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Comparison of German and foreign legal forms

Below, we have listed the most important German legal forms for companies along with a list of comparable legal forms in other countries.


Please note that the company forms may be essentially comparable in their basic arrangements, but due to the different civil law and tax law regulations in each country, there are also significant differences, which is why this list is only intended as a rough overview.

On the following pages, we will explain the German company forms and each of their special characteristics with regard to civil law and tax law.


German Limited Company (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung - GmbH)

  • United Kingdom - private company limited by shares (Ltd.)
  • France - société anonyme de responsabilité limitée (S.A.R.L.)
  • Italy - Società a responsabilità limitata (SRL)
  • Spain - Sociedad de responsabilidad limitada (SL)
  • Czech Republic - Společnost s ručením omezeným (SRO)

German Public Limited Company (Aktiengesellschaft - AG)

  • United Kingdom - public company limited by shares (PLC)
  • France - société anonyme (S.A.)
  • Italy - società per azioni (SPA)
  • Spain - Sociedad Anónima (SA)
  • Czech Republic - akciová společnost (a.s.)

German Small Limited Company (Unternehmergesellschaft - UG)

The UG is largely comparable to the GmbH. You can find more information on the following page: German Limited Company (GmbH)

Personal Companies (Personengesellschaften)

Sole Proprietor (Einzelunternehmen)

  • United Kingdom - sole propietorship
  • France - Entreprise unipersonnelle
  • Italy - imprenditore individuale
  • Spain - empresa individual

Civil law company / General partnership (GbR / OHG)

  • United Kingdom - General Partnership
  • France - organisme à caractère collectif
  • Italy - consigliere delegato
  • Spain - la sociedad

German Limited Partnerships (GmbH & Co. KG)

The GmbH & Co. KG is a special form in German (and Austrian) law, which does not exist in most other countries and is partially comparable with the USA's Limited Liability Company (LLC).

German branch office or German permanent establishment

To start with a branch office (Zweigniederlassung) or a permanent establishment (Betriebsstätte) is the easiest way to doing business with a location in Germany. A German branch office of the foreign company is registered at the commercial register in Germany; the permanent establishment is created according to the German tax rules or according to the rules in a Double Taxation Agreement (DTA).

Interested in setting up a German company?

If you are interested in setting up a German company, please contact us via email to