Liberal professions are those occupations that - pursuant to their professional ethics - are traditionally supposed to serve the public interest rather than their own commercial benefit. They are therefore not subject to local trade tax (Gewerbesteuer), and are not governed by professional accounting standards or commercial law.
These occupations include the health professions (medical doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, alternative practitioner), legal consulting professions (lawyers, tax advisors, public accountants, notaries, patent attorneys), construction and architectural services (architects, consulting engineers, geodesists), as well as the works of writers, translators, freelance educators, and artists. In order to find out whether your occupation falls within the liberal-profession category in Germany, you can ask your Tax Office (Finanzamt). In determining whether the business is subject to trade tax, the Tax Office must decide whether the occupation is of a commercial nature or one of the liberal professions.
The commercial independence of the liberal professions is usually rooted in either the creative nature of the work or in specialist expertise acquired through a high-level of education. Therefore many services regarded as liberal professions require proof of specialized professional qualification. They must be certified by and registered with the respective professional organizations (e.g. Bar Associations, Chambers of Architects, Chambers of Engineers, Medical Associations, etc.) prior to being allowed to work in the profession. You may also address the professional organizations for your occupational group to find out which institution is responsible for the recognition of foreign qualifications.
By operation of the European Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications, qualifications from other EU Member States will generally be accredited as long as sufficient training and experience can be demonstrated. However, additional training/education in Germany may still be required if the particular qualification is tied to country-specific expertise, as is the case with the tax and legal advisory professions.
Although some dictionaries and publications suggest ''freelance profession'' as a translation for the German designation ''freie Berufe'', this translation is not entirely accurate and may lead to misunderstandings in respect of the laws and regulations applying to such professions.
For European service providers, the German network of points of single contact provides individual assistance with the relevant administrative regulations and procedures. They guide you through all of the relevant application procedures.