Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung für Einzelunternehmen: The ELSTER tax questionnaire guide for sole proprietorships

Every sole proprietor in Germany has to register with the tax office through the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung für Einzelunternehmen (questionnaire for the tax registration of sole proprietorships). To help you out, we’ve put together this guide on how to complete the questionnaire step-by-step.


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Registering an sole proprietorship with the tax office

Einzelunternehmen” (sole proprietors) include every natural person who is self-employed and operates a business that is either:

  • gewerblich” (business),
  • selbständig freiberuflich” (self-employed liberal professional), or
  • landwirtschaftlich und forstwirtschaftlich” (agricultural and forestry).

Also, in a more limited sense, eingetragene Kaufleute (registered merchants) count as sole proprietors, according to the German Commercial Code (HGB).

Although the Einzelunternehmen  is not a Personengesellschaften (partnership), it can have an interest in one. Logo (transparent)

Get all the know how to set up a sole proprietorship


Do you want to register your incorporated company or partnership & not a sole proprietorship?

Corporations/incorporated companies and partnerships each have different tax registration forms:

If you have established a GmbH, UG (haftungsbeschränkt) or AG, these instructions will help you fill out the “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung: Gründung einer Kapitalgesellschaft…” (questionnaire for the tax registration of corporations.).


When is the best time to register your business?

When you start a business, your mission is to get the “Steuernummer” (tax number) as soon as possible. You need this number to issue invoices. So, submit the questionnaire as fast as possible because without you can’t start operating.

How do I get the questionnaire?

After registering your business with the Gewerbeamt (trade licensing office), the tax registration questionnaire form that matches your business will be sent to you automatically.

You can also download it as a PDF from the homepage of the Bundesministerium der Finanzen (Federal Ministry of Finance).

Self-employed persons with freelance activity are an exception. Since registration with the Gewerbeamt (trade licensing office) is not obligatory for self-employed Freiberufler (liberal professionals), they must approach the tax office independently to receive the questionnaire for tax registration.

To send the questionnaire electronically, fill out the form via ELSTER (the online tax office).

How to fill in the Einzelunternehmen tax questionnaire

Take care when completing the questionnaire because your answers matter. For example, calculate the forecasts of your business turnover as accurately as you can. Messing up the paperwork can unnecessarily drag out the registration process with the tax office.

Indeed, the best way to ensure that everything runs smoothly is to get an external tax adviser to help you fill in the questionnaire.

You can either complete all documents in the online document (in formsforweb format) or download them as a PDF*.

In the forms section of the Bundesministerium der Finanzen, you can find all documents under:

Steuerformulare” (tax forms) >>
>> “Fragebögen zur steuerlichen Erfassung” (Questionnaires for tax registration) >>
>> “Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung/ Aufnahme einer gewerblichen, selbständigen (freiberuflichen) oder land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Tätigkeit oder einer Vermietungstätigkeit/ Beteiligung an einer Personengesellschaft/-gemeinschaft” (Questionnaire for tax registration/ taking up a business, self-employed (liberal professional) or agricultural and forestry activity or a rental activity/ participation in a partnership/community).

*Printed versions are also available.

Before you start filling in the form, enter the “zuständige Finanzamt” (competent tax office – the local branch responsible for the area) in line 1 and leave the field for the “Steuernummer” (tax number) blank. Also, be aware that the tax form is eight pages long, and the sections do not correspond to the page numbers.

Section 1: “Allgemeine Angaben”

Translation: General information

The first section is where you enter general information about yourself, your spouse or civil partner and the type of business activity.

Lines 3 and 4: Here you tick whether you want to start a “gewerblich” (commercial), “selbständig freiberuflich” (self-employed liberal professional) or “landwirtschaftlich und forstwirtschaftlich” (agricultural and forestry) business or whether you want to participate in a partnership.

Lines 5 to 12: Fill in the general information about yourself, your current profession, your address and your “Identifikationsnummer” (identification number) here. You can also enter name affixes such as “Prof.”, “Dr.” or “Graf” (count). If you have more than one residence, enter all residences on an additional sheet and indicate the “Hauptwohnsitz” (primary residence).

Lines 13 to 20: Enter the general information on your “Ehepartner” (spouse) or “Lebenspartner” (civil partner) here.

Lines 25 and 26: Describe the type of occupation in a few (German) words. For example, “Bäckerei” or “Handel mit Backwaren” (bakery or baked goods trade), Handel mit Baustoffen (building materials trade), “landwirtschaftlicher Gartenbaubetrieb” (agricultural horticulture trade), etc.

Lines 27 to 38: Input your bank account details and distinguish between a private account and a “Geschäftskonto” (business account). For “Personenerstattung” (personal refunds – that is, your personal tax reimbursements) (lines 31 to 24), enter your private bank details. For “Betriebserstattungen” (business refunds – that is, operating tax reimbursements) (lines 35 to 38) enter the business account.

Line 39: Want to sign up for the “SEPA-Lastschriftverfahren” (SEPA direct debit scheme)? Tick “Yes” here and fill out the corresponding form and attach it to the tax registration questionnaire. Signing up for the SEPA direct debit mandate means never missing deadlines for payments thanks to automation.

Lines 40 to 48: If you’ve engaged a tax adviser, for example, to prepare your Jahresabschluss (annual accounts) and Steuererklärung (tax return), input his or her details here.

Lines 49 to 58: Nominate an authorised recipient here. Your tax adviser, for example, is recommended for this. Enter the zuständige Finanzamt (responsible tax office) in line 1 and leave the field for the tax number blank.

*Be aware that the tax form is eight pages long and the sections don’t correspond to the page numbers.

Section 2: “Angaben zur gewerblichen, selbständigen (freiberuflichen) oder land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Tätigkeit”

Translation: Information on the commercial, self-employed (liberal professional) or agricultural and forestry business activity.

Section two mainly contains questions about, for example, the business’s contact details, name and set-up.

Lines 66 to 76: Enter the business’s name, the postal address, and the corresponding communication link.

Line 77: Enter the date on which the enterprise started operating. This also includes preparatory negotiations – for example, renting a suitable location – that took place before official registrations.

Lines 78 to 89: These questions refer to the business’s “Betriebsstätte” (permanent establishment/location). The definition of this term includes business facilities that are part of the entrepreneurial activity, for example, a headquarters or a branch office). If there are several permanent establishments, enter all addresses here.

Lines 90 to 94: You only have to answer “Yes” to the question about entry into the “Handelsregister” (commercial register) if you are obliged to do it under commercial law (Handelsrecht).

Lines 95 to 103: Enter the “Gründungsform” (type of business formation), for example “Neugründung” (newly formed/incorporated), “Übernahme” (takeover), “Franchise“, etc) and the “Gründungsdatum” (date of its establishment) here. If it’s a Neugründung (newly formed business/startup), the date is the start of its business activity. Logo (transparent)

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Section 3: Angaben zur Festsetzung der Vorauszahlungen (Einkommenssteuer, Gewerbesteuer)

Translation: Information on the determination of advance payments (income tax, trade tax)

In section three, provide information on the planned “Einkünfte” (income/revenue) or the “Gewinn” (profit) that you expect in the first year you established your business and then the following year. This information is of particular interest to the tax office as it determines your business’s “Vorauszahlungen” (advance payments of tax) advance payments for “Einkommenssteuer” (income tax) and “Gewerbesteuer” (trade tax) using the estimated amount as a basis.

Thus, be as accurate as possible when estimating this information and bear in mind that the advance payment may have an impact on the liquidity of your business. If you give too high a value and fail to reach the estimated profit, the advance payment can cause liquidity bottlenecks. If your estimates are too low, you have to expect high additional payments, which likewise harms the liquidity of the enterprise.

Lines 109 to 115: Enter the estimated “Einkünfte” (income/revenue) for the first year and the following year.

Lines 116 and 117: Enter details of anticipated “Sonderausgaben” (special expenses) and “Steuerabzügen” (tax deductions) that you expect in the first and second years of the business.

Abschnitt 4, 5, 6: Angaben zur Gewinnermittlung und Lohnsteuer

Translation: Statements on profit determination and payroll tax.

Under sections four, five and six, you must make statements on the type of profit determination, exemption from tax payments and the number of employees you employ.

Lines 118 to 122: Enter the type of profit determination here. There are two ways to determine profit. With the first, you do a “Bilanzierung” (balance sheet), which comes from Buchführung (bookkeeping) with Jahresabschluss (annual accounts). With the second you use the “Einnahmenüberschussrechnung“, or “EÜR” (surplus income statement).

If you want to use the EÜR, you need to be sure that the turnover of your business is less than €600,000 and that the profit remains below the limit of €60,000. And, your business can’t have a Handelsregister (commercial register) entry. If these requirements are not met, then you have to prepare a “Bilanz” (balance sheet) at the end of the year.

Line 123: Under section five, you can be exempt from “Steuerabzügen” (a form of corporation/income tax), provided you are active in the Baugewerbe (construction industry) and can provide evidence of construction service following Section 48b of the Income Tax Act (EStG).

Lines 124 to 126: Declare all your “Mitarbeiter” (employees), including temporary workers, family members and marginally employed persons (mini jobbers).

Section 7: Umsatzsteuer

Translation: Turnover tax or VAT.

Section seven asks you to provide information on the registration and payment of VAT. When doing so, you must also estimate the expected “Umsatz” (turnover) of your business in the first year and the following year.

Line 131: Enter the estimated turnover in the year the business is opened and in the following year. Be as precise as possible, because depending on the estimated turnover, you may qualify for the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” (small business regulation).

Lines 133 and 134: Indicate here whether you make use of the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” (small business regulation). However, you can only use the regulation if the estimated turnover is no more than €22,000 in the first year and less than €50,000 in the following year.

Line 148: Indicate here whether you wish to apply the “Durchschnittssatzbesteuerung” (average rate taxation) according to § 24 UStG.

Lines 149 to 152: Enter here whether you want to apply “Iststeuerung” (actual taxation) or “Sollversteuerung” (debit taxation). The actual taxation is usually more advantageous because the VAT does not have to be paid on invoices (unlike with debit taxation) but only when the customer has actually paid the invoice. As a result, the company’s liquidity increases in the short term.

Lines 153 to 155: If you need or already have a “Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer (VAT identification number), you can indicate this here.

Lines 156 to 158: If you want to apply for a certificate to show the tax liability of the recipient of services relating to construction and/or building cleaning services, tick the appropriate box here. However, certain conditions are necessary for this so best to seek the advice of a professional.

Line 159: If you provide “Telekommunikationsleistungen” (telecommunications services), “Rundfunk” (radio) and “Fernsehdienstleistungen” (television broadcasting) services and other services provided by electronic means, you can apply for a “Besteuerungsverfahren” (special taxation procedure) here.

Translation: Participation in a partnership

Section eight is not relevant for new entrepreneurs.

If you need to complete the tax registration questionnaire for sole proprietorships because you want to register an interest in a “Personengesellschaft” (partnership), complete this section.

Lines 160 to 165: Provide general information about the partnership you’re entering.

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Submitting the questionnaire to the tax office

Upon completion, submit the questionnaire to the tax office along with all the necessary supporting documents. Processing may take a few weeks. Once your application has been reviewed and approved, your business will automatically have a tax office registration. Then the Finanzamt will send out a confirmation letter containing your “Steuernummer” (tax number) to issue invoices with.

[BEGIN: Insert an Image between this tag]

Andreas Munck

[END insert Image]

Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.



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