In the establishment phase of a company - and prior to assumption of commercial activities - a company only has to be registered in the public commercial register (Handelsregister) and the local trade office (Gewerbe-/Ordnungsamt). The registration creates transparency and also offers companies the highest level of security in their day-to-day business activities.
The commercial register (Handelsregister) provides information about all relevant relationships between merchants and commercial companies. The information is public and can be viewed by other companies. The commercial register contains information about:
- The company of the business
- The name of the partner(s) and/or the personally liable partner(s)
- The managing director or the executive of corporations
- The capital stock of companies
- Liability limitations of partners
- The issuing and revoking of the power of attorney
- The opening of insolvency proceedings
- The dissolving and ending of a company
Companies Required to Register
Companies required to register are those which carry out a commercial business operation. This is determined by criteria such as the use of commercial accounting, annual turnover, capital resources and total number of employees. As a rule, all status relevant actions of companies are subject to registration.
Small businesses, civil partnerships (GbRs), freelancers and dependent branch offices do not have to be registered in the commercial register.
The application for registration in the commercial register is electronically filed in publicly certified form by a notary to the responsible commercial register.
A a rule, with types of company in which the entry in the commercial register is part of the act of establishment, the possible limitation of liability of the parnter(s) is only effective subsequent to the time of the entry in the commercial register. If business is carried out prior ro this point in time, partners can be liable for any losses of the company with their private assets (especially the case with corporations).
The total cost of entry in the commercial register varies depending on the type of company. Costs incurred are made up of costs of the notarial certification and the fees charged by the district court for entry and publication in the Federal Gazette (Bundesanzeiger).
The cost for registration and publication in the commercial register for a partnership is currently EUR 250 minimum. For a GmbH, this amount is at least EUR 400, and for an AG at least EUR 500. Additional costs are incurred through the use of a notary.
The costs and fees are not levied on an arbitrary basis but are regulated by law. They largely depend on the number of partners and the share capital. Further costs can be incurred by the provision of additional legal advice.
The Federal Chamber of German Civil Law Notaries (Bundesnotarkammer) provides information about the exact composition and level of notary costs on its internet site. Here, companies can also find a German notary.
Commercial Register Display
The commercial register is managed by the district court where it is open to public view at no cost. In addition to this, the register can also be consulted online through the common register portal of the German federal states (Gemeinsames Registerportal der Länder).
Some of the company data which is stored in the commercial register is also available electronically through the commercial register of the Federal Gazette (Bundesanzeiger).