Business registration and approval
In most cases, before you set up your business, you need to register it with the relevant local authority’s trade or public order office. There is no need to do this if you are a freelancer. However, you do need to seek clarification from the STARTERCENTER NRW or the tax office as to whether your business operation really is a freelance activity. In more than 80% of all business registration cases, there is no need for any further approvals or permissions. A simple business registration application form is sufficient. The practice of certain business activities requires approvals or permissions. This includes restaurants and hotels, travel-related businesses, agents and brokers, financial services and other activities. You can obtain further information from the authority’s guide or your local trade office.
Tip: Find the authority’s guide...
... online at the "Gründerplattform":
When you register your business, other authorities are automatically informed that you are setting up (the tax office, relevant chamber, employment office, trade association, statistical office, etc.) You can use the NRW form server to complete these forms at the same time as registering your business.
Tip: Exemptions from business registration
Freelancers, farmers and foresters are exempt from business registration. This does not relieve you of the obligation to register with the tax office, the relevant chamber or the employment office if you are employing other personnel.
Applying to the tax office for a tax registration number
Any business must be registered with the tax office. The tax office will give you a tax registration number and ask you to complete a questionnaire to calculate your sales and profit values. These estimates will be used as the basis for calculating your advance tax payments. When entering your information, do not be too optimistic and remember that your costs in the start-up phase may be very high compared with the amount of revenue you generate. If you are unsure as to whether you rank as a freelancer or whether you need to register your business, you can also obtain information directly from the tax office.
Tip: Tax recording of the foundation of a business over ELSTER
As of 1 January 2021, you must submit the questionnaire for tax registration electronically via the Elster online portal when setting up your business due to the Bureaucracy Relief Act (BEG III) of 22 November 2019. The tax office will check your information and issue you a tax number if you meet the requirements for a VAT-registered company.
You can find instructions on how to register, fill out the questionnaire and send it electronically, here.
Other registrations may be relevant depending on the trade and legal form
- Collective agreement social security systems (SOKA-Bau)
- Pension insurance organisations
- Health insurance schemes
- Guild membership