Are you active as a creator either on YouTube or with your own blog or Instagram or Facebook or TikTok? It doesn't matter where – and are you now wondering whether you have to register somewhere, whether you have to register a business or whether you have to become self-employed somehow? You will get the answer in this video. Hi, my name is Melchior from Kontist Steuerberatung and if you are active as a creator and generate income with it, then you are probably also self-employed, i. e. you have to register, you have regular obligations and you have to pay taxes. When exactly that is and what you have to do exactly, we'll just take a look at it step-by-step together. Basically, you can already remember that if you intend to make a profit and do something sustainably, then you are considered self-employed in Germany.
This means, for example, if you are active on YouTube and do the affiliate program and thereby generate Adsense income or generate affiliate links that you put in the video description, then you already have an intention to make a profit, because honestly that is exactly why you do it, because you want to get money. And the whole thing also has a lasting character, because you don't just publish the video once, it also stays online for a long time, i. e. should also generate income for you in the long term and that means that you are already considered self-employed in Germany and have to register as a self-employed person. If this applies to you, then there is an important first question that you should answer before you do anything and that is whether you are a freelancer or a trader.
I have already recorded an in-depth video on this whole topic, which I will link to you in the top right-hand corner. Freelance is e.g. scientific activities, teaching activities or artistic activities. I.e. it may well be that your job is teaching or that you have a knowledge channel and are primarily scientifically active there, or that you shoot short films that are more in the field of art. Then it may well be that your self-employment is freelance. However, there is a lot of grey area and it can't be sorted that clearly, simply because the concept of the creator is still relatively new. In practice, I can tell you that you are almost always safer if you register as a tradesman, because you have the main income from some partner programs, affiliate programs or from your own products and all of that is more likely to be considered commercial.
That's why my personal recommendation is that you shouldn't worry too much about it and if you want to be sure, then choose the commercial enterprise, i. e. you should register a business and not freelance work. If your activity is commercial, then you must register a trade, i. e. you need a trade licence and thank God this has been possible online in most communities for some time now, i.
E. For example, you simply google “register a business in Berlin” and then land directly on the right page. And when you have filled it out, you will receive a so-called trade licence. To be honest, the questions you have to answer aren't that complicated either. However, there is one question where quite a few people make a mistake and that is the description of your job. You should keep it as general as possible. If you're too specific about your job, I can guarantee you today that you'll regret it in a year or two, because you'll suddenly notice that your trade licence is much too narrow and then you'll have to register your trade and complete certain activities. That's why I would suggest you describe the whole thing as much as possible, e.g. if you shoot YouTube videos, you could write web video production or you write something like online marketing services on the Internet, so somehow describe it in such a way that a typical civil servant in a trade office can understand it and as generally as possible.
By the way, your registration of self-employment is not yet complete, because you not only have to register with the trade office, but also separately with the tax office. And freelancers, by the way, so if your job is freelance, then you don't even need to register with the trade office. Then you just register with the tax office and ideally you do that via ELSTER-Online, i. e. this is also possible online and you then simply register with ELSTER-Online. This is the online portal of the tax office and you fill out the questionnaire for tax registration. This is actually relatively complicated and that's why I've shot a really detailed step-by-step guide for it. I'll link this video for you in the top right corner and you'll do that once at ELSTER-Online and a few days or weeks later you'll receive a letter with your tax number and this tax number, which you then need to issue invoices to your customers. By registering your self-employment, you are now an entrepreneur.
Sounds great and feels great, right? Unfortunately, you also have a number of obligations and the first obligation is your bookkeeping. Ideally, you have to keep bookkeeping ongoing every month, i. e. you need to record your income and record your expenses to determine your profit. You can either do this yourself with an accounting program or you can hire a tax consultant. Incidentally, they can also help you with the registration and tax registration. It is important at this point, however, that the income not only includes the money you get, but also the income in kind, i. e. if you are also provided with items for certain orders or advertising cooperation and you are allowed to keep them afterwards, then that is also income, i.
E. you also have to pay tax on income in kind. This is very, very important, because many content creators and influencers forget to state these things, and of course the tax office knows that, i. e. this is the direct way to a fat back tax payment. But accounting is not everything. You have to file a tax return once a year. You didn't have to do this if you were only employed or a student or even just a pupil. If you are self-employed, you have to file two or even three tax returns per year. You always have to file an income tax return. You always have to make a VAT return and if you are a trader, you also have to make a trade tax return. The deadline for this is always 31 July of the following year, unless you have a tax consultant, then you have a little longer. I hear a very common misconception about wins or losses. If you are just starting out, e.g. with your YouTube channel, you have just registered with the YouTube partner program and are using a few Amazon affiliate links, then you are not making a lot of sales yet, but you may already have a whole range of costs, because you bought a new computer, bought a camera, bought an editing program.
I.e. you have invested properly and then you might think “well, I'm not making a profit yet, so I don't have to register yet”. It's wrong because you have to sign up as soon as you intend to make a profit, i.e. as soon as you start your activity and want to make a profit, you have to register. And that is also very practical for you, because if you have more expenses than income in the first few years, you will make a loss and you can offset these losses with other income or even carry them forward to the next few years, i. e. you have something like, yes you can almost say, a tax credit from these losses and usually get a tax refund and it's definitely worth it.
That's why I can only strongly recommend that you register as self-employed as early as possible. But you should have heard one important point in this context and that is the topic of hobbies. If you only make losses for many years and you can't justify why you make profits with it at some point, then unfortunately you can't do the whole thing. Then the tax office assumes that it is a so-called hobby, i. e. the tax office says “this is obviously not self-employment with the intention of making a profit. It's just a hobby and this good someone wants to deduct their hobby from their taxes somehow and of course that's not possible. I.e. if you really have no intention of making a profit, but actually only ever make losses, but get a few euros in and reduce your losses, then that is not self-employment.
The whole topic of hobbies, of course I've already prepared in a video, I'll link it to you below in the video description. Be sure to drop by, as you will also find out how you should ideally react when the tax office asks something like this. Because content creators are really creative people, there is a question in this context and that is “What actually happens if I just don't do it, i.e. if I just do a bit of my videos because I have income or simply don't state my income in kind.
Then what is it actually? How does the tax office actually find out what actually happens?” And I would like to tell you that too. The tax office will find out for two reasons or two ways. Firstly, if you have a partnership, a cooperation with a company, for example, that provides you with products and you present these products on your Instagram channel, TikTok, YouTube whatever. I can guarantee you that this partner company is registered with the tax office and that the expenses they have, i.e. the payment for you or the items, will be stated in your accounting and this company will also be called from time to time, checked, and the tax offices know where to look, and then see “aha there is a partner, oh this partner is not registered at all” and you are already on your track and will find out that you are somehow self-employed. And by the way, there is also a second way the tax office finds out something like that and actually it is so obvious that it is almost sad that one has to keep mentioning that your work as a content creator is public.
Who says that the tax office isn't one of your Instagram followers or watches your TikTok videos or reads the blog article regularly. Your work is public and anyone can see if you feature certain products, tag them with ads, use affiliate links, or not sign up for any affiliate program. Everyone can see that from the outside and in the audit and tax office, i.e. in the tax offices there are actually people who are tasked with looking through social media profiles and seeing whether the whole thing is registered that way. That's why I can only strongly advise you not to state these things.
And then, of course, the question arises, “And then? What happens when the tax office gets the idea that you're actually self-employed?" And the first thing the tax office does is estimate your earnings and let me tell you one thing, it's never cheap when the tax office estimates your earnings. The tax office always tends to leave you a little richer than you actually want. Therefore, it cannot be in your interest if the tax office estimates your income and you then have to pay taxes on it. But that's what happens and a lot worse too. If that was a few years ago, then you have to pay interest on this tax payment again and if one can even assume that you intentionally did not say so, then we will also talk about some fines, possibly court hearings or even imprisonment.
So I can absolutely advise you to disclose the whole thing. Just do it clean from the start and to be honest, it's not that difficult. It's relatively easy to get into the whole topic. We have uploaded hundreds of videos on this channel where we explain how you can manage your finances, accounting and taxes as a freelancer and feel free to take a look around.
We have almost a guide for every topic and every question. Which can then only appear somehow. If you don't want to do it all yourself, you can simply find a tax consultant who will take care of everything. We, for example, are specialised online tax consultants for freelancers and the self-employed and look after some content creators on a wide variety of platforms, so we know our way around very well. You can find out how we can specifically help you by clicking here. But of course you can also watch the other videos on this channel first, e.g. this one or this one..