How to register your photography business in the KMC area in Germany

Photo by Christian Wiediger via Unsplash
Photo by Christian Wiediger via Unsplash

How to register your photography business in the KMC area in Germany

by Sarah Havens
Stripes Europe

Are you ready to take your passion for photography to the next level and start your own business? Or maybe you’re already familiar with running your photography business in a different part of the world and are now relocating to the KMC area? Dealing with German bureaucracy can be daunting, not only because there are so many rules, but if you don’t speak the language, it can be even more intimidating. But don’t you worry, I’m here to help. I’ll walk you through all the necessary steps to set you up for success to get properly registered and run your legal Photography Business here in the greater Ramstein area in Germany.

First off, I want to say thank you for setting up your business in the right legal manner. It means a lot to our photographers community and it is the only way to keep the industry alive and profitable for everyone. Running an illegal business is never to be advised and always comes with consequences that are so easy to be avoided by just following these next steps.

Until 2004, the professional photographer was a profession, which - in Germany - you were only allowed to pursue after completing three years of vocational training and obtaining a proper degree/certification. Since those limitations got lifted, everyone can simply start their photography business, no matter of education and it’s never been easier to start up your own business from the grounds. The process of getting your business set up can be roughly split in three main aspects:

  • Get registered with the chamber of commerce (Handwerkskammer)
  • Obtain your business license at your local commercial office (Gewerbeamt)
  • Get set up with the tax office (Finanzamt)

I would highly recommend finding someone who speaks German who can come with you to translate and just in case, I would always suggest bringing as many official documents as you have to show proof of identity, residence, SOFA status, etc such as:

  • Passport
  • Orders if you’re military-affiliated
  • Any proof of residence/address (a utility bill in your name or similar)

Sounds easy enough, right? So let’s look at the individual steps a bit more in-depth.

Handwerkskammer

The Handwerkskammer is the German chamber of commerce. As a photographer taking photos of clients, you will have to become a member and pay a yearly fee. The only scenario where you wouldn’t have to register with the chamber would be for example if you only took landscape or other free work/ abstract photos to sell at bazaars or online- in which case you’d be considered a freelancer. But as a family, portrait or commercial photographer, meaning your work is based on client demand, the camber would be your first step. Find your local Handwerkskammer office, for the KMC area most likely this will be the Kaiserslautern location (I’ll add all addresses in the bottom of this article). You usually don’t need an appointment but I’d recommend checking the opening hours for walk-ins. After you get set up, you pay a set-up fee and you’ll receive a small membership ID in the mail, similar to an ID which you should bring with you every time you’re on a job. The chamber also requires an annual fee, for which you will be notified via mail once a year when the fee is due. And that’s it - the first step is already done!

Gewerbeamt

The next step will be to get your business license. These will be issued by your local town hall (Rathaus), more specifically at the commercial office - the Gewerbeamt. Here you also usually don’t need an appointment, just be aware of their walk-in hours. At the commercial office, you’ll be asked if you’d like to set up your business as your main income business or as a side business, so that’s something you will have to decide for yourself ahead of time. The fee for your business license is usually below 50 € and it’s a one-time fee. You’ll be able to take home your business license the same day and you’re all set for your final step - easy!

Finanzamt

This is the scary one - the complicated one - the frustrating one - you’ll definitely want to have a professional tax advisor for this one. As a legitimate business, of course, taxes are part of it and you’ll have to file your yearly income tax return. Make sure you find someone you trust and who is familiar with German/US relations if that applies to you.

One thing you’ll have to think about is how much income you’re predicting. In Germany, there is a small business regulation, which allows you to sell your services free of the current 19% sales tax to your clients, as long as your yearly income (gross income, not profit!) is below 22.000 €. If you’re predicting your yearly income to be above this limit, you’ll have to charge the 19% sales tax and of course, return it to the tax office. But you can always start as a small business and should your income surpass the 22.500 €, you’ll automatically be notified from the tax office that you will have to start charging sales tax in the next calendar year.

Income tax can vary drastically, depending on your status. If you’re a German national, you’ll be able to take advantage of a tax break of about 9000 € as a single person but if you’re in Germany under SOFA status, every Euro of your income will be taxed. Be aware of that fact, as it can be a big hit to your business if you’re not prepared. If your business is flourishing and you’re expecting an income of over 24.500 €, be prepared for another taxation - the business tax.

It sounds very complicated and yes, it is! Absolutely the most confusing part of running a business in Germany and I definitely recommend finding a tax advisor for this last but crucial step. But don’t let this tax part scare you off - with the right advisor there is nothing to fear. Once that’s done - you’re all set up!

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a tax professional and I’m just compiling general information that’s out there, including very general rules and numbers (as of 2021) which can vary depending on your individual situation.

It might sound a bit overwhelming but it’s just part of being a legitimate business, which is always more than just taking beautiful photos. But it’s definitely doable, the chamber and commercial office can be easily taken care of within a day and for the tax part, just make an appointment with your tax advisor and they’ll take care of the rest for you. I’d recommend though, you prepare yourself for running your business by knowing what costs to expect, especially once tax season comes around.

As mentioned before, I’d recommend bringing a native speaker and enough documentation to all appointments to have proof of ID and residency. Remember, if you move or close your business, all institutions need to be notified and eventually you have to re-register your business again depending on responsible jurisdiction. Make sure to find the institutions appropriate for your individual location.

I hope this article helps you to get a grasp of the necessary steps to legitimately run your photography business in the greater KMC area and to become a contributing member of our wonderful photographer community here!

Here a few helpful addresses for the district of Kaiserslautern:

Handwerkskammer Kaiserslautern
(Chamber of Commerce)
Am Altenhof 15
67655 Kaiserslautern
0631 36770
web: www.hwk-pfalz.de
email: info@hwk-pfalz.de

Gewerbeamt Kaiserslautern
(Commercial Office Kaiserslautern)
Willy-Brandt-Platz 1
67657 Kaiserslautern
0631 365-0
web: www.kaiserslautern.de/serviceportal/dl/032344/index.html.de
email: gewerbeamt@kaiserslautern.de

Finanzamt Kaiserslautern
(tax office Kaiserslautern)
Eisenbahnstraße 56
67655 Kaiserslautern
0631 36760
web: finanzamt-kaiserslautern.fin-rlp.de/startseite
email: poststelle@fa-kl.fin-rlp.de

 

About the author: Sarah Havens is a photographer based in Germany. Her work can be found on www.sarah-havens-photography.com

Subscribe to our Stripes Europe newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, helpful PCS tips, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Europe
Pinterest: Stars and Stripes Europe
Instagram: @StarsandStripeseurope

Related Content

Recommended Content

Around the Web