To register a business for tax purposes, you have to accurately fill in the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (tax registration questionnaire). Ideally you should do this after registering with the Gewerbeamt (Trade Licensing Office). What other info can help you on your way? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the tax registration questionnaire.
Why do I have to fill in the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (tax registration questionnaire)?
The Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (also known as the Betriebseröffnungsbogen, or business opening questionnaire) collects tax-related data of a business/entrepreneur to help the authorities identify which taxes apply.
By completing this form, a business (company, self-employed person etc.) registers with the Finanzamt (tax office) and receives a Steuernummer (tax number). This is an essential step because only with this tax number can a business issue invoices.
What data does the tax registration questionnaire require?
The information requested in the tax registration form depends on the legal structure of your business. There is one form for Personengesellschaften (partnerships), one for Einzelunternehmen (sole proprietorships) and one for Kapitalgesellschaften (incorporated companies). You can find a form for each business type at the Bundesfinanzministerium (Federal Ministry of Finance) website.
Solopreneurs take note:
Gewerbetreibende (sole traders who operate commercially) will get the tax registration form via post after registering with the Gewerbeamt (Trade Licensing Office).
Freiberufler (freelancers who have a ‘liberal’ profession) who don’t have to register with the Gewerbeamt, should submit this questionnaire to the local Finanzamt (tax office) as soon as possible.
The three forms differ in some ways, but the fundamental basics are the same. Below we explain them section by section.
Allgemeine Angaben (general information)
This section is about information about yourself and the planned activity as well as account details. You can also decide whether you want to register for direct debit with the tax office (this means never missing a deadline for paying your taxes, but only if you’re comfortable with automatic tax withdrawals). This section is also where you put the details of your tax adviser.
Angaben zur Tätigkeit (business activity details)
This section asks fundamental questions about the business you’re registering. If applicable, enter the Firmennamen (ie, the company name if entry into the Handelsregister is necessary), your business address, and whether it is a brand new business or a takeover.
If you are taking over a business, enter its details here, including whether or not the existing business has been entered into the Handelsregister (commercial register).
Steuervorauszahlungen (advance tax payments)
Complete this section with care. Here you have to estimate your future profits and, consequently, the Gewerbesteuer (trade tax) and Körperschaftsteuer (corporate income tax) you’ll have to pay in advance. If you overestimate your profits, expect large Vorauszahlungen (advance payments) relative to your income – an unnecessary burden on your first year of business. Conversely, if you underestimate your profits, expect a bigger tax bill after submitting your first tax return (make sure you put money aside for this).
If you don’t enter any information on your expected turnover and profits in the tax registration form, the tax office will wait until the end of your first business year to send you a tax bill.
Art der Gewinnermittlung (type of profit determination)
This section is all about how your business will determine its profits, ie its accounting method. In Germany, there are two types:
- EÜR, which translates to “income statement” and is cash accounting; and
- Bilanzierung, which translates to “balancing” or “accounting”, involves double-entry bookkeeping.
Using the Bilanzierung method is obligatory for corporations/incorporated entities – if this is your business, you have no choice in the matter.
The EÜR method is for smaller businesses with a turnover of up to €500,000 but a profit of less than €50,000. Entrepreneurs who have the freedom to choose due to their legal form (eg, GbRs and freelancers) should choose EÜR. The Bilanzierung accounting method takes a high level of effort and skill to tackle – avoiding it saves you time and money. (Bear in mind you always have the option to change accounting styles down the track.)
Lohnsteuer (wage tax), Umsatzsteuer (VAT), Istversteuerung (actual taxation), Sollversteuerung (debit taxation) and the USt-IdNr. (VAT identification number)
Lohnsteuer (payroll tax)
The section on wage tax in the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung is relevant only if you employ salaried employees or managing directors liable for wage tax.
Here you have to submit an estimate: How much payroll tax is likely to accrue per month? Depending on the estimated amount of payroll tax, payment is due monthly, quarterly or annually.
In the section on VAT, you can indicate that your profits are likely not to exceed a certain amount and, therefore, you’d like to use the Kleinunternehmerregelung (small business regulation). If you use the small business regulation, you don’t have to pay value-added tax (VAT).
Istversteuerung or Sollversteuerung (debit taxation or actual taxation)
This gives you the opportunity to opt for the actual or debit methods of taxation. Both taxation types have their pros and cons, so inform yourself fully before deciding. But, for most types of businesses, the decision is an easy one.
Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer (VAT identification number)
Finally, tick whether you wish to receive a Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer (USt-IdNr.). You need the VAT registration number for doing business with companies from abroad. If you unsure whether this is something you’ll need in the future, still tick that box – the VAT registration number here is free of charge, but a later application has a fee.
Depending on the legal structure and other modalities of your business, you might need to fill in other forms. For example, if you are starting a company with more than three partners, you must fill in sections 2 and 3 of an Einlageblatt (supplementary form).
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Tax registration questionnaire: FAQs
What tax office is responsible for me/my competent authority?
The tax office responsible for you is dependent on your place of business. You can use the Bundeszentralamt (Federal Central Tax Office) website to easily find your competent tax office by entering your business’s postcode (PLZ).
Can I fill out the tax registration questionnaire myself and send it to the tax office?
You can fill in the questionnaire yourself – a tax adviser isn’t mandatory. However, to avoid errors, support from a tax adviser or other expert can save you a lot of hassle (especially if you’re an international).
The tax registration questionnaire is available online at the tax administration portal ELSTER. There you can fill out the form digitally and send it directly to the tax office.
How much time do I have to complete the tax registration form?
According to § 138 of the Abgabenordnung (German Fiscal Code), you are obliged to register your business with the tax office within four weeks of registering it with the Gewerbeamt (Trade Licensing Office).
When do I get my Steuernummer (tax number)?
You will receive your tax number when the tax office has processed the tax registration questionnaire. Generally, this takes between two and three weeks.
What is an Organgesellschaft (controlled company)?
If several companies are connected, for example, in a Konzern (group of companies), grouping these companies together for tax purposes is called an Organschaft (tax group) or Gruppenbesteuerung (group taxation). In this case, one company (the Organgesellschaft, or controlled company) integrates into another (the Organträger, or controlling company) to form a single entity for tax purposes.
What are ermäßigte Steuersätz (reduced tax rates)?
Generally, a standard tax rate of 19% applies in Germany. However, some products are subject to a lower, so-called reduced tax rate of 7% (food, water, books etc). Getting this right is fundamental for all businesses that have to issue invoices with VAT added to the net price.
What transactions are exempt from tax?
Section 4 of the Umsatzsteuergesetzes (Value-Added Tax Act) lists various transactions exempt from Umsatzsteuer (VAT). The better-known tax exemptions under § 4 UstG include flat rent or medical services. Other exemptions from turnover tax are, for example:
- Banking and financial transactions
- Export deliveries
- School and educational services
- Medical treatment by doctors, dentists and hospitals
- Letting and leasing
- Real estate sales
Why does the tax office want a managing director’s contract even if I don’t pay myself any money as a managing partner?
The tax office want to find out about the the salaries of the managing directors are as well as review each employment contract/service agreement. They do this to work out what wage-tax is applicable, which legally is not a straightforward matter. Managing directors (MDs) of a corporation are generally subject to wage tax – regardless of whether they are external managing directors or internal shareholders.
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What is an Empfangsbevollmächtigter (authorised recipient)?
In the questionnaire, you can enter the person handling all communication with the tax office under the item Empfangsbevollmächtigter (“Authorised recipient”). Ideally, you should enter your tax adviser here. Don’t forget to enclose a power of attorney for your tax adviser to make it official. If you do not (yet) have a tax adviser, you can leave the fields blank.
After the tax office has completed your tax registration, they’ll send your tax number, which you need to issue invoices. Then, finally, you can start doing business!
Best of luck!
The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the utmost care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee its accuracy, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a specialist in a specific case – we will be happy to put you in touch.
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