How to set up a business in Austria

How to start or buy a ready-made business in Austria: peculiarities of business etiquette, forms of ownership, office and premises rental.

July 1, 2020

If you are looking for an excellent location abroad to set up your company, Austria is the one of the perfect places to build new business relationships as its economy is considered to be one of the most stable ones around the world.

If you are a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area, then you can open a business with no special visas or permits required. If you are from a third country, it is better to prepare yourself well in advance to know all the key success factors.

Business culture in Austria

Business Culture in Austria can be described with the following things: business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.

In all areas of business and private life, perfectionism is highly respected and achieving objectives is paramount.

Following established rules is necessary to building and maintaining business relationships. Following an established protocol is critical to building and maintaining business relationships.

  1. The official language in Austria is German. It is preferable to hold all negotiations in German.
  2. Appointments are necessary and should be made three to four weeks in advance either in writing or by phone.
  3. Business meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times. Punctuality is extremely important and arriving right on time is usually interpreted as being late. It is highly rude to cancel a meeting at the last minute and it could ruin your business relationship. Objectives and deadlines are usually kept.
  4. It is necessary to greet everyone at meetings and negotiations not only with the head of the delegation, but also with all its members. Better to do it with a quick, firm handshake. Business cards are given to everyone. The vcard must contain information about yourself in German with a list of positions and academic titles.
  5. The Austrian dress code is conservative and follows most European conventions. Men usually wear dark coloured, conservative business suits with white shirts. Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
  6. Business meals are also a possible way to establish a personal acquaintance, but actual business is not conducted during lunch or dinner. The person who extends the invitation pays the bill in a restaurant.

Business immigration to Austria

There are only a few legal ways to get a business visa for those who are not a holder of an EU country passport, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area. For the citizens from other countries can be different requirements. Here is an overview of a most common application that is needed:

Invitation from an Austrian company as an employee or manager.

The visa is issued for a period of no more than one year and is subject to renewal. At the same time, not only a specialist of a narrow profile can come to the country on a work visa, but also a handyman who does not have any specialty at all. There is a shortage of ordinary workers.

Relocation of well-off citizens.

If a foreigner has their own housing on the territory of the country, a Bank account in the amount of 80 thousand euros per person, then they can come to live in Austria. The amount of 45 thousand euros is enough for children. The account must be opened either directly in Austria or in one of the EU countries. To do this, you need to prove your knowledge of the German language with certificates, at least A1.

Investment in the country.

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Business visa applying

Those citizens who are not a holder of an EU country passport, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area must provide the following additional documents, when to obtain an Austrian Business visa applying:

  • Invitation letter from the Austrian company you will be visiting and their detailed address accompanied with the dates of your visit.
  • A certificate from your employer. In this letter should be stated why you will be travelling to Austria.
  • Business bank statement. Preferably for the last 6 months.
  • Memorandum and Article of Association. It should be submitted in original certified copy (registered with joint stock companies).
  • Trade License (first issued and present renewal).
  • Proof of trip financing. Regarding the applicant's expenses during their stay in Austria, either the employer or the partner company must state coverage of expenses on the letter or invitation.

Depends on which country you came from the rules can be different.

Types of businesses in Austria

There are few types of business in Austria and each of them has its own pros and cons.The main forms of business organisations in Austria are described below.

Sole proprietor (Einzelunternehmer)

The easiest way to establish business is to set up as a sole proprietor.It is a form of doing business in which an individual takes all the risks, but also receives all the profit from the activity. The sole proprietor is obliged to pay off his debts, even if he has to sell his property. Can work independently or hire staff. Registration of sole proprietorships in the Austrian CommercialRegister (Firmenbuch) is only legally required if, during two successive fiscal years, the sole proprietor generated a turnover of more than € 700,000 per two fiscal years, or more than €1,000,000 in a single fiscal year. However, sole proprietors may voluntarily register in the Commercial Register, even where these requirements do not apply. You can engage in business activities if you obtain a special license. If your education and previous occupation are far from what you are going to do now, then you need to hire a third-party person who has a license. The manager must have the necessary qualifications.

Limited Liability Company (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH))

  1. The limited liability company (GmbH) is one of the most popular forms of business organisations in Austria. It can be established by one or more individuals as well as by legal entities, resident or non-resident, Austrian or foreign citizens. Shareholder liabilities are restricted to their subscribed share capital. Generally, the minimum share capital of a GmbH is EUR35,000.
  2. The capital contribution of each shareholder must be at least EUR70; non-cash contributions are also possible. Each shareholder can only hold one share in a GmbH.

Joint-Stock Corporation (Aktiengesellschaft)

A joint-stock corporation (Aktiengesellschaft (AG)) can be established by one or more shareholders. The minimum share capital is EUR70,000. Contributions in kind are also possible. Shareholders may be individuals or companies. The liability is restricted to the equity capital subscribed by each member. The AG comes into legal existence at the time of its registration in the company's register. The shares of an AG may be listed on a stock exchange. The share capital can be divided either in par-value or non-par-value shares. Each par-value share must have at least a nominal value of EUR1 or a multiple of it. The structure of an AG consists of an executive board (Vorstand), appointed by a non-executive, separate supervisory board (Aufsichtsrat), whose main role is to supervise the executive board. The supervisory board is generally elected by the shareholders' meeting (Hauptversammlung). The AG's employees have the right to delegate their members to the supervisory board (generally a third of the supervisory board's members) due to co-determination rights.

European Company (SE)

It is a type of joint-stock corporation regulated by EU law. The minimum capital of an SE is EUR120,000. The organisational structure is more flexible than that of an Austrian AG, as the board can be organised following a single-tier or a two-tier system. The shares of an SE may be listed on a stock exchange.An SE is incorporated in one EU member state and may have branches in other member states. The fact that an SE can operate more easily under a single legal entity facilitates cross-border transactions; the ability to move freely within the EU also has the benefit of permitting companies to move their headquarters with a minimum of formalities.

Partnerships (Personengesellschaften)

A partnership (Personengesellschaft) can be established by at least two parties agreeing on a certain legal objective. In general, the partnership agreement does not need to be in written or notarised form, but written contracts are common. There are different types of partnerships, as follows.

General partnership (OG)

A general partnership can be established for any legal purpose by at least two shareholders, individuals or legal entities. The shareholders are personally, directly and jointly liable without limitation for any debts of the company, extending to their entire private assets. The OG must be registered in the companies register to be established. Every shareholder is individually authorised to manage and represent the OG (except as agreed otherwise between the shareholders).

Limited partnership (KG)

A limited partnership consists of at least two partners, at least one limited partner (Kommanditist) and at least one general partner (Komplementär). The general partner has unlimited liability for the partnership's debts like a shareholder of an OG, whereas the limited partner is liable only up to their contractually agreed amount of liability which is registered in the companies register (Haftsumme). The power of representation and management of the KG only applies to the general partner(s), whereas the limited partner is generally excluded from the management of the partnership.

A quite common legal form of an Austrian business organization is a hybrid between a limited partnership and a private limited company, the so-called 'GmbH & Co KG', whereby the general partner is a limited liability company (GmbH).

Civil-Law partnership (GesbR)

A civil-law partnership can be founded between two or more shareholders. In practice they are often used for single-project joint ventures. The GesbR has no separate legal entity and is not registered in the companies register. A GesbR that exceeds a yearly turnover of EUR700,000 in two subsequent fiscal years or EUR1 million in a single fiscal year must be registered in the companies register as a general partnership or a limited partnership.

Branch Office (Zweigniederlassung)

A non-resident business organisation can do business in Austria either through a local subsidiary (GmbH or AG) or through a branch office. Austrian branch offices of foreign legal entities are required to register with the Austrian companies register. Evidence of the existence of the foreign legal entity must be provided by means of an official document.

Business taxes in Austria

The income tax rate is 25%.

VAT is charged at the rate of 20%. The VAT rate has been reduced to 10% for vital goods.Should be noted: if the company did not operate at all during the reporting period, this does not exempt it from paying taxes at all. Business owners have to transfer 1750-3500 euros to the budget.

For the non-resident company it only counts income received within the state.

First year after the company was established the tax rate is only 2.5%.VAT should be paid also for:

  • services within the country;
  • import of goods from non-EU countries.

Taxes can be reduced in extreme situations like natural hazards.

Real estate investment in Austria

Real estate market is a large and dynamically developing market. About 65% of the population of Vienna live in rental housing. Apartment buildings in Austria, and most of all in Vienna, are constantly growing in price. Apartment buildings in Austria can be restored and sanitized, which increases their cost and rental rate per square meter. In addition, at the top of the apartment building, you can add another attic floor, make penthouses there and sell them at a good price. These square meters will be exactly more expensive than the first floors of the house. Investing in real estate in Austria is a profitable investment. Foreigners can buy real estate, but you should know all the specifics of the law. More information about how to buy real estate in Austria you can find here.

Rent office space in Austria

In Austria, you can choose the type of rental depending on the needs of the business. There are 2 types of commercial real estate rentals.

  1. Rental (Miete). Usual form for renting commercial real estate.
  2. Lease (Pach). Rent equipped real estate with the right to profit.

In Austria, and especially in Vienna, there is no shortage of commercial real estate for rent. You can rent a beautiful office in the city center, or a fully equipped business premises. For example, in Vienna old town there is a fully equipped french restaurant Kuchlmastere for rent. The restaurant was open in 1975. Therefore, in Austria you can easily rent space with the history, reputation and customers.To find a suitable room and sign an agreement, you need the help of specialists. In Austria, there is no practice of doing this yourself.


  1. Austria is an attractive country to set up a business due to its stable economy considered one of the most stable ones around the world.
  2. Following the rules of business culture is extremely important.
  3. Foreign businesspersons have the same benefits as native residents. The government stands for equal opportunities and healthy competition among all segments of society.
  4. Law protects business.
  5. There are different types of business organizations in Austria, each having its pros and cons.
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Anna Pilnikova
Real estate agent