Starting a self-employed (independent) trade or business normally requires only notification of the trade or business to the competent Chamber of Industry and Commerce or Chamber of Crafts or to the competent local authorities of the community wherein the occupational activities are to be carried out (cf. Article 14 Para. 1 Page 1 of the German Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act - GewO). The set-up of vending machines of every description as a self-employed (independent) business requires notification to the competent public authorities in charge of the head office (cf. Article 14 Para. 3 German Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act - GewO).
The term "trade or business" shall be deemed to include any non-socially invalid (i.e. non-prohibited), profit-aimed and long-term self-employed (independent) occupational activity with the exception of initial production (e.g. agriculture ), the liberal professions (independent scientific, artistic and literary activities of an advanced nature as well as personal services requiring higher education) and the pure management and utilization of personal assets.
The duty to notify shall apply to any natural person (including e.g. the members of a partnership or shareholders of a joint stock company) or to any legal entity starting a trade or business (head office) as well as the start of operation of a branch office or dependent branch.
Trades or businesses requiring an official authorization (e.g. real-estate agents, the hotel and restaurant industry) as well as skilled craft activities require both notification of the trade or business plus an additional permit by and/or registration in the Register of Craftsmen.
Although certain trades or businesses do not require an official authorization, they are subject to supervision of their activities by the public authorities (the so-called trade or businesses requiring official authorization acc. to. § 38 of the German Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act - GewO). This applies notably to the following branches of trade or industry:
1) The purchase and sale of
a) High-quality consumer goods, particularly consumer electronics, computers, optical products, cameras, video cameras, carpets, fur and leather garments;
b) Motor vehicles and bicycles;
c) Precious metals and precious metal-containing alloys as well as goods made of precious metals or precious metal-containing alloys;
d) Gemstones, pearls, and jewelry; or
e) Metal scrap, unless referred to under Letter c, by trades or businesses specialized in the second-hand goods trade;
2) Provision and reporting of information on financial circumstances or personal matters (credit agencies, detective or investigative agencies);
3) Brokering of marriages, partnerships, and acquaintanceships;
4) Operation of travel agencies and brokering of accommodations;
5) Sale and installation of building security installations including lock-and-key services; and
6) Manufacture and selling of special theft-related opening tools.
In case of registration of a trade or business requiring special supervision, the respective tradesperson's or businessperson's reliability will be investigated immediately. The applicant is therefore under obligation to apply for issuance of a certificate of good conduct (cf. Article 30, Para. 5 of the Federal Central Register Law) and an extract from the Federal Central Register Law (cf. Article 150 Para. 5 of the German Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act - GewO) for presentation to the competent public authority.
All foreign applicants are under obligation to produce comparable written certificates of reliability (i.e. an official certificate of good conduct or a certificate of good character or an extract from the police records of its home country or an equivalent official document). If it can be safely presumed, based on the foreign national's prior residence, that any facts relevant under trade law will no longer or not yet be contained in said official certificates and supporting documents, the need for presentation of the foreign and/or German certificates may be waived.
The duty to notify shall apply to commercial traveling activities requiring an itinerant trade license. However, the duty to notify may apply to certain activities not requiring an itinerant trade license (e.g. sale of printed publications in public places, sale of foodstuffs from non-stationary points of sale) (cf. Article 55c of the German Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act - GewO).
Each registration of a trade or business must be made in writing, using the standard form provided. Receipt of the registration of a trade or business will be acknowledged by the competent public authority.
Every registration of a trade or business will also be notified to other authorities (e.g. the Internal Revenue Service, Chamber of Crafts and Skilled Trades, or Chamber of Industry and Commerce).