Starting up business
- Date of issue
- 1/1/2019 - 2/11/2021
- Replaces guidance
This guidance tells you about the Tax Administration requirements for establishing a business in Finland. It lists the mandatory application forms, documentation and declarations that foreign business owners must submit. This English version is not to be construed as official guidance.
Wages, salaries and employer's contributions paid on 1 January 2019 or later must be reported to the Incomes Register (more information on the Incomes register, see vero.fi/en/incomes-register). Chapters 7 and 9 has been updated 1 January 2019 to take into consideration deployment of the Incomes Register.
Corporate entities of all forms, set up under foreign laws or statutes, registered in their countries of establishment and tax residence, are referred to as 'foreign companies' and 'foreign businesses'. Under § 9.1.2, Income Tax Act, they are regarded as Finnish tax nonresidents.
National legal rules governing foreigners' liability to tax are found in § 9, § 10 and § 13a, Income Tax Act (TVL), and in § 83, Act on Assessment Procedure (laki verotusmenettelystä; L om beskattningsförfarande, VML). Because they are regarded as nonresidents, foreign businesses only must pay Finnish income tax on their income received from Finnish sources. Examples of such income include the operation of a trade, the operation of a business enterprise in this country. However, if you are treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland, you must pay tax on all the income that can be attributed to that permanent establishment (PE).
Tax treaties may restrict the taxing rights of Finland, when such rights are based on Finland's national legislation. If Finland has no tax treaty with the domicile country of the foreign business, Finland's taxing rights are determined by national legislation only.
If you are a foreign company that mainly operates in other countries and you only have some brief assignments or projects in Finland from time to time, this does not necessarily give rise to a permanent establishment; then you are not liable to pay Finnish tax on the business income generated.
It also is possible for foreign companies to receive other types of income from Finnish sources, which may be taxed in this country: for example, under national legislation, Finland has the taxing rights with respect to income generated by real estate property including shares in housing-companies. For this reason, if rental income is received, it is taxable, and if the property is sold and you make a profit, it is a taxable capital gain even in circumstances where the foreign company is not treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland (§ 10, Income Tax Act). Similarly, a foreign company may be liable to pay source tax to Finland on dividends received from Finland. A foreign business may also have obligations in Finland related to VAT taxation, or to its employer status i.e. it must report and pay employer's contributions.
For more information, see Income taxation of foreign corporate entities.
While it is usually not necessary to complete more than just one form, there are some circumstances where a company must inform the Trade Register separately (for example, when instead of setting up a company in Finland, setting up a "Finnish branch", in Finnish: sivuliike; in Swedish: filial). For more information, visit the website of the National Board of Patents and Registration at www.prh.fi and setting up a Finnish branch.
Leased employees from other countries and taxation in Finland guidance is for foreign employee leasing companies.
Contact information for offices responsible for registration and control
VAT registration and tax control regarding foreign corporate entities is administered by Southern Finland Corporate Tax Office, and VAT registration and tax control regarding foreign entrepreneurs, partnerships and self-employed individuals is administered by Helsinki Area Tax Office.
Southern Finland Corporate Tax Office
Mailing address: PO Box 30, FI-00052 VERO
Helsinki Area Tax Office
Mailing address: PO Box 400, FI-00052 VERO
2 Start-Up Notification
You are required to file the Start-Up Notification in order to set up an operation. Only one single form is necessary for VAT registration, employer registration and registration for prepayment register. The necessity to be registered in all these depends on the characteristics of the business operation. However, as an additional obligation concerning the insurance industry, it is required that every insurance company operating in Finland be registered as a taxpayer of Tax on Insurance Premiums (vakuutusmaksuvero; försäkringspremieskatt). After the Start-Up Notification is processed, the company receives a Business ID and the Finnish Tax Administration finalizes its registration as a taxpayer. The details submitted on the forms are required for tax purposes, especially for determining the tax status of the operation to be set up (including its VAT status, employer obligations, and liability to pay Finnish income tax).
The form to be used is a 'Y' form published at the jointly managed site of the Tax Administration and the Trade Register authority. Form Y1 is for setting up a business when the founder is a foreign corporate entity. Foreign businesses comparable to Finnish general partnerships and limited partnerships must use Form Y2, and similarly, foreign self-employed individuals use Form Y3. For more information, visit BIS — Foreign Business.
If the foreign business has already received a Business ID, the form to fill out is the Notice of Changes. Form Y4 is for reporting registration changes when the founder is a foreign corporate entity. Foreign businesses comparable to Finnish general and limited partnerships must use Form Y5; the self-employed use Form Y6. If you need to check whether a previously issued Business ID is still in force, visit the BIS information service — Company Search.
The 'Y' forms are available at customer services of the Tax Administration, the National Board of Patents and Registration, and they can be downloaded at BIS - Business Information Service - Y Forms.
It is required that the company-submitted 'Y' forms bear a signature of someone who has the right to sign for the company (or an authorized representative). Forms and other documents are mailed to: PRH-Verohallinto, Business Information System, PO Box 2000, 00231 Helsinki.
2.1 Mandatory enclosures
Foreign companies must enclose a Trade Register certificate or similar, issued by the authorities of their country and add a translation into English, Finnish or Swedish. The certificate, excerpt or other account must include the following:
- Trade name or business name
- Municipality of domicile
- Line of business
- Accounting period
- List of the people who may sign for the company.
If the certificate is not inclusive of the above details the foreign company (if it is a limited-liability company or a general/limited partnership) must additionally enclose a photocopy of its Articles of Association, Charter or a similar agreement and add a translation into English, Finnish or Swedish.
In addition to the above, when the foreign business is comparable to a Finnish general or limited partnership, the following information on the people being its partner-shareholders is mandatory:
- Finnish personal identity code, if issued
- Date of birth
In the case of the self-employed (also known as 'private traders'), if there is a trade register or a comparable registration in force in the domicile country, the self-employed individual must enclose a registration excerpt and the details listed above. Foreign self-employed individuals are always expected to enclose a photocopy of their passport.
Foreigners engaging in construction and installation operations must additionally enclose their building contracts/agreements in photocopy. Similarly, also the foreigners who are PEOs (or make arrangements in order to lease employees for service recipients in Finland) must enclose their contracts/agreements in photocopy.
When the foreign business is registered, the Tax Administration sends the applicant an official notice of registration by letter. Similarly, the Company Search feature of the BIS Business Information website starts displaying the details of the newly registered company on the Web Company Search.
3 Determining your tax status
3.1 Income tax status
Under Finnish law, the permanent establishment concept is defined by the provisions of § 13a, Income Tax Act. In addition, the tax treaties Finland has signed with other countries normally contain further details on how it should be defined by the contracting states when dealing with business taxpayers residing in them. For a list of Finland's tax treaties, go to www. tax.fi > Tax treaties.
A permanent establishment is a fixed place of business through which the company runs some or all of its operations. The place of business can be any premises, office, management offices, industrial or production plant, workshop or assembly site that is used for the operation of the company's business. It is required that the place is permanent, at least to some degree. Similarly, it is required that the duration of the business is long enough, not temporary or short-lived. In other words, if the operation of the trade or business only lasts for a short time, it does not give rise to a permanent establishment. In some circumstances a foreign business may be treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland because it engages the services of a 'dependent agent'.
The running of a construction or installation project in Finland gives rise to a permanent establishment only if it lasts longer than what the applicable tax treaty has defined as the time limit. The standard time limit in most tax treaties is twelve months for this purpose. However, some treaties, including the one between Estonia and Finland, contain provisions that define it as being six months instead of twelve.
To establish whether you should be treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland, each tax situation must be evaluated case by case. If desired, you have the option to ask the Tax Administration to prepare an advance ruling against a fee.
In any case, if you are treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland, you must pay tax on all the income that can be attributed to that permanent establishment. Even if no permanent establishment for a particular foreign company is formed, Finland may have taxing rights on its income e.g. receipts of rent from renters of real estate and housing-company apartments/shares, and capital gains for selling an asset with a profit and any distributions of business income if the company is a foreign partner-shareholder of a consortium.
The question of the permanent establishment cannot always be resolved on the basis of your submitted registration details. Planned business may change, and the duration of its operation may be longer than expected. If the tax authorities cannot determine your treatment upon registration, they do so later under the various stages of tax control work when they receive more information from you.
Corporate taxpayers must file their income tax returns electronically within four months from the end of their accounting period. Foreign corporates must file an income tax return 6U Tax return of business activities Foreign corporate entity (3053e).
If you believe your activities in Finland do not give rise to a permanent establishment, you are still required to give us an account of your Finnish business operations. The due date for this account is the same as that of the income tax return. Use a tax return form as a front page, filling in all your details such as addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail. For instructions on filing tax returns and accounts, see Income tax returns for foreign corporations.
Foreign self-employed individuals (also known as private traders) conducting a business or pursuing a profession, must file an income tax return no 5. The Finnish Tax Administration sends a pre-populated tax return to all self-employed people. The deadline for filing is printed on the form. For more information, see Filing Finnish income Tax returns – non-resident self-employed individuals.
Businesses registered as partnerships must file their income tax returns by the beginning of April the year following the tax calendar year. For more information, Tax returns – general and limited partnerships.
For more information on obligations to give declarations and enclosures, see official instructions:
We recommend that foreign companies that are going to be treated as having a permanent establishment in Finland submit an application for income-tax prepayments without delay. If the paid-in prepayments are not sufficient to alleviate or to cover the actual income-tax liability to be determined at the end of the year, you end up paying not only the unpaid amount of the tax but late-payment interest with relief on it as well.
For more information on the taxation of the foreign corporate and permanent establishment, see Income taxation of foreign corporate entities guidance.
For more information on the taxation of the self-employed, see Ulkomaisen liikkeen- ja ammatinharjoittajan tuloverotus Suomessa.
3.2 VAT status
The authorities use the details given on the Start-Up notice and any additional information that has become available in order to determine whether a permanent (fixed) establishment is formed for VAT purposes. Companies must let the Finnish Tax Administration know of any significant changes as compared with the time of registration. What is meant by significant changes are any changes that may impact the foreign business's liability to pay income tax or VAT.
For more information on the emergence of a VAT fixed establishment see, VAT registration of foreigners in Finland.
For more information on the Finnish value added tax, see Value-added tax.
4 Registering for VAT
Under § 1, Finnish VAT Act (30.12.1993/1501, AVL; MomsL), taxpayers must pay VAT on the sales of goods and services in the conduct of business, which take place in Finland. Those who operate a business treated as liable to VAT must submit a notice, using a 'Y' form: either a start-up notice if the business is new (Forms Y1-Y3) or a notice of changes if the business is not new (Forms Y4 - Y6). The Tax Administration finalizes the VAT registration of a taxpayer when their VAT-taxable business operation begins. However, registration in advance is also possible for VAT taxpayers who wish to buy goods and services serving the purposes of their business before they start it.
Foreign companies must become VAT registered if VAT is to be charged on their sales of goods or services and if the operation gives rise to a fixed establishment for VAT. If the company is not deemed to have a VAT fixed establishment and has not registered for VAT in Finland, the general rule is that the buyer of goods or services must pay the VAT (within a reverse-charge scheme as provided in §9, VAT Act).
However, reverse-charge VAT is not applicable in the following situations. Instead, the foreign company must always register for VAT in Finland if:
- The buyer is a foreigner with no fixed establishment and no VAT registration in Finland.
- The buyer is an individual.
- The sale is what is known as a distance sale of goods from another EU country to individuals in Finland or to buyers equated with individuals. For more information, click Distance selling rules.
- The services being sold are passenger transport services.
Under the provisions of § 3.4, VAT Act, the threshold of small-scale activity (turnover does not exceed €10,000 during the accounting period) is not applied on a foreign company that has no VAT fixed establishment in Finland.
A foreign company may also voluntarily register for VAT for its sales in Finland. It is possible for a foreign company to submit an application for VAT registration and become a VAT taxpayer in a situation where the buyer would otherwise be liable to pay the VAT on the sales (as provided in §12.2, VAT Act). The earliest possible time for applicants to be entered in the VAT register is at the date when the Tax Administration receives the application. To be able to register for VAT voluntarily, the foreign company must have a VAT representative approved by the Tax Administration if it does not have a domicile country, or a country where it is treated as having a VAT fixed establishment, among the EU countries.
In situations where a foreign company buys goods in Finland (=makes intra-Community acquisitions), or sells goods in Finland (=carries out intra-Community supply), it has the obligation to submit notifications in Finland for VAT purposes. Foreign companies engaged in zero-rate selling in Finland (intra-Community supply is included in this) must register for VAT because otherwise they cannot receive refunds of the input VAT when they make local purchases.
For more information, see VAT registration of foreigners in Finland.
4.1 Foreign business conducting construction work in Finland
Construction services under the definition of VAT Act and related employee leasing involve the VAT reverse-charge scheme (§ 8 c, VAT Act). Reverse charge will apply if the following two conditions are met:
- the service has the characteristics of construction services or the characteristics of employee leasing for purposes of building
- the buyer is a business that usually sells construction services or usually rents out workforce as leased employees, and the business performs these operations on an ongoing basis, not merely as an exception from its other operations in other sectors
For more information, see Rakennusalan käännetty arvonlisäverovelvollisuus in Finnish/Swedish.
5 Entering the Prepayment Register
Under the provisions of § 25, Prepayment Act (1118/1996, EPL), you must withhold tax on any nonwage compensation you pay to someone as 'trade income' or royalties and pay the withheld amounts on to the tax office, unless the beneficiary is on the Prepayment Register Companies that can be registered are those that engage in business or are likely to do so. They must file an application. There is no mandatory rule that would require a business to have a Prepayment Registration.
Foreign companies can be registered in circumstances where they have a permanent establishment in Finland or when their domicile is in a country that has signed a tax treaty with Finland (§ 25, Prepayment Act).
When the customers of a foreign company settle its invoices and it has not registration, they must in most cases withhold tax at source unless a zero-rated certificate has been issued. Foreign companies may ask for a tax-at-source card that instructs payers to withhold 0% (for more information, see section 6.1 of this guidance).
The information on whether a business is registered is public. Customers paying nonwage compensation to businesses are required to check their registrations before transferring money to them. The Company Search feature of the BIS Business Information website displays the details of registered companies on the Web. Enter either the company name or company Business ID in the search field. Another way to check the registration of any business enterprise is to contact the Tax Administration.
If a company liable to pay Finnish income tax has the registration it carries the responsibility for its accounting and payments independently. However, the fact of being on the Prepayment Register alone does not make you liable to tax.
If you are treated as having a permanent establishment, the Tax Administration instructs you, upon registration, to settle a number of prepayments during the year; the total of these corresponds to the estimated income generated by the permanent establishment. If you are self-employed, you are expected to complete Form Y3 (pdf) and give your estimates of sales and taxable income for your first year of business on it. Similarly, if you are a consortium, you complete Form Y2 (pdf). Any changes to the estimates should be reported on Form 5010e, Application for tax card, prepayment calculation (for the self-employed, for partners of a partnership/consortium). If you are a company (a corporate entity), the form is 5017e Tax prepayment request/change request.
5.1 Removal from Prepayment Register; rejection of an application for registration
When a company stops trading in Finland, the Tax Administration removes it from the Prepayment Register (§ 26, Prepayment Act). If you close down, you must complete a 'Y' form to inform the authorities of it.
It is within the Tax Administration's jurisdiction to remove a company from the register that fails to pay its taxes and does not submit tax returns (§ 26, Prepayment Act). Removal may be carried out if the company does not file Income Tax Return or Tax Return for Self-Assessed Taxes or if it does not pay VAT, income tax or prepayments.
If the Tax Administration sends a letter asking for further information on the foreign company's operation in Finland, it must give an answer to the question. The company may also be removed from the register if it does not give a reply to such a letter.
In addition, the registration of a company may be denied or a granted registration may be cancelled because the person being a company director, or another business enterprise where he or she also is a director, has a history of non-compliance.
The information on whether a business is registered is public. Customers paying nonwage compensation to businesses are required to check the beneficiaries' registrations before transferring money to them. The recommended way to check the validity of registrations is to use the Company Search feature of the BIS Business Information website.
For more information, see Prepayment Registration guidance available in Finnish/Swedish: Ennakkoperintärekisteröinnin vaikutukset yritystoimintaan.
6 The requirement to withhold tax at source on the 'trade income' paid to foreign companies
Foreign companies don't have to pay income tax unless they are treated as having a permanent establishment. However, Finnish companies ordering work from them must withhold and pay tax at source on the amounts paid if the work is carried out in Finland. The payer must withhold tax at source. To collect tax on 'trade income' is necessary if there is a foreign company operating most of its business in other countries and from time to time, has brief assignments in this country.
Nonwage compensation i.e. trade income is the compensation paid for the performance of work, a one-off assignment, or for the rendering of a service. When an invoice is written up, it is permissible to have some sales of goods included in it. If the beneficiary of such an invoice is not on the Prepayment Register, the customer must withhold tax on the part of the amount reflecting 'trade income' (=the compensation for work). The invoice should contain a specification displaying the 'trade income' on a separate line or on an enclosure to the invoice. Another approach is to issue two separate invoices, one for the goods, the other for the work. If there's no clear indication of the amount of the trade income, tax at source must be applied on the entire invoice.
Payers of trade income do not have to collect tax at source if
- The foreign company is prepayment-registered in Finland;
- Shows the payer/customer a zero-rate tax card for tax at source;
- Shows other documentation establishing that withholding is not necessary. This means documentation that proves that no permanent establishment can be formed in the prevailing circumstances.
However, when 'trade income' is paid for work falling into the following categories: building, earthmoving, water construction or other construction, installation, assembly, shipbuilding, transportation or cleaning services, caregiving or medical care services, the customer/payer cannot refrain from collecting tax at source unless the beneficiary is entered in the Prepayment Register or shows the zero-rate card discussed above. (§ 10 e, Act on the Taxation of Nonresidents' Income, no 627/1978).
The rate is 13% on payments going to companies that are similar to Finnish limited-liability companies or partnerships. It is 35% on payments going to self-employed individuals who operate a trade or business (§ 7, Act on the Taxation of Nonresidents' Income).
6.1 Tax-at-source cards
If the business operation in Finland only amounts to the handling of a one-off assignment, the foreign company may simply ask for a tax-at-source card instead of being entered in our registers. The card instructing a zero-rate of withholding can be issued on the condition that the activities of the company do not give rise to a permanent establishment. It is issued for a limited duration and for a specific assignment. The foreign company must give details on the assignment and show a photocopy of the contract.
If you are self-employed and going to receive income in Finland and need a tax-at-source card, complete Form 5057 e Non-resident's application for tax at source card, tax card, tax prepayment or tax number. Form 6205e must be enclosed: Explanation of business conducted by a foreign self-employed individual.
If you are a company, complete Form 6202e, Application for tax at source. You must enclose a Trade Register certificate or similar, issued by the authorities of their country and add a translation into English, Finnish or Swedish.
6.2 Refunding of any tax at source collected in excess
We recommend that you apply for entry in the Prepayment Register before you begin work on your Finnish assignment or before you write the first invoice. If your customer begins settling your invoice before your registration comes into force (or before your tax-at-source card is ready), they must normally withhold source tax so you will not receive the full amount. In these circumstances, you can ask for refund provided that a type of income is in question that Finland's taxing rights do not cover (§ 11.2, Act on the Taxation of Nonresidents' Income). For more information, see Refunds of tax withheld at source.
7 Registration of your company as an employer
If you are treated as having a permanent establishment for purposes of income tax and are an employer who pays wages on a regular basis, you must sign up for the Tax Administration's register of employers. Foreign employers with no permanent establishment have the option of applying for registration voluntarily. For more information, see Obligations of a foreign employer and Being an employer.
7.1 Permanent establishment in Finland
The register of employers is intended for all employers making regular wage or salary payments. If a foreign company has a permanent establishment in Finland for income tax purposes, it is subject to the same employer obligations as any Finnish company. From this follows that registration as an employer is mandatory if wages or salaries are paid in Finland to at least two employees on a regular basis or to at least six employees at the same time on a temporary basis.
The company must withhold tax on the wages it pays to employees, following the instructions printed on each employee's tax card. Foreign employees staying for a shorter time than six months are issued a tax-at-source card at the local tax office. If the employee fails to show the card, you as the employer must withhold 35% at source. Foreign employees staying longer are issued the ordinary type of tax card; if such an employee fails to show it to you, you must withhold 60%.
In addition, you as the employer are required to pay health security contributions if the employee's contract lasts for four months or longer. However, you don't have to pay them if your employee has an A1 or E101 Certificate, issued by his or her country of residence. The date of payment of health security is once a month; its amount is proportional to the wages and fringe benefits you pay out. The rate of the healt security contribution changes from year to year.
You are treated as a casual employer if you only have one wage earner on the payroll during the year, or if there are a maximum of five wage earners but the length of their employment is shorter than a calendar year. If you are treated as a casual employer and you don't wish to be registered as an employer, you are not to be entered in the register.
Wages, salaries and employer's contributions paid on 1 January 2019 or later must be reported to the Incomes Register (more information on the Incomes register).
7.2 No permanent establishment in Finland
If you are not treated as having a permanent establishment for income tax, there is no obligation to apply for registration. In these circumstances, your employees carry the responsibility of making the prepayments of income tax on their earnings. This only concerns the ones who stay in Finland for longer than six months. However, foreign company is in some situations obligated to report wages to the Incomes Register (more information Reporting data to the Incomes Register: international situations).
Foreign companies are in any case entitled to request for employer registration on a voluntary basis. In such a case, the employer has the same employer obligations in taxation as a Finnish employer. If registration as an employer is in force, they must withhold tax on the wages they pay to employees, following the instructions printed on each employee's tax card. Similarly, if registration is in force and you have nonresidents on your payroll, you must also collect tax at source on the amounts you pay to them if a type of pay is in question that is subject to Finnish tax. An example of such payments is the wages paid to leased employees. When the employer takes care of the payments, the employee does not have to carry the responsibility.
7.3 Leased employees
A foreign employer who provides foreign workforce for a service recipient in Finland must submit the data of the foreign employee leasing notice and file earnings payment reports to the Incomes Register if the tax treaty between the employee's country of residence and Finland does not prevent Finland from taxing the employee's wage income. The data of the foreign employee leasing notice is submitted on an earnings payment report either in connection with earnings payment data or separately. More information Reporting data to the Incomes Register: international situations, chapter 4.3.3.
Foreign employers who are prepayment-registered, or if they are not registered, their authorized representative(s), must submit information on their leased employees and the amounts paid to them to the Incomes Register. In circumstances where there is no authorized representative appointed by the employer or the representative does not report the data, the obligation to submit the report is in force in all situations i.e. the employer has the responsibility for reporting regardless of whether they are prepayment-registered. See more information Reporting data to the Incomes Register: international situations, chapter 4.3.3.
For further guidance on employee leasing and the obligations of the foreign employers who arrange their contracts, see Leased employees from other countries and taxation in Finland.
8 Registering for Tax on Insurance Premiums
Insurance companies with an operation in Finland must pay a tax on the insurance premiums agreed with their clients, if the object of insurance is a property located in Finland, an interest related to activities practised in Finland, or other interest in Finland. Sometimes the client is the party liable to pay the tax. For more information, see Tax. fi - Guidance on the tax on insurance premiums.
9 Filing and paying employer contributions and VAT
Wages, salaries and employer's contributions paid on 1 January 2019 or later must be reported to the Incomes Register (more information on the Incomes register, see vero.fi/en/incomes-register).
Tax returns on other self-assessed taxes such as VAT must be submitted online, for example in MyTax.
All self-assessed taxes can be paid in MyTax. More information on filing and paying self-assessed taxes:
10 Amendments or termination of business
Companies must let the Finnish Tax Administration know of any significant changes as compared with the time of registration. Such changes may have an impact on the liability to pay VAT and income tax in Finland. Examples include a change of the estimated length of the period of business operation in Finland, the closing of a new sale, sales contract, building contract, the inclusion of new kinds of business in your operation, an extension of your stay in Finland. In these circumstances, the Notification on Changes (Y4, Y5 or Y6) must be submitted.
Foreign companies must submit a Y4, Y5 or Y6 notice form in order to let the Finnish Tax Administration know that their register details (business name or contact details, wage payments or VAT taxable business) change or if they go out of business.
You must file Tax returns up to the date you are actually removed from the system – not the date your 'Y' form is filed. In other words, it is not enough just to file the 'Y' form, instead, you must wait until you are de-registered.
Companies terminating their business that have been treated as having a permanent establishment will also have to file an income tax return for the final year. We recommend that you total all your prepayments of taxes for the final calendar year of business in Finland. Re-check the amount you paid in. We also recommend that you let us know your new address and bank account number in order to facilitate payment of any tax refunds to you.