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Berlin inspires as a creative metropolis, as a start-up hub, as a place for innovative technology and science.

What, where, how? Set up your business, step-by-step

Before starting your business in Berlin you need to register it. But where can you do that? Which offices do you have to go to and who can help you with your registration? This guide will show you how to transform your idea into a proper Berlin startup in just a few steps. The office concerned with your registration depends on the legal form you have chosen for your startup. This guide covers the course of action for the most common legal forms: GmbH, GbR, UG and Limited. You can find a detailed list of all legal forms for startups here. You can always turn to ea.berlin (Point of Single Contact), a Berlin organisation that helps you in solving the most urgent problems by providing you with a service to register 24/7.

How to register a GmbH or UG

The GmbH and the UG are limited liability companies. Both have the advantage that in case of debt, founders are not personally liable. The downside is the more complex process of setting it up.

  1. Open an account at a bank of your choice. You will need it to present your equity capital to the trade register.
  2. Register your company with the trade register (“Handelsregister”). This will ensure legal certainty and protect your startup’s name. To register you need the company contract and a notary to certify it. If you need help finding a notary in Berlin, contact the chamber for industry and commerce (“IHK”). The cost for registration varies from 200 to 700 euros.
  3. Register your company with the trade office (“Gewerbeamt”). For this you need a valid ID or passport and the extract from the trade register. If you are opening a restaurant, selling electronics or else, you need more permissions which you also have to show. The costs at the trade office are between 10 and 40 euros.
  4. The tax office (list of offices in Berlin) will subsequently provide you with a tax number. If you have employees, you must also apply for a company number there.
  5. Register your startup at the local Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) or Chamber of Skilled Crafts (HKW).
  6. Register with the professional association (“Berufsgenossenschaft”).
  7. If everything has worked out, you can get started within a few days.

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How to register a GbR?

The GbR is a partnership. The liability lies with the founder. Your advantage: it’s fairly simple to set up.

  1. Register your company at the trade office. Generally, all you need is your valid ID or passport. Depending on your business, you need additional authorisations. Presenting the company contract between the founders might also be of advantage, but in general it’s not necessary. Registration costs approximately 20 euros.
  2. After the registration the tax office will send you a tax number. As with the GmbH or UG, if you have employees, you also need to register them with the tax office.
  3. Register your company with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) or the Chamber of Skilled Crafts (HKW).
  4. Register with the professional association (“Berufsgenossenschaft”).
  5. That was it! Now you can get started.

How to register a Limited?

The Limited (Ltd.) is a UK legal form and is also liable in Germany. It belongs to the group of corporations and is similar to the German UG.

  1. Register your company with the British company register. For this you need a postal address in the UK. The place of business can be chosen within the EU, though. The British government describes on its website how to register. The registration is frequently handled by specialized service providers who require an annual fee of several hundred euros for the registration. To register, you need the Momorandum of Association and the Articles of Association.
  2. Register a branch with the Berlin Trade Register. The procedure is similar to that of other branches (for example a German company). For further information ask the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
  3. Now you can start your business in Berlin. But beware of possible changes in the contract relations between GB and EU due to Brexit. Therefore, it is worth considering to use the German legal form UG from the start.

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