For Who? – Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of invoices can Smart issue?

Smart cooperative can issue invoices for all non-registered services (for example: business consulting, IT support, software development, education, translation, city tours, content management, public relations, creative services…). If you are not sure whether your activity can be handled by Smart, you can always contact us. The sale of products through Smart is currently not possible.

I don’t have a VAT number because I am a small business operating beneath the VAT-free limit. What would change if I use Smart?

Because Smart is registered for value-added tax (VAT, or Umsatzsteuer), invoices issued by Smart to your clients will include VAT. There are some exceptions to this, like issuing invoices to business clients abroad. For teaching activities that are VAT-exempt and fulfill specific criteria, Smart is able to issue VAT-free invoices.

I’m a trainer, teacher or coach. Can I use Smart to send VAT-free invoices?

Yes, when specific criteria are met (we can provide you with all the details). Depending on your individual situation, your activities will be processed by the Smart Bildungswerk to handle classes, workshops and seminars.

I don’t have a German tax number. Can I work through Smart?

Yes. Smart cooperative can issue contracts and invoices to your clients on your behalf. To receive your income, you must become a member of Smart. We will provide you with an employment contract, based on the amount you earn.

I don’t have any clients or contracts. Can I join Smart?

Yes, you can become a member of the Smart cooperative at any time. However, an employment contract can only begin once your client has signed an order form with the cooperative for your services, so that Smart can issue invoices.

Do I have to use Smart for all my payments?

No. You can decide which contracts and invoices to process through Smart, and which to handle yourself. Please note that if you have a contract with Smart, and also send invoices under your own tax number, you will only be covered for health insurance through Smart if the majority of your income comes from your Smart contract. Also, be aware that your taxable income will be calculated from all your income sources – Smart and private. You must pay income tax if your combined income is above the tax-free threshold (2022: €10,347). If you issue invoices using your own tax number and are employed by Smart, you must file an income tax return.

Do I need a registered address in Germany?

Yes. You need a registered residential address in Germany to become a member of Smart. Registration (or Anmeldung) is handled through your local citizens’ office (or Bürgeramt). If you live in another country, you can become a member of your national Smart cooperative. Smart has branches in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

I’m not a European Union citizen. Can I join Smart?

Yes, membership is open to all. To receive an employment contract through Smart, you will need a valid residence permit that allows you to work for any employer in Germany. The residence permit must specifically state “employment permitted” (in German, “Beschäftigung gestattet” or “Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet”). It is not possible to obtain a working residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis für eine Beschäftigung (§ 18 AufenthG)) using an employment contract from Smart.

I don’t have any clients in Germany. Is membership possible?

Yes. Smart Germany can issue contracts and invoices to your clients in other countries. However, we will need to check if this results in additional social insurance obligations.

I am insured through the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK). Can I still use Smart?

Yes. In order to reduce your social insurance costs and fully benefit from the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK), there are different income levels that must be observed. The KSK provides information on the various options (in German).

I’m receiving unemployment benefits. Can I use Smart?

Yes. You can still use Smart while registered to receive unemployment benefits such as ALG I and ALG II (often called Hartz IV). However, you must pay attention to the limits on additional income. If you regularly work more than 15 hours per week, your unemployment benefits may be reduced. Contact the Bundesagentur für Arbeit for more information.

I’m a student. Can I use Smart?

Yes. Enrolled students are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week, and must pay attention to other restrictions to ensure they remain eligible for student health insurance.

I’m retired. Can I use Smart?

Yes. The amount you are allowed to earn on top of your retirement income varies according to different factors. Contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung for more information.

I’d like to use Smart with a collective/group. Must all group participants be members of Smart?

No. At least one participant in the group must be a member of the Smart cooperative, and will be the contact person for the contract.