Updated on 10/6/2022
Austrian Trade Licence
In Austria, a business activity under scope of the Austrian Trade Act (Gewerbeordnung - GewO) may only be exercised on the basis of a corresponding authorization. If the exercise of such business is intended, it must be registered with the competent local trade authority. The right to exercise such business is personal which means that it cannot be transferred to another person.
Commercial activity is understood to be an independent, non-prohibited activity, which is carried out on a regular basis and consists in the production of commercial goods or the provision of services. In addition, the activity must be performed with the intention to generate income therefrom.
In Austria, a basic distinction is made between two types of business for which a trade license can be obtained: Free (unregulated) trade businesses and regulated trade businesses. A special case are trade businesses in the form of an industrial enterprise.
The general requirements for obtaining a trade license include (i) self-authorization (legal capacity, i.e. completion of the 18th year of age), (ii) citizenship of a member state of the EU or another EEA member state or a residence permit for carrying on a business, and (iii) the absence of grounds for exclusion (e.g. previous convictions for certain economic offences such as grossly negligent impairment of creditors' interests or fraudulent bankruptcy offence, other criminal offences with a sentence of imprisonment of more than 3 months or a fine of more than 180 daily rates and insolvency proceedings that have not been opened or that have been cancelled due to lack of cost-covering assets).
Free trade businesses may be carried out without a special certificate of competence and in compliance with the general requirements. Some of those free trade businesses are, however, subject to specific regulations (e.g. trade, employment agencies and services in automatic data processing and information technology). A free trade business may be exercised immediately after the registration process is completed.
Regulated trade businesses are such businesses which are explicitly listed in the GewO. In said cases, in addition to the general requirements, a certificate of competence is also required to be able to carry out the trade business in question. This certificate can be obtained in various ways, in particular by presenting certificates of master craftsman's diploma or qualifying examination, an apprenticeship certificate or a degree. In addition, there is the possibility of an individual certificate of competence, in which the relevant skills and knowledge are acknowledged by the competent public authority. Special regulations exist for persons who have completed a vocational training in an EU/EEA member state. Foreign certificates are regarded as proof of qualification if this is provided for in international treaties or by Austrian federal regulations. The certificate of competence is intended to ensure that the trade representative has the relevant technical or legal and commercial knowledge, skills and experience. A special feature of the certificate is that it is issued for associated trade businesses, i.e. trade businesses that are composed of two or more regulated trade businesses. In such case it is sufficient if the trade representative has only provided the full certificate of competence for one trade.
If the desired trade business is to be carried out within the framework of a sole proprietorship, the certificate of competence must be provided by the proprietor. For legal entities (AG, GmbH) a trade representative must be nominated
For trade businesses carried out in the form of an industrial company, no certificate of qualification is required. Exceptions are, among others, arms trade and production. The existence of an industrial enterprise is determined by the predominance of certain characteristics such as high capitalization, serial production, extensive division of labor and high numbers of employees.
The trade license is generally valid from the day of registration with the competent public authority (i.e. the administrative authority competent for the district in which the business is located), provided that all requirements are met. The business that is intended to be carried out must be precisely identified in the registration and the intended location of the business must be stated.
In special cases (e.g. arms trade) the reliability of the applicant will be checked by the authority and established by decree. In such case, the trade license becomes valid with legal effect of the decree. No registration fees are charged for notifications and submissions to the public authority.
In Austria, a trade business registration may be done in person, by mail, by fax, but also by e-mail or online. The specific form in which the registration can be made depends on the respective authority. Should the business be located in Vienna, an online registration form is available on the website of the City of Vienna.
Link to the online form (German): Gewerbeanmeldung
Reasons for the termination of the trade license include inter alia the death of the owner, dissolution of the registered partnership, and the withdrawal of the license. A trade license may be withdrawn in particular due to serious violations of legal regulations which must be observed when carrying out the trade business in question.
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