Starter Kit

Putting the idea into action

Once the business idea has been clearly defined and the means of implementation have been decided, the next stage is to launch the business.
The exact steps to be taken ultimately depend on the chosen type of business and the legal form, as each of these are accompanied by various legalities and obligations that businesses in Germany are required to observe. There are major differences with regard to liability, rights and obligations of the founders, the company size as well as forms of participation by third parties. Before setting up a business, it is recommended that prospective entrepreneurs fully acquaint themselves with the different legal forms.
The types of taxes that have to be paid by a company also vary according to the legal form. In addition to tax liability, there are many other legal provisions to be observed, e.g. with regard to the company name or the design of any partnership agreements.
Depending on the chosen legal form, the company may be obliged to register with a number of German authorities.

Type of business and legal form

The legal form defines the legal framework for an economically active enterprise. The individual legal forms in Germany differ mainly in terms of ownership structure and distribution of risk and/or liability of the managing directors.
Not all of the legal forms are suitable for a start-up business. The following types of business are most common: Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts (civil law partnership, GbR), Haftungsbeschränkte Unternehmergesellschaft (limited liability entrepreneurial company, UG), as well as Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (limited liability company, GmbH).
It is recommended that founders decide on their legal form at an early stage, as this will provide legal protection during the initiation process. When deciding on the legal form, you might want to consider your entrepreneurial objectives as well as the level of seed capital available to you.

Legal forms in Germany
Overview of legal forms in Germany for setting up a business
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

GmbH & UG (limited liability)
Detailed information about the two legal forms limited liability company and entrepreneurial limited company (limited liability)
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Allgemeine Rechtsauskunft
Im Rahmen der Unternehmensförderung allgemeine Auskunft zu Rechtsthemen (Handelskammer Hamburg, Adolphsplatz 1, 20457 Hamburg)

hei. Coachingprogramm „Recht“
Eine Zusammenstellung von relevanten Seminaren; in der Auswahl befinden sich auch Seminare zu der Wahl der Unternehmensform. Die Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg unterstützt die Teilnahme von Hamburger ExistenzgründerInnen an diesem Programm mit einem Zuschuss in Höhe von € 500,- in Form von Wertschecks
hei. Hamburger ExistenzgründungsInitiative

Bucerius Gründerkompass Recht
Ein Workshop für Startups, der die rechtlichen Herausforderungen in den verschiedenen Phasen des Marktauftritts behandelt (findet jährlich statt)
Bucerius Gründerkompass Recht

Notarsuche (über Suchmaschine auf der Seite)
Kostenpflichtiger Beratungswunsch bei der Notarsuche
Hamburgische Notarkammer

Directory on corporate legal form
On the basis of individual information on nationality, corporate legal form, industry as well as the postal code, comprehensive and relevant information is provided (service only in German)
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy



Registering your start-up

Depending on the chosen legal form and depending on the prospective business venture, companies in Germany are obliged to register with authorities and public agencies.

As a general rule, registration of a company takes place in the commercial office. Following the founding of the business, you have to register with the competent professional association. The tax office deals with all tax-related matters, such as tax collection, tax payments and annual tax returns.

Prior to hiring staff and prior to registering with social security and a sickness insurance fund, new enterprises are obliged to apply for a company registration number, which is issued by the Federal Employment Agency.

If your business idea is particularly innovative, you should also ascertain whether it is possible to protect the idea. Applications for technical property rights, such as patents and utility models, should be filed at an early stage. The patent office is in charge of registering such rights. Furthermore you can trademark your design and your brand.

Legal formalities and public administration
Overview of public authorities and formalities important for establishing a business in Germany
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Business registering in Germany
General information about the registration of a business in Germany
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Copyright: Protection of intellectual property
The most important terms, history and basic principle, copyright infringements and much more: Detailed guidebook on the complex and broad subject of German copyright with an emphasis on modern media (The website only exists in German)
Berufsverband der Rechtsjournalisten e.V.

Innovation and patents
Initial consultation and services around patents, trademarks, protected design rights, software protection, licensing contracts, innovation funding and current technologies
Innovation and Patents Centre,  Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

German patent and trade mark
Information and services by the public institution for industrial property protection in Germany
German Patent and Trade Mark Office




Sample form for founding a one-man company
Sample template to set up a one-man company. The form must be adapted and has has to be notarised (form only exists in German)
Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy

Sample form for the formation of a company with up to three shareholders

Sample template to found a company with up to three shareholders. The form must be adapted and has to be notarially certified (form only exists in German)
Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy

Template to found a BGB company (partnership organised under the Civil Code)
Draft of a contract to set up a BGB company (The website only exists in German
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Beginner's search for patents, utility models , trade marks and designs
The DPMAregister provides the legal publications on patents, trade marks, utility models and designs as well as the register data. It allows searching for the legal status and the publication data
German Patent and Trademark Office


Founders are liable to pay taxes in Germany for their business activities. The type and level of taxation essentially depends on the chosen legal form. Different types of taxes include e.g. income tax, corporation tax, trade tax, as well as input tax and value-added tax.

German taxes
Overview of different taxes in Germany and the according German term
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy


Information on which taxes need to be payed by whom and when
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Checklist common tax errors

Short checklist to prevent the most common errors when it comes to paying taxes
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

Customs provisions
Basic information on the movement of goods, services and capital, civil aviation tax and labour and social legislation
Federal Ministry of Finance

Tax information centre
Detailed information about tax obligations as a company and employer
Federal Central Tax Office

Rights & obligations

By starting up a business in Germany, founders are subjected to certain rights and obligations. In addition to the legal form and the tax-related issues described above, there are other legal requirements, e.g. with regard to the company name or the notice and information requirements for online merchants.
There are a number of legal provisions to be observed also when it comes to dealing with clients and suppliers, using data, concluding lease agreements or insurance policies.

Insurance for founders
Overview and information about available insurances to protect founders against business but also personal risks
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Information on insurances for entrepreneurs to minimise business risks
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Duties and penalties
Overview of business duties with focus on accounting, special rules for German corporations, financial statements, auditing, publishing and penalties in Germany
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

German sales law
A concise overview of the German sales law
Hamburg Chamber of Commerce

Beginner’s search in DPMAregister
Allows carrying out an easy basic search of already existing brands
German Patent and Trade Mark Office

Other chapters: