The type of business activity determines the professional and legal requirements you as a business starter will have to meet in order to be able to start your company. Your business activity can either be subject to trade law or considered freelance.
For each trade activity you require a trade licence (Gewerbeberechtigung). By entering your company in the trade register (Gewerberegister) and issuing a copy of the entry, the trade authority confirms that you are authorised to conduct the respective trade activity.
If, for example, you perform a typical craft, you will require a trade licence for that regulated trade (e.g. motor mechanic, joiner). However, certain individual activities cannot be classified as easily. In these cases it must first be determined which trade licence is required.
For your start-up plan it is therefore important to find out the type of trade your activity is classified as (regulated trade, regulated trade including prior reliability check, free trade).
What conditions have to be met?
General conditions for a trade licence:
- Austrian or EEA/EU citizenship
- Natural person with legal capacity (19+ years of age)
- No grounds for exclusion (e.g. financial offence, court sentence)
- Business location and, if required, facility permit
Special conditions for a trade licence:
The admission requirements for each regulated trade (this includes those trades expressly mentioned as crafts in the list of trades) are laid down in decrees (Verordnungen). If such proof of qualification cannot be provided, the authority must verify, on the basis of the required certificates of completed training and previous activities, whether the applicant has the requisite knowledge, skills and experience. If the result is positive, the authority must in that case recognise individual qualification, which may be limited to single activities of the trade concerned.
Types of proof of qualification required:
- Free trade (freies Gewerbe): no proof of qualification needed
- Regulated trade (reglementiertes Gewerbe): various types of proof of qualification; possibly combination of training, exams and practical experience
- Semi-trade (Teilgewerbe): simplified proof of qualification
For information about the specific conditions for the individual types of trade, about the possibility of obtaining an individual certificate of qualification in cases of unusual training careers (formerly: leniency), as well as about the new possibilities offered by the 2002 amendment to the Trade Act (Gewerbeordnung – GewO), please contact:
- the “Business Start-up” service of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs,
- the Start-up Service of the Economic Chambers (only available in German),
- the legal departments of the Economic Chambers,
- the district offices of the Economic Chambers,
- the competent district commission or municipal authority (trade authority).
What do I have to do to obtain a trade licence?
Registration of trades:
A trade licence is required for each trade activity. The district authority or the municipal authority (in chartered cities) is responsible for accepting trade registrations. This is now the only authority that needs to be contacted when wishing to start up a business (one-stop shop).
Registration can be done personally, in writing or electronically. In Vienna, for example, by using the following link Trade registration in Vienna.
The registration must indicate the type of trade, the business’s location as well as details about the applicant. The following documents need to be submitted, unless the authority can access them by electronic means: birth certificate, proof of registration, proof of citizenship and proof of qualification (e.g. final apprenticeship examination, master craftsman’s certificate, etc.). In the case of corporations, a current extract from the companies register is also required.
With some trades, the applicant’s reliability must be verified before his or her business can be entered in the trade register (e.g. master builder, carpenter, electrical engineering, gas and sanitary engineering, pharmaceutical manufacturing, security, weapons or explosives business, collection agency, travel agency).
In the case of new businesses, simultaneous registration with the Social Insurance Institution for Trade and Industry (SVA) and with the internal revenue office, as well as registration of employees with the regional health insurance funds (GKK) is required.
Additional information for start-ups:
New Companies Promotion Act (Neugründungsförderungsgesetz – NeuFöG) (Federal Law Gazette II No 483/2002): For businesses started after 2 May 1999 and company successions after 1 January 2002, certain relaxed requirements with regard to public charges apply. The NeuFöG had already provided for extensive tax relief and tax exemptions for business start-ups. The 2002 Economic Stimulus Act (Konjunkturbelebungsgesetz 2002 – KBG; Federal Law Gazette I No 68/2002) largely extended the existing tax relief measures to company successions. As of 1 January 2002 they are exempt from stamp and court fees, land transfer tax (up to € 75,000) and from capital duty. A decree issued to supplement the NeuFöG guarantees that, as of the beginning of 2004, these tax exemptions can be claimed in advance.
Entry in the trade register:
In the age of e-government the trade licence certificate has become obsolete. It has been replaced by an extract from the trade register. If the relevant conditions are met, the authority must enter the registrant in the trade register within three months from their legally valid registration, and notify them of the entry by sending them an extract from the trade register.