You can become self-employed in Germany under certain conditions. When someone becomes self-employed, this is also called starting up a business.
As a self-employed or self-employed person, you decide when and where you work or which assignments you accept. You will not be paid a salary, but will write invoices for the jobs you do. You are responsible for everything yourself and have to take care of many things.
Before you start your own business, you should always seek advice. For example, STARTHAUS will be happy to help you.
Generally, a distinction is made between whether you want to work freelance or whether you want to register a business.
In some areas you can become self-employed without any specific training or permission. But there are also work areas for which you need a special permission. Find out beforehand what you need in the area in which you want to become self-employed.
Frequently asked questions
To be able to work self-employed in Germany, your residence document must state either “Gainful employment permitted” or “independent work allowed”. If your residence permit does not allow you to work independently, you can apply for a residence permit at the migration office under certain conditions. If you are tolerated or your asylum procedure has not yet been completed, you will not be able to obtain permission for self-employment. For some areas you also need certain qualifications and proofs to be able to work self-employed. Get support from an counseling center.
If you want to work freelance, you have to register with the tax office as self-employed. You must register with the tax office no later than four weeks after you start working. The tax office will give you a questionnaire for tax registration, which you must fill out. You can also fill out the questionnaire online and print it out. When the tax office has checked your application, you will receive a tax number. But the tax number is different from the tax identification number. Keep both numbers in a safe place because you will need them to file a tax return. You can get help from an advice center when filling out the application.
A trade is an independent activity in a craft or commerce. Even if you want to register a business, you must register with the tax office as self-employed and submit the questionnaire. You must also register your trade with the trade office. The registration of a trade costs money. Before registering with the trade office, find out whether you can register a trade and what you need to bring with you.
Some liberal professions are so-called “chamber-bound liberal professions”. This means that you must register with the relevant chamber if you are self-employed in this field. When you register, you must prove that you are qualified for your profession. This may require you to have qualifications from your home country recognized. Chamber-requiring free occupations are for example physicians, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, notaries, attorneys, tax counsels, certified public accountants and architects.
If you want to become self-employed as a craftsman or craftswoman and want to open a handicraft business, you usually need a master craftsman’s certificate. If you want to open a craft business, you must register with the Chamber of Crafts. The Chamber of Crafts then checks whether you have the necessary qualifications. Also ask the trade office whether you need a permit for your trade.
If you are self-employed, you will in most cases have to file a tax return at the beginning of the year. With the tax return or income tax return you show the tax office how much money you have earned in one year and how many taxes you have paid. With the tax return it is then checked whether you have perhaps paid too little or too much tax. If you have paid too much tax, you will be refunded money. If you have paid too little tax, you will have to pay extra money. You can do your tax return yourself using a program such as ELSTER or online. If you need help with your tax return, you can get help from a tax consultant, for example. In most cases, the tax return for one year must be submitted by 31 May of the following year. Some time after you have made your tax return, you will receive your tax assessment. The notification will tell you how much money you will get back or have to pay extra.
In Germany, all people must be covered by social insurance. You can choose whether you want to have statutory health insurance or private health insurance. You can find more information on statutory insurance in the law category. Get support from an advice center on the topic of insurance in self-employment.
There are various counseling centers that can help you with your questions about self-employment, such as the Existenzgründungsberatung or STARTHAUS. Look in the offers below to find the right counseling center for you.