Authorities and institutions

Important authorities and institutions for establishing your business

The start-up process is unique for each and every business. You will have to deal with different authorities and bodies depending on the job you perform. Find out which specific organisations are responsible for your sector. We have listed some of the most important authorities that you should contact here.

The tax and revenue office is an important authority. You will need a tax number (“Steuernummer”) before you can begin work on your business. You will need to register as a freelancer with your local tax and revenue office. Complete the “Questionnaire for tax collection” online via; the tax office will then issue you with a tax number. Contact one of our support centres if you have a question or need assistance with completing the questionnaire. The tax office will generally automatically contact you once you have registered at the trade office (“Gewerbeamt”). But you should contact the tax office if you have not heard from them for several days after registering your trade.

You need to register a trade with the trade office (“Gewerbeamt”). In many German states, you can do this online. You need the following documents to register your trade:

  • A valid personal ID or passport; sometimes you also need a registration card (“Meldebescheinigung”) from the residents' registration office (“Einwohneramt”)
  • Proof that you fulfil the requirements of the profession
  • In the case of trades requiring a licence, you will also need a CRB check (“polizeiliches Führungszeugnis”) or an extract from the commercial register
  • For itinerant trades, you will require an itinerant trade card (“Reisegewerbekarte”). You will also need to provide a CRB check (“polizeiliches Führungszeugnis”) and pay a fee of between 40 and 770 euros. You must carry your itinerant trade card with you at all times when practising your profession.

In addition, you will need to pay between 10 and 50 euros for the registration fee.

If you are performing a trade, you must become a member of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in your region to practise your profession. You will normally be automatically made a member when you register your trade. But it is worth registering early and enquiring about the services provided by the IHK. Besides courses on starting a business, they also provide courses on a wide range of topics that may be useful for you.

If you are starting a craft business, you need to contact your local Chamber of Crafts. You need to submit an entry to the official register of handicrafts (“Handwerksrolle”).

Your local business development organisation is an important institution for business owners. Many of these organisations provide useful advisory services and support. They are familiar with the local structures and responsible bodies and can also help you to identify suitable premises.

If you are active in the hotel and accommodation sector, you should be familiar with DEHOGA – the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. Membership is voluntary. You need to pay a membership fee but the association provides several useful services in return.

It is worth looking at the different professional associations available in other sectors too. How do other business owners in your sector network, and what activities do they do? Which services would be useful for your day-to-day work?

Please note that this is not a complete list. Your sector will determine which other authorities and bodies are relevant to you: this could include the health authority (“Gesundheitsamt”), the regulatory authority (“Ordnungsamt”), the Artists' Social Welfare Fund (“Künstlersozialkasse”), an entry in the commercial register, etc. You can use the Authorities guide to find the desired authority or institution in your vicinity.