Single persons as petty traders (Kleingewerbetreibende Einzelpersonen)

Business registration

The simplest form of founding an enterprise is business registration with the competent authority. Registration forms are available there. Registration is exclusively in the first name and surname of the entrepreneur. The trade office examines whether permission is necessary to exercise the trade according to trade law directives.


To start a new business in Germany as a non-European citizen you have to obtain the necessary documents and licenses to prove that you have the appropriate authorization to do so.

Anyone not making a business registration or not naming it correctly, completely or in good time acts in breach of public order. Fines or compulsory administrative measures can be imposed.

The trade files of the trade offices are not public registers. Thus, insight by private persons is not possible. However, the trade authorities mainly give information about the name, the operating address and the activity exercised by the trade company upon request. A legal claim to such information does not exist.



Traders for whom no corporate name has been entered in the Register of Commerce must state their surname with at least one complete first name as well as the address under which they can be summonsed (i.e. the business address and not merely a P.O. Box) on all letterheads. This applies to the entire business dealings, also including telefax correspondence, invoices, orders etc. and also business letters by e-mail. Supplementary additions such as the description of the business activity, logos or similar can be admissible. Clarification of the specific design or way of use with the competent Chamber of Commerce and Industry can be recommendable.

The duty to state the correct name primarily serves protection of creditors. If a petty trade company were only to appear under the designation “ABC Real Estate” and moves its headquarters afterwards, it could hardly be found again under this designation by creditors, as there is no registration in a public register under this designation. For this reason, the name of the entrepreneur may also not be established.


Business and establishment designations

They do not designate the trader himself, but, for example, the business premises. For example, shops, restaurants, bars, kiosks, chemists’ shops etc. are customarily provided with their own names  (German examples: "Käthes Wollstübchen", "Sonnenapotheke"). They may not be confusing (e.g. “Frankfurt Shoe Shop” for a small shoe business). Business designations which are individual and as creative as possible additionally characterise the enterprise alongside the trader’s real name. For example, they can be used on the telephone or in advertising, but are not allowed to be used as corporate names.



A petty trader is liable towards his creditors with his entire business and private assets. The risk can be kept in tolerable limits by conclusion of matching insurances.