When it comes to registration, the first step is to make sure you fall under the right category of self-employment and this article is dedicated to those who want to register as new self-employed.
New self-employed in Austria (Neue Selbständige) are those working independently who don’t need a business licence registration for their professional activity. In other words, trade regulations do not apply to new self-employed. This also means that new self-employed are not members of the Chamber of Commerce (WKO) and no membership fee applies - new self-employed have no advocacy group to whom they can turn.
They are professionals who are registered at the Tax Office (Finanzamt) and are subject to income tax, so they have to file an income tax return every year. They pay insurance contributions to the SVS, but since in their case, the social security costs depend on their gross income, they might or might not have to pay contributions. If they fall under a specific amount of gross income, their insurance contributions are voluntary - they can opt-in for health, accident, and pension insurance. The possibility of exclusion from insurance costs is a “trademark” of this type of self-employment and probably a very attractive factor for those who want to start working on their own.
Besides all that, new self-employed can issue invoices and register for VAT as well, although this is also not obligatory under a gross revenue of 35,000€/year, as businesses with this amount of annual revenue fall under the “small business regulation”. There is also a possibility of cooperating with other self-employed. Examples of new self-employed in Austria are:
psycho- and physiotherapists.
Other characteristics and groups of new self-employed are :
they mostly use their own operating resources,
persons with work contracts who are not members of the Chamber of Commerce (service has been agreed for work contracts),
limited working partners,
personally liable partners of partnerships,
managing partners of a GmbH (a limited liability company) if they are not insured as employees.
Deadline for the registration
You officially become new self-employed the moment you start conducting a business that falls under the category of new self-employment. Registration works as a notification to all the relevant authorities that you started your activity. It’s your duty to register and there are certain deadlines as well as penalties for missing them.
For new self-employed, it’s mandatory to register at the Austrian Tax Office (Finanzamt) and the Austrian Insurance Institution for Self-employed (SVS). In both cases, the deadline is 4 weeks from starting the professional activity. Our recommendation is to do it earlier though - it’s best to do so right away - because the process sometimes requires waiting for some activation letters (e.g., Finanzonline account, mobile phone signature). Besides that, you should remember that registering and clarifying your situation with the relevant authorities doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have any insurance or tax costs. This is a separate topic that will be explained in detail in the articles committed to taxes and insurance for self-employed individuals and right now we are only talking about your duty of notifying the relevant authorities which are the Tax Office and the SVS.
1. Tax Office
If you are willing to go through the whole process online, you should start with the Tax Office (if you don’t have any Austrian social security number yet, start your registration with point 3 - the SVS, then the tax Office and point 2 - mobile signature - currently the online registration form at the website of the Tax Office requires filling-out a security number). First, open the Finanz Online, the official portal of the Austrian Tax Office, click on the “Online Erstanmeldung” button, and fill in all the required information. Within about ten business days, you should receive access data by mail - your Login, PIN, and password - to your Finanz Online account.
Once you obtain all the information and are ready to log in, you can request your tax number via the Finanz Online platform as well, all you have to do is to click on “Weitere Services” (more services) in your admin panel and choose “Erklärungswechsel“ (this form applies if you earn income from self-employment only). On the basis of your information, the tax office decides whether you will be assessed for tax purposes, i.e. receive a tax number, or be kept on record. When filling out the following form you should also pay attention to the following fields: “estimated annual turnover in the following year”, “estimated profit in the opening year”, “estimated profit in the following year” and make sure that all the other personal data you provided are 100% correct.
If you have filed a voluntary tax return before (“freiwillige Arbeitnehmerveranlagung”), you already have a tax number and the number itself will be the same. Yet, it will be opened up for a (statutory) income tax return and possibly also for a VAT return, depending on the details given in the questionnaire. If you do not hear back from Finanzonline within 5-10 business days, it is recommended to call your tax office and ask if they need more information.
2. Requesting mobile phone signature
When you have your mobile phone signature activated everything becomes easier and faster, like for example, signing official documents. With the signature, you can also gain access to your SVS Online account and easily register at USP Portal (the Austrian portal for entrepreneurs explained at the end of the article).
If you already have access to your Finanz Online account, applying for a mobile phone signature is very easy. You just have to log in to your Finanz Online and on the right side you will see “Aktivierung Handy-Signatur”. Within a few clicks, you will apply for the activation and all you have to do is to wait for the activation letter to arrive at your address. Besides Finanz Online there are also other ways to register for mobile phone signature:
- at one of the registration offices throughout Austria,
- activation with an existing citizen card or cell phone signature
- online banking
You will find all the necessary information about the registration at E-trust.at.
3. Registering at the SVS
You can proceed with the registration at the SVS once you get your mobile phone signature but that's not the only way. There is also an option of filling out an online registration form and then printing it out and sending by mail or saving it as an electronic document and sending it by email - both ways possible without the mobile phone signature.
You begin with opening the SVS portal and selecting “Forms & Applications” (“Formulare & Anträge”). By getting there you can deal with every possible situation related to the SVS. You will find all required forms and that’s “the way to do it” with the SVS - via forms. The form you are searching for right now is located in the category “Insurance & contribution” ( “Versicherung & Beitrag”) and is called “Insurance registration for traders, new self-employed and freelancers” (“Versicherungsanmeldung für Gewerbetreibende, Neue Selbständige und Freiberufler”). While filling out this form, you mostly want to pay attention to the “estimated profit in the upcoming year” field, because this will be related to your costs (whether your profit is going to be lower or higher than 5.710,32€/year - if your profit is below 5.710,32€/year there is a possibility of opting in for health and accident insurance).
Once you’re registered, it’s a good idea to open your SVS Online Account where you have access to your bills, and all the information related to your contributions.
Registration by mail
At the Tax Office, you can register and request a tax number by filling out the form Verf24 (English version of the Verf24). Form Verf24 is a more complex form than the one available at FinanzOnline because with Verf24 you have the possibility of mentioning all the other types of activities and employment that you are engaged in, in the current year. All you have to do then is print it out and send it to the Tax Office.
On this website, you can find all the tax offices in Austria by clicking on the map. When it comes to the SVS, there is the possibility of filling out and printing the form called “insurance registration for traders, new self-employed and freelancers" (“Versicherungsanmeldung für Gewerbetreibende, Neue Selbständige und Freiberufler”) that you can find on the SVS Portal.
Don’t forget to send the forms as a registered mail (eingeschriebener Brief), which is also our recommendation when it comes to sending any sort of correspondence to the SVS, Finanzamt, or other offices in Austria.
It’s a so-called “collection portal” that is planned to become a central platform for public administration in Austria. The platform can be used by all self-employed for filing tax returns, receiving official documents and news (for example news related to your SVS contributions), viewing e-bills, submitting funding applications, filling out different e-forms, and more. As of 1st January 2020, registration at the portal is required from some businesses so it’s a good idea to make a phone call with the USP Portal and discuss your case. To register you need a mobile phone signature and Finanz Online account, although the registration is also possible with the form FON1.
The following article is a fragment of chapter 3 - "Registration" in "A complete guide to self-employment in Austria | New self-employed | Edition 2021"
Hungry for more?
Learn how to handle taxes as a new self-employed.
Read about the social insurance for new self-employed.