I'm looking for the correct translation of the German word "Kleinunternehmer". The translations I found are individual businesses, small entrepreneurs, small businesses, etc., but I'm not sure which of them to use.

The text I'm trying to translate is a note for an order form which gives the users the information that the business owner is, based on a certain legal regulation, exempted from the value added tax (VAT).

"Gemäß § 19 UStG sind wir als Kleinunternehmer von der MwSt. freigestellt."

Unfortunately I wasn't able to come up with something which seemed correct to me. This is what I've got so far:

"As entrepreneurs we are according to § 19 UStG exempt from VAT."

Is there a chance to improve this?

  • In the US, the legal term is 'small business owners'; see this question, particularly the comments to the Answer. An entirely different term may be appropriate in other jurisdictions. Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 0:40
  • One way to translate the nature of the business to which "Kleinunternehmer" refers would be, almost literally, "a small undertaking", but "a small undertaker" has a very different meaning! One could also say "a small enterprise", but I can't think of anything for the person other than what StoneyB suggests or, depending on the particulars, "contractors".
    – nxx
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 1:25
  • @StoneyB Thanks for the answer, would it be then grammatically correct if I would phrase it like this: "As small business owners we are according to § 19 UStG exempt from VAT."? Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 1:30
  • 3
    @Teo Exactly, though you may shove the phrases around any way you like. I'd write it "As small business owners we are exempt from VAT under § 19 UStG." Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 1:58
  • 1
    @Teo Linguee.com is a useful source. And iIf you have to do much of this you may want to look at the DGT-Translation Memory, a corpus of official translations from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation. Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 12:15

2 Answers 2


StoneyB recommends translating “Kleinunternehmer” as “small business owners”.

Small Business
Small businesses are normally privately owned corporations, partnerships, or sole proprietorships. What constitutes "small" in terms of government support and tax policy varies depending on the country and industry.
Source: Wikipedia entry – Small business

There is some flexibility to how you order things in this sentence, but the most natural way is probably:

As small business owners, we are exempt from VAT under § 19 UStG.

If you wanted to stay closer to the order in the original statement, you could write:

According to § 19 UStG, we small businesses are exempt from VAT.


According to this website https://leitsch.org/blog/ein-kleinunternehmen-gruenden-und-alles-was-dazu-gehoert "Kleinunternehmen" in the legal sense in Germany is a single person trading with an annual revenue of at most €17,500. I would suggest that for a UK audience, "sole trader" is most likely a much better translation. A "small business" is very unlikely to be VAT exempt (according to German rules), a "sole trader" quite possibly is.

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