Sole Proprietorship: Process, costs & services at a glance - firma.de

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* The notary fees and the costs for entry in the Handelsregister (commercial register) are not included in the price and will be charged separately.
** firma.de Firmenbaukasten AG does not provide legal advice itself; firma.de works exclusively with lawyers and independent tax advisors who specialise in the field of limited liability entrepreneurial companies. Please make an appointment: +49 611 17207-0 or by e-mail at support@firma.de.

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    No minimum capital required

    No minimum start-up capital is required to set up a sole proprietorship. Entrepreneurial decisions can be made independently and quickly.

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    Fast, easy and inexpensive set-up

    To get started as a sole proprietor, you do not need a notary or a commercial register (Handelsregister) registration. Thus, saving you time and money.

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    Accounting exemptions

    Sole Proprietorships are exempt from publishing annual accounts if its turnover is under to €500,000 and its profit is under €50,000. Fewer accounting obligations mean lower tax adviser fees.

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  3. We prepare your trade registration (Gewerbeanmeldung) in a timely fashion.
  4. We prepare your tax office questionnaire (Finanzamtfragebogen).
  5. We recommend a qualified tax adviser from the firma.de partner database.
  6. We arrange for the express opening of your bank account.
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Einzelunternehmen frequently asked questions

What is a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) ?

As a Einzelunternehmen, you keep 100 % of your profits, but you are also 100% liable for damages with your private assets.

A sole proprietorship consists of one natural person, who operates as a self-employed businessperson, and may or may not have employees. Sole proprietors can be freelancers, farmers or tradespersons.

To set up a sole proprietorship you do not need a minimum share capital, and generally, there are few accounting obligations. They are also exempt from a lot of formalities like notarisation and entry into the commercial register (Handelsregister).

Sole proprietorships must be registered with the tax office (Finanzamt) for taxation and regulatory reasons.

Sole Proprietorship's can take the form of a small trader (Kleingewerbetreibender), a freelancer (Freiberufler) or a registered merchant (Eingetragener Kaufmann)

Does a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) have to pay trade tax (Gewerbesteuer)?

If your annual profits are lower than € 24,500 your business income is exempt from trade tax (Gewerbesteuer).

Freelancers (Freiberufler) do not have to pay trade tax, regardless of their profit.

You can learn more about Einzelunternehmen taxation in our handy guide here.

Does limited liability apply to your Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) ?

Unlike the corporate forms with limited liability (i.e. AG, GmbH or UG), sole proprietors are fully and personally liable. The owner runs the business at his or her own risk, and their private assets become the business's assets.

Besides cash, all other kinds of assets are part of the sole trader’s liability, e.g. vehicles, business premises or machines and devices.

On the plus side, setting up a sole proprietorship is easy because there is no share capital to raise and there are fewer bureaucratic obstacles.

If you want to avoid full, unlimited personal liability choose the GmbH or UG as your corporate form. If you cannot raise the required share capital of € 25,000 for a GmbH, the UG is your best alternative to start a limited liability company in Germany.

Can you acquire a financial interest in a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen)?

Although there can only be one owner of a Sole Proprietorship, it is still possible for another party to invest in the business financially.

How much profit can sole proprietors keep for themselves?

Sole proprietors can keep 100% of their profits. The earnings are taxed via their personal tax rate.

When is a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) an 'eingetragener Kaufmann (e.K.)'?

Under certain circumstances, Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) must be entered into the commercial register (Handelsregister) as an 'eingetragener Kaufmann (e.K.)' or 'eingetragene Kauffrau'.

The German Code (HGB) defines an 'eingetragener Kaufmann (e.K.)' as a tradesperson who has set up a commercial business that operates commercially. It is recommended that you receive expert advice on this matter.

Regardless of whether you have entered your business into the Handelsregister, if it falls under the 'eingetragener Kaufmann' classification, it also has this status for tax purposes. Bookkeeping and accounting obligations are also applicable.

This classification may apply to your sole proprietorship from the start or down the track as your business evolves.

Can I enter my Einzelunternehmen into the commercial register (Handelsregister) without being an 'eingetragener Kaufmann (e.K.)'?

If your Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) is not an 'eingetragener Kaufmann', you still have the option of entering your business into the Handelsregister voluntarily.

If you choose to do so, further bookkeeping and accounting obligations are applicable. But, there are advantages, such as being able to transfer power of attorney to employees.

What types of Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) are there?

If you want to set up a sole proprietorship it is sometimes not so easy to find out for sure which of the three classifications apply to you: Are you a freelancer, a farmer or a tradesperson? Here is a short summary for each category:

1. Farmer Sole Proprietorship

Unlike the other groups, members of this category are easy to identify. In Germany farming and forestry are recognized occupations requiring formal training.

2. Freelancer Sole Proprietorship

Finding out whether you can be categorized as a freelancer is not as easy. For a list of typical freelance professions (in German) click here.

Your always have to consider your individual case. The final classification is made by the competent revenue office (Finanzamt).

3. Tradeperson Sole Proprietorship

Traders (Gewerbetreibende) are defined as business people who are neither farmers nor freelancers. If your business activity is not listed as a freelance profession and you are not a professional farmer it is very likely that you will be considered a trader. The final classification is made by the Finanzamt.

How is a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen) taxed?

Trade tax (Gewerbesteuer)

If you are not a farmer or a freelancer, the German Trade Tax Act (GewStG) applies to your business. Your income tax partially offsets the trade tax you pay.

Income tax (Einkommensteuer)

Regardless of your classification as a sole proprietor, you must pay income tax, which calculated from what your business earned throughout a financial year. Profit withdrawal does not affect your tax liability.

VAT (Umsatzsteuer)

The Value Added Tax Act (Umsatzsteuergesetz) applies to every Sole Proprietorship. Calculating the sales tax on your transactions and keeping records of your calculations are an essential part of running your business.

If you have two Sole Proprietorships, you must submit a VAT return for each of them in a single document to the local tax office (Finanzamt) that you registered your first sole proprietorship at.

Tax exemptions

If your annual turnover is lower than € 17,500, you are considered a Kleinunternehmer (small trader) and are therefore exempt from VAT. This small business classification applies to other types of companies as well.

What can I name my Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen)?

Turn your name into a business name

The first impression that customers will have of your business is its name - so choose wisely!

For Sole Proprietorships, the proprietor usually turns his or her personal name into the company name, e.g. “Iris Smith”.

Regulations for registered traders

If you have to enter your Sole Proprietorship in the commercial register (Handelsregister), you can choose any suitable company name you want, but it must include the suffix "eingetragene Kauffrau" or "eingetragener Kaufmann" (or the abbreviations e. K., e. Kfr., e. Kfm.).

Sole Proprietorships not listed in the Handelsregister must not add the suffix.

firma.de tip: Add a meaningful business designation

In addition to a company name, sole proprietors are allowed to choose a business or sector designation, e. g. “digital technics” for Marco Mayer Web Solutions e. K. The business designation is meant to have a promotional and decorative effect.

However, the designation must not be confused with the company name that you use to represent your Sole Proprietorship in official business dealings.

When you choose a suitable business designation, please note that it must not evoke deceptive associations about your company’s size, capabilities and services. For example, a solo painter and decorator cannot choose “global painting services” as the business designation is misleading.

We've got a whole article about naming Einzelunternehmen here!

Want to learn more about Sole Proprietorships?

  • An overview of taxes for sole proprietorships

    Find out everything you need to know about Umsatzsteuer, Einkommensteuer and Gewerbesteuer.

    Get educated
  • How to name your Einzelunternehmen

    A guide for choosing the right business name for small traders, freelancers & registered merchants in Germany

    Get educated