GmbH & Co KG – Foundation, Management, Liability & Co

GmbH & Co KG – The GmbH & Co KG is a German legal form which combines the corporate legal form of the limited partnership (KG) with a limited liability company (GmbH). Thus, the greatest advantages of both legal forms – the separation between general partner & capital provider typical for the KG plus the limitation of liability of the GmbH – intertwine and enable an innovative, new form of organization for start-ups. Learn everything important about it here! In addition, you will find all German company types and legal forms, as well as tips for founding a company, including the special case of real estate GmbH, family foundation & Co.

GmbH & Co KG – formation, financing, liability & Co

The limited partnership – in short: Kommandite or KG – is one of the so-called complete companies and, as a partnership, is subject to the German Commercial Code (HGB). The formation process for this legal form of company is quite uncomplicated, as it can be formed informally and requires a minimum of only two founding members. It can be formed by both natural persons and legal entities. A maximum number of permissible shareholders is not specified by law.

If all general partners of a KG consist of limited liability companies (GmbH), they form a so-called Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung & Compagnie Kommanditgesellschaft – called GmbH & Co KG for short. Such a GmbH is sometimes also referred to as a general partner GmbH, but beware: the general partner GmbH is a corporation and part of the GmbH & Co KG, while the GmbH & Co KG by virtue of its legal form is always a partnership!

Other typical partnerships:

Foundation & Company Name

Two persons are required for the formation of a GmbH & Co KG: The GmbH as full partner – i.e. general partner – and a natural person as partial partner – called limited partner. If you are starting from scratch, you must first establish a limited liability company in preparation. To do this, you need the following in a nutshell: a natural person or legal entity as the founder of the company; a tax identification number (tax ID); the confirmation of registration from the trade office; the shareholders’ agreement aka articles of association together with notarial certification; 25,000 euros in share capital; and finally the entry in the commercial register.

You can find out how the process of setting up a GmbH works in detail here:

You have successfully founded your GmbH? The limited partner is ready to go? Then the next step is to set up a limited liability company (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung & Compagnie Kommanditgesellschaft). Since the GmbH & Co KG is a separate company, you again need a tax ID and must register the company with the trade office. The establishment of articles of association is also mandatory and of course your company needs a suitable company name including the company suffix “GmbH & Co KG”.

Management & power of representation

As a general partner, the GmbH basically has power of representation in the external relationship. However, since a GmbH is a legal entity, the management authority is entrusted to a natural person. This may be a shareholder of the general partner GmbH or the position may be assigned externally to a so-called third-party managing director. In this case, there is often talk of a third party board of directors or external board of directors.

Alternatively, limited partners may also act as managing directors, provided they are expressly appointed to this body. Since limited partners are generally excluded from management, their management authority in this case is, however, limited to the right of objection in the case of extraordinary transactions.

Profit distribution & loss sharing

With regard to the distribution of profits and the sharing of losses, either the statutory principles come into play or corresponding specifications have been anchored in the articles of association. Profits are generally distributed at 4 percent of the capital share plus additional profit “in reasonable proportion”. Losses are also shared appropriately.

It is possible to completely exclude the general partner GmbH from the distribution of profits by means of a declaration in the shareholders’ agreement, whereby higher profits can be distributed to the investors. Insofar as the GmbH has inherent management authority, it can be paid an appropriate remuneration to compensate for its role as managing director, whereby a managing director’s remuneration cannot be deducted in total as a business expense for tax purposes. However, the remuneration is paid irrespective of the profits generated and thereby has the effect, if applicable, that the entire company can save taxes.

General partner, partial partner & tax liability

Usually, the general partners of a limited partnership are liable without limitation and jointly and severally – i.e. with their business assets plus private assets. If, on the other hand, the general partner of a KG appears in the form of a limited liability company (GmbH), he is liable as a legal entity only to the extent of the GmbH’s capital contribution. Limited partners are liable – as in the case of a conventional KG – only to the extent of the mandatory sum that they paid in as a limited partner’s contribution when the GmbH & Co KG was founded.

Like all other legal forms of companies, the Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung & Compagnie Kommanditgesellschaft is generally liable to pay taxes. First and foremost, they are subject to trade tax and – in the case of taxable turnover – turnover tax. A GmbH & Co KG is generally exempt from income tax and corporation tax… However, profit income is still subject to taxation: corporation tax is applied to the profit share of the general partner GmbH, whereas limited partners must pay income tax on their profit.

Tip. All taxes for companies in one list:

GmbH & Co KG – For whom is it worthwhile?

A significant advantage of a GmbH & Co KG is undoubtedly the limitation of liability to the business assets of the general partner GmbH. This means that founders do not directly risk the existence of their company if an investment turns out to be disadvantageous, and they can quickly increase their equity capital through the flexible and simple admission of new limited partners. They can confidently outsource the organisational effort and the management to an outside body or make deviating succession arrangements in order to maintain the GmbH & Co KG.

So who is the GmbH & Co KG suitable for? This legal form is worthwhile for start-ups who would like to set up their business as a partnership without having to forego the special liability restrictions of a GmbH. A GmbH & Co KG is also conceivable as an asset-managing company and for family businesses.

Alternatives to the GmbH & Co KG: Legal forms in Germany

Legal forms – What types of company are there? If you want to start your first company, then choosing the ideal legal form is one of the first steps in the process of setting up a company. Whether it’s a special real estate company or a start-up, I’ve summarized all the types of companies in Germany for you here.

Company types in detail: