How to register as self-employed in Austria?
Unlike other countries where one can be a freelancer without going through any formalities, Austria requires a specific registration.
The reason for that is the broad definition of who is considered an entrepreneur/business under Austrian commercial law.
An entrepreneur is anyone who conducts business. A business is any long-term activity that has economic independency, even if it does not aim to make a profit. What is more, the intent to cover expenses is enough for an activity to be deemed as a business.
When you know and understand that, it is no surprise that freelancing and self-employment require a formal registration in Austria.
To make things even more Austria, I.e., more complicated, there are various types of self-employments depending on the type of activity you will be doing.
Most freelancers need a particular business license in order to conduct business. There are two groups of business licenses that concern self-employed people– “free” ones (meaning anyone can obtain them) and “qualified” ones (only individuals with specific education and/or working experience can obtain them). You have probably heard the word “Gewerbe” already. In every-day language, that word refers to a business license. So, before you “register a Gewerbe”, you need to make sure you know which one you need and whether you are allowed to obtain it. If you fall under this category of self-employment, you are called “Gewerbetreibende” in German (operating with a business license).
Some activities don’t require a business license. Any activity that has to do with teaching, for example, is free of a business license. Another typical example is a project manager, journalist, writer, etc. If there isn’t a business license for your activity, you fall under the category “new self-employed” (Neu Selbständige in German).
If you are doing a few different things, you might need more than one license. Take a look at my article on the topic.
Once you have that sorted out, you need to inform the tax office about the start of your business operation by submitting a form called Verf24.
The last step is to register yourself with the social security fund for self-employed and freelancers. That is right, in Austria, there isn’t just one public insurance. Instead, there are a few funds and you belong to the one that fits your occupation. In this case, this is the infamous SVS (give it a year as a freelancer in Austria and you will know what I mean by “infamous”).
Take a look at the registration package I offer and get everything done correctly from the first time.