Updated: Mar 20
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The first step toward setting up your business is to make sure you fall under the right category of self-employment.
This article is dedicated to those who want to take the next step and register a free business licence and their self-employment in Austria.
In general, there are two ways of dealing with the registration: online (the recommended way as it gives you access to all the online authority channels) and the traditional way of sending a form by mail.
If you’ve already decided on the way you’re going to register you can just jump to whichever section below is more relevant for you.
Requirements & deadlines
You officially become self-employed the moment you start conducting a business classified as self-employment.
Registration works as a notification to all the relevant authorities that you started your activity. It’s your duty to register and there are certain deadlines as well as penalties for missing them.
It’s mandatory to register a free business licence once the professional activity is identified to be on this official list or once the WKO confirms such necessity.
The registration of a free business licence happens at district or city administration authorities (Bezirksverwaltungsbehörden), in Vienna, it’s a municipal district office ("Magistratisches Bezirksamt" or “MA 63”).
General requirements for sole proprietorships (natural persons) are:
18 years old, no legal adult representative (proved by submitting a copy of a passport or a personal ID)
Austrian citizenship, citizenship of a member state of the EU or unlimited residence permit required for non-EU citizens (proved by submitting a copy of a passport or a personal ID); third-country nationals need a residence permit, which allows access to the labour market, or allows self-employment (proved by submitting a copy of a residence permit)
clear record from financial crimes such as tax evasion, embezzlement etc. (criminal record certificate of the country where the applicant resided in the previous 5 years translated by a sworn translator)
absence of grounds for exclusion
For details on all possible grounds of exclusion visit this page.
Upon receipt of all application documents, the commercial activity can be started as soon as all prerequisites have been met.
After registration of your business licence, you will automatically become a member of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) and can start your activity. You can expect a lot of leaflets and letters with instructions coming to your mailbox within around 2 weeks after the registration. Additionally, an annual fee for the membership at the WKO will apply (cost depending on the type of licence).
Please note that as a company you might have to register multiple business licences - in such a situation a fee for each of them will apply. There is an exception when the additional activity you want to perform is actually related to your business licences. In this case, you don’t have to register another business licence. However, you have to be careful that this additional activity is always factually related to the main business.
The next step is registration at the Austrian Tax Office (Finanzamt) and the Austrian Insurance Institution for Self-employed (SVS). In both cases, the deadline is 4 weeks from starting the professional activity. Our recommendation is to do it right away because the process sometimes requires waiting for some activation letters (e.g., Finanzonline account, mobile phone signature).
Business licence registration
If you are willing to go through the whole process online, you should start with the business licence registration through the Austrian Business Licence Information System called GISA (Gewerbeinformationssystem Austria).
According to the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Business Location Austria is the first European country in which business registrations and other procedures in the commercial sector can be carried out electronically online.
If you have an Austrian social security number you can go ahead and register at the tax office. If you don’t have it yet, though, you have to register at the tax office through the form Verf 24 or start your registration with point 4 - the SVS, then the tax Office and then point 3 - mobile signature (currently the online registration form at the website of the Tax Office requires filling-out a security number).
To register your tax account, open FinanzOnline, the official portal of the Austrian Tax Office, click on the “Online Erstanmeldung” button and fill in all the required information. Within about ten business days, you should receive access data by mail - your Login, PIN, and password - to your Finanz Online account.
Once you obtain all the information and are ready to log in, you can request your tax number via the Finanz Online platform as well. All you have to do is to click on “Weitere Services” (more services) and chose “Erklärungswechsel“ (this form applies if you earn income from self-employment only). On the basis of your information, the tax office decides whether you will be assessed for tax purposes, i.e. receive a tax number, or be kept on record.
When filling out the following form you should pay special attention to the following fields: “estimated annual turnover in the following year”, “estimated profit in the opening year”, “estimated profit in the following year” and make sure that all the other personal data you provided are 100% correct.
If you have filed a voluntary tax return before (“freiwillige Arbeitnehmerveranlagung”), you already have a tax number and the number itself will be the same. Yet, it will be opened up for a (statutory) income tax return and possibly also for a VAT return, depending on the details given in the questionnaire. If you do not hear back from Finanzonline within 5-10 business days, it is recommended to call the tax office and ask if they need more information.
Requesting mobile phone signature
When you have your mobile phone signature activated everything becomes easier and faster, like for example, signing official documents. With the signature, you can also gain access to your SVS Online account and easily register at the USP Portal (the Austrian portal for entrepreneurs explained at the end of this article).
If you already have access to your Finanz Online account, applying for a mobile phone signature is very easy. You just have to log in to your Finanz Online and on the right side, you will see “Aktivierung Handy-Signatur'' (activation of mobile phone signature). Within a few clicks, you will apply for the activation and all you have to do is to wait for the activation letter to arrive at your address. Besides FinanzOnline there are also other ways to register for the mobile phone signature:
- in one of the registration offices throughout Austria (search for the closest office)
- with an existing citizen card or cell phone signature
- with online banking
- on Post.at
You will find all the necessary information about registration on E-trust.at.
Registering at the SVS
When you register your licence and the application is accepted, the SVS gets notified and you can expect registration forms and questionnaires coming to your address provided on the business licence registration form. However, you don’t have to wait for the letters and you can access and fill out registration forms before that happens too.
You can proceed with the registration at the SVS once you get your mobile phone signature but that's not the only way. There is also an option of filling out an online registration form and then printing it out and sending by mail or saving it as an electronic document and sending it by email - both ways possible without the mobile phone signature.
You begin with opening the SVS portal and clicking on “Formulare & Anträge” (forms and applications). In this section of the website, you will find a wide range of forms that you can use to deal with any situation related to the SVS - and that’s “the way to do it” with the SVS - via forms.
The form you are searching for right now is located in the category “Versicherung & Beitrag” (insurance & contribution) and is called “Versicherungsanmeldung für Gewerbetreibende, Neue Selbständige und Freiberufler” (insurance registration for business licence owners, new self-employed and liberal professionals). While filling out this form, you mostly want to pay attention to the “estimated profit in the upcoming year” field, because this will be related to the costs of your insurance (whether your profit is going to be lower or higher than € 5.830,20 - if your profit is below € 5.830,20/ year and the turnover under € 35.000,- there is a possibility of opting out of pension and health insurance).
Once you’re registered, it’s a good idea to open your SVS online account where you have access to your bills, and all the information related to your contributions.
Registration by mail
Registering a free business licence at relevant district or city administration authorities (Bezirksverwaltungsbehörden) can be submitted personally or in writing too. You should call or visit the responsible office in your city to gain access to forms or exact instructions on what your application should include. Keep in mind that in times of the pandemic it might take time to get an appointment.
Form Verf24 is a more complex form than the one available at FinanzOnline because with Verf24 you have the possibility of mentioning all the other types of activities and employment that you are engaged in, in the current year. All you have to do after filling it out is: print it out and send it to the Tax Office. On this website, you can find all the tax offices in Austria by clicking on the map.
In the case of the SVS, there is a possibility of filling out, printing and sending by letter the form called “Versicherungsanmeldung für Gewerbetreibende, Neue Selbständige und Freiberufler” (insurance registration for business licence owners, new self-employed and liberal professionals).
Don’t forget to send the forms as a registered mail (eingeschriebener Brief), which is also our general recommendation when it comes to sending any sort of correspondence to the SVS, Finanzamt, or other offices in Austria.
It’s a so-called “collection portal” that is planned to become a central platform for public administration in Austria. The platform can be used by all self-employed for filing tax returns, receiving official documents and news (like, for example, news on your SVS contributions), viewing e-bills, submitting funding applications, filling out different e-forms, and more. As of 1st January 2020, registration at the portal is required for some businesses so it’s a good idea to make a phone call with the USP Portal and discuss your case.
To register you need a mobile phone signature and a FinanzOnline account, although registration is also possible with the form FON1.