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EXPLAINED: How do you wind down a self-employed business in Austria?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: How do you wind down a self-employed business in Austria?
If it's time to move on from being self-employed in Austria, there's a few steps to take before you move on to the next chapter of your work life. Photo: Tumisu / Pixabay

Leaving the country? Got a steady job offer you can’t say no to? Winding down your self-employment activities in Austria still requires taking a few bureaucratic steps.


Striking out on your own as self-employed is one of the scariest – and potentially most rewarding things – you can do. In Austria, it also comes with its own set of rules around tax and social insurance.

But there are times when – for whatever reason – it may be time to move on.

Whether it’s because you have an exciting new opportunity or things haven’t quite worked out the way you hoped due to economic pressures – winding down self-employment the right way is crucial to avoid gaps in your health and social insurance coverage in Austria.

The steps you have to take are also a bit different depending on if you are new self-employed (Freiberufler) or have a trade licence (Gewerbe) – with some steps not being necessary for new self-employed.

Trade licences are automatically cancelled if the licenced person dies or the company ceases to have financial assets.

READ ALSO: What I wish I knew before becoming ‘new self-employed’ in Austria


Resigning the trade licence or declaring it dormant

New self-employed people, like writers or speakers don’t need to go through this step, as they don’t need a trade licence.

Those who have a trade licence will need to contact their competent authority and resign it, or declare it dormant (withdrawing the licence). If you’re only winding down temporarily, advise your competent state’s Chamber of Trade and Industry (Landeskammer der Gewerblichen Wirtschaft). You can do this online or in writing. You’ll need official ID, your licence, and to fill out a form.

The form needs to contain your name, the location of the trade, designation, and GISA number. You can also declare the date you intend to resign the licence – which can be in the future. To ensure no gaps in your social insurance protections, including unemployment, health insurance, and pension eligibility, set this date for the day before whatever comes next. For example, if you’re starting a new job on January 1st set the date for your trade licence to expire as December 31st.

Once the trade licence expires, the business information will be deleted from the Austrian Business Licence Information System (GISA).

READ ALSO: What is a regulated business licence in Austria and who needs one?


Removal from company register

Sole proprietorships that are in the Austrian company register must be removed from the register if you’re winding down your business.

New self-employed do not need to do this step.

If you need to do this, you can apply to the competent court – for example the Commercial Court of Vienna (Handelsgericht Wien) or the Regional Civil Court of Graz (Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen Graz) – to have the company name removed. You can do this online for free or in writing for a fee of between €19 and €38, plus the cost of certifying you signature.

If the sole proprietor dies, their heirs can similarly apply to the competent court to take over.

EXPLAINED: How to register as self-employed in Austria


Notifying your health insurance

SVS health insurance fund insures all self-employed people in Austria. If you are winding down your self-employment, they’re going to need to know with about a month’s notice.

Business authorities will automatically inform SVS of any withdrawals of trade licences, so those who have resigned their trade licences can generally skip this step – unless they’ve given less than a month’s notice of the expiry of their trade licence. If that’s the case, they should also notify SVS directly.

If ending your self-employment in Austria, take care to ensure that there's no gaps in your health insurance coverage, by giving SVS the right date for when you're ceasing activity. You don't want to be caught without coverage. Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

Because new self-employed people don’t need a trade licence, they will have to complete this step and inform SVS themselves. You can do this at an SVS office, by e-mail, or by post.

Again, it’s best to keep up your self-employed status right up until you start a new job, leave the country, or register with the unemployment office – in order to avoid gaps in your health and social insurance. You can advise SVS of the date which you want your coverage to end.

If you’re starting a job and this switching to ÖGK, the health insurance fund that covers employed people in Austria, make sure you have coverage in place with them to ensure a seamless transition.

EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance


Notifying your tax office

Everyone, regardless of self-employed status, needs to take this step of informing their local Finanzamt, or tax office, if they’re ceasing their self-employed activities – whatever their reason for doing so.

Luckily, this is a pretty easy step.

If the business closed due to insolvency, the court will automatically inform the tax office. Otherwise, you need to contact the Finanzamt by phone, in person, or online.

READ ALSO: How to prepare your Austrian tax return if you’re self-employed


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