If you know that you are a trader and want to register a trade, you must apply for a trade license („Gewerbeschein“) before visiting the tax office.
Where you can register your trade varies from state to state in Germany. Often you register at the district office or public order office responsible for your place of residence. In some federal states, such as Hamburg or Bavaria, you can also register your trade at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK).
You apply for the trade license by usually submitting a detailed description of your business as well as the necessary permits and documents.
The trade license is required for all tradespeople (Gewerbetreibende), with the exception of sole proprietors who are freelancers (Freiberufler) and can therefore skip the step to the tax office.
As a freelancer, you may need special permits, which you can obtain from your respective chamber for liberal professions (e.g. Chamber of Architects or Chamber of Tax Consultants). For craftsmen, there is the master craftsman’s certificate from the Chamber of Crafts (HWK). Or if your business has hygienic requirements (gastronomy, work with minors), you may need a health certificate from the public health department.
To register a business in Germany, you must bring the following regardless of your legal form:
It can be a big problem if you do not speak good German yet since the forms to be filled out are usually only available in German. Take your time and translate them at home using the Internet. In some states, such as Berlin and Hesse, you can also fill out the necessary forms in English.
As a rule, you must register your trade as soon as you start your business activity. Small fines may be levied for late registrations, although many trade offices do not strictly enforce such policies.
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