Licence to trade
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Activities performed commercially – in other words independently, regularly and to obtain a profit – are covered by the 1994 Trade Licence Act. Exceptions to this include farming, forestry and mining. Independent professionals such as doctors, notaries and pharmacists are not subject to the Trade Licence Act, but are governed by other laws. Private tuition is not subject to the Act either.
A licence to trade is required to carry on a business in Austria. A copy of the entry in the Austrian Business Licence Information System (GISA) (digital business licence) is sufficient proof of a licence to trade.
Any undertaking intending to carry on a business
- Austrian citizenship, EU/EEA citizenship or Swiss citizenship; third-country nationals may also acquire a licence to trade under certain conditions,
- legal capacity (aged 18 years or above, no legal guardianship),
- no grounds of exclusion (for example fiscal offences, court convictions or insolvency without realisable assets).
- For each regulated business, (section 94 GewO 1994) there are corresponding regulations that define the respective admission requirements for obtaining the required certificate of competence.
- If it is not possible to obtain this certificate of competence, the responsible authority must check, on the basis of the documents relating to previous training and activities that are to be provided, whether there is evidence of the required knowledge, skills and experience. In the event of a positive assessment, the authority must confirm the existence of individual competence for the business in question, albeit restricted to sub-activities.
Managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law
- If a sole proprietor is unable to acquire the certificate of competence themselves, they must appoint a managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law who holds a certificate of competence (for the derogation applying to chimney sweeps, see section 122 (1) GewO 1994). Sole proprietors are also free to appoint a managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law even where there is no obligation for them to do so. However, a managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law must always be appointed in the case of legal persons, for instance corporations, and registered partnerships. In the case of regulated businesses, this managing director must also be able to provide the certificate of competence.
There are no specific deadlines to be observed.
The competent business authority in the place where the business is located:
- The district authorityGerman text
- in chartered urban districts: the municipal executiveGerman text,
- in Vienna: depending on the type of business, the → office of the Municipal District Authority or Department MA 63German text
The business must be registered with the competent business authority in the place where the business is located. Most businesses can start trading as soon as they have been registered, apart from "Section 95 businesses", which cannot start trading until the decision granting the licence becomes final. Securities broking, credit intermediation and insurance mediation activities cannot begin until they have been registered in the GISA.
A licence to trade is created when the first business is registered and remains valid while it covers at least one business. If other businesses are carried on, a distinction is made between unregulated and regulated businesses.
- Any other unregulated business can be activated by notification.
- Other regulated businesses must also be registered.
The business authority enters the registrant in the Austrian Business Licence Information System and certifies this by providing a copy of the entry. If the trader notifies the authority that it intends to carry on another unregulated business, and if it meets all the requirements, the authority must register the business in the GISA system and inform the notifying party that this has been done, for example by sending a copy of the GISA entry.
In general, these rules also apply to entrepreneurs from EU Member States in Austria.
Further information on registering a business can be found at USP.gv.at.
If the assistance of the public security services is required to enforce the Trade Licence Act, traders must present them with all of the official documents required to carry on their business for inspection if requested to do so.
An application must be made to the business authority (district administrative authority) for the following:
- issue of licences for certain professions (professional credentials, for example for tour guides, private investigators),
- confirmation of individual competence,
- disqualification dispensation,
- issue of EWR-certificates
The business authority must be notified particularly of the following changes:
- extension of the licence to trade to include an unregulated business,
- surrender of a licence to trade,
- establishment of further business premises (a branch),
- discontinuance of further business premises (a branch),
- change of location of the business / further business premises,
- succession for restructuring,
- succession for continued operation,
- change of name of a business owner who is a natural person and is not registered in the companies register,
- appointment of a (branch) managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law,
- departure of a (branch) managing director for the purposes of trade and industry law,
- suspension and resumption of the business of an insurance intermediary, real estate trustee, master builder or financial advisor.
Click here (→ BMAW) German text for an overview of all of the online procedures of the Austrian Business Licence Information System.
The documents required depend on whether the process involves registration, an application or a notification.
Costs and fees
No federal administrative levies or stamp duties are payable for registering a business, notifications and applications under the 1994 Trade Licence Act, or decisions made on the basis of the Act.
If there are any doubts as to the scope of one licence to trade compared to another, or the question arises as to whether the professional activity for which a business is being registered constitutes an unregulated or a regulated business, it is possible to request that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy issue a decision on the interpretation of the provisions of the 1994 Trade Licence Act concerning professional law.
The aim of this procedure is to find a consistent solution to contested legal issues.
The application must be made in writing (in any form technically possible) and must be substantiated, providing a precise description of the contested power. The application can be rejected if there is no serious doubt about the issue referred for a decision, or if the issue is the subject of a decision made in the last five years by the competent federal ministry, an administrative court or regional administrative court, or the Supreme Administrative Court. Otherwise the opinions of the relevant departments of the regional economic chambers must be sought. The decision is delivered in an order.
Authentication and signature
Digitally: without authentication (via the GISA) or by registering using a mobile signature or Citizen Card
Means of redress or appeal
An appeal against decisions of the district administrative authorities on matters concerning professional law can be filed with the relevant regional administrative court within four weeks.
Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy