduct school entrance examinations and prepare expert reports. They are also responsible for enforcing the Infektionsschutzgesetz (Infection Protection Act) and for municipal health reporting. However, they also check whether hygiene regulations are being followed in certain facilities (e.g. nursing homes, schools, hospitals, doctors‘ offices or companies) that could pose a health risk (e.g. restaurants, nail salons, snack bars, etc.).
Everyone who wants to open a gastronomic business must complete an instruction course on Infektionsschutz (infection protection) at the health department. In addition, all persons who work with food need a Gesundheitszeugnis (health certificate), which is provided by the health department. Later, in the running business, you may come into contact with the health department in the course of hygiene control. Please do not see the employees there as your opponents, but as your partners. After all, you both have the same thing in mind: the health of your customers.
The Gewerbeaufsicht ensure that the regulations of occupational safety, environmental protection and consumer protection are followed. In matters of occupational safety, they work closely with the Berufsgenossenschaften (employers‘ liability insurance associations), which are also important players in this field.
The Gewerbeaufsichtsämter advise self-employed persons on all issues of occupational safety and environmental protection and are also involved in the approval of commercial construction projects. If you are setting up a business that is subject to special requirements, you should contact the Gewerbeaufsicht early on. They will tell you how best to implement the requirements. This may save you from bad investments and later complaints.
Chambers of crafts are the self-governing institutions of the crafts sector. For example, they perform tasks defined by law: For example, they are responsible for the register of skilled crafts and the register of apprentices, establish rules for skilled crafts training, conduct master craftsman training courses and hold examinations.
If you want to start a craft business, you automatically become a paying member of the local Chamber of Crafts. This applies to businesses that are subject to licensing, those that are exempt from licensing and those that are similar to crafts. However, only businesses that are subject to licensing must be entered in the register of skilled crafts. The Chambers of Crafts and also provide advice on all aspects of setting up a business and offer start-up seminars and other training courses.
The Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) are the self-governing bodies of the regional economy. They represent the interests of their members towards politics, but also perform tasks assigned by the state. For example, they issue various certificates and diplomas for commercial transactions, issue trade licenses, set standards for job training, monitor compliance with these standards and administer professional examinations.
All tradesmen automatically become members of the local IHK and are obliged to pay regular contributions (for founders with low turnover there are special rates or exemptions from contributions). If you want to become self-employed in professions such as real estate agent, building supervisor, property developer, residential property manager or loan broker, you need a trade license, which is issued by the responsible IHK. Other professions may also require a technical and specialist examination by the IHK.
Similar to what the Chamber of Crafts does for craftsmen, the Chambers for Liberal Professions represent the interests of the liberal professions. They monitor compliance with professional obligations, organize vocational training, administer examinations and promote continuing professional education. Members of the so-called kammerfähigen freien Berufe (chamber-eligible liberal professions) are obliged to be members of their chamber. These include, for example, doctors, architects, lawyers, consulting engineers and tax consultants.
If you want to become self-employed in a „chambered“ liberal profession, you register with the chamber responsible for you. You will then receive the approval of your chamber, without which you are not allowed to start your self-employment. At the same time, you will be included in a register. This can be an important marketing factor, which is why it can also be worthwhile for founders who are not subject to a chamber obligation to become a voluntary member.
The main task of the registration offices is to register, change or deregister persons, to provide identity cards and income tax cards and to manage passport matters.
If you want to register your business or the start of your freelance activity, you almost always have to present a valid certificate of registration or an identity card.
Almost everywhere in Germany there are so-called starter centers or technology and start-up centers. They offer a wide range of support services for start-ups. There are general incubators or those that specifically address startups in certain areas (IT, digital business models, life sciences, etc.). Some centers focus on further training and coaching measures, others provide founders with inexpensive business and laboratory space. Most starter centers are publicly funded.
Find out what business incubators offer in your state. You can get a whole range of help here: From advice and training to financial support and exchange with other founders to inexpensive business premises.
Business development agencies support and promote entrepreneurial projects in a region. This ranges from advice on planning and preparing a project to arranging contacts or assistance in finding a suitable location. The aim is to strengthen the economic power of a municipality or a region.
Especially if your start-up project promises jobs or is innovative, the local business development agency will often be happy to help you settle in its area of influence. But they will also be available to you with advice and practical help on other issues relating to your start-up. For example, when it comes to funding and financing your project or arranging contacts.
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