Social insurance under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (GSVG)


The GSVG governs compulsory insurance for persons covered by the term “self-employed”.

Therefore, the following groups of persons are subject to compulsory insurance under the GSVG:

  • Self-employed persons
  • Natural persons who are members of the Austrian Commercial Chamber (Wirtschaftskammer Österreich)
    • Sole traders with a trade license
    • Persons with a trade license employed under a contract for services (Werkvertrag)
  • Partners in a general partnership (Offene Gesellschaft, OG) provided that the partnership is a member of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber
  • Partners in a limited partnership (Kommanditgesellschaft, KG) with unlimited personal liability (Komplementär) provided that they are members of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber

Managing partners in a limited liability company (GesmbH) provided that the company is a member of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber

Please note

If you hold a trade license, you automatically also become a member of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. 

Compulsory insurance under the GSVG

Since 2011, self-employed artists have been subject to compulsory insurance under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (GSVG) as what is referred to as “new self-employed persons” if their income from self-employed activities (in fiscal terms: profit from self-employed activities) exceeds certain limits. In 2017, the applicable threshold was EUR 5,108.40

These insurance thresholds do not apply to persons who are also otherwise engaged in gainful employment which has already resulted in compulsory insurance under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (e.g. traders with a trade license).

Please note

“Insurance contributions payable to the SVA constitute tax-deductible operating expenses. You may lower your tax burden by paying your SVA contributions in advance. This does not apply to the basis for calculating SVA contributions. For this purpose, the social insurance contributions are added to your profit as indicated in tax notice”. 

Wolfgang Seidl, Manager of the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade in Styria, 3 August 2017; see: http://www.trend.at/service/ve...

Minimum contribution basis for 2017

For new self-employed persons (GSVG)

On the basis of the minimum income assumed by the insurance institution, the minimum contribution basis for pension and health insurance was EUR 425.70 per month in 2017. 

In 2017, the monthly contributions calculated on this minimum contribution basis were at least


Type of insurance

Monthly contribution

Pension insurance 78,75 Euro
Health insurance 32,57 Euro
Accident insurance 9,33 Euro
New severance 6,51 Euro

Therefore, new self-employed persons had to pay at least approx. EUR 130 per month for their compulsory insurance with SVA in 2017.

For traders with a trade license and partners in trading companies (GSVG)

Minimum contribution basis for pension insurance: EUR 723.52 / year
Minimum contribution basis for health insurance: EUR 425.70 / year

Contributions 2017

Type of insurance Monthly contribution
Pension insurance 133,85 Euro
Health insurance 32,57 Euro
Accident insurance 9,33 Euro
New severance 6,51 Euro

At EUR 183 per month, the SVA contributions payable by traders with a trade license are considerably higher than those payable by the new self-employed

Insurance contributions are settled on a quarterly basis (not every month).

Please note

Even though at first, for a maximum period of three years, the minimum assessment basis is applied, the final amount of the SVA contributions to be paid always depends on your earnings during the respective contribution year, namely the income from self-employed activities as indicated in the tax notice. Therefore, recalculations are usually made and subsequent payments may become necessary. These additional payments should be budgeted for as contingent expenses and included in your planning from the very beginning of your compulsory insurance with SVA. The final amount of the contributions is determined on the basis of the legally binding tax notice, meaning that the information provided in the notice of assessment may change the final amounts with retrospective effect. 

Registration with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade

If you are a new self-employed person engaged in business activities and you expect your self-employed earnings to exceed the relevant insurance threshold in the current year, you have to register with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA). Once you have completed a statement of insurance (Versicherungserklärung), you will be covered. At first, the SVA will invoice the respective minimum contributions on a quarterly basis.

Please note

If you do not register for compulsory insurance with the SVA in a timely manner, a penalty of 9.3% will be added to your contribution payments. If the insurance institution is informed of the fact that the insurance threshold was exceeded within eight weeks from the date of the relevant tax notice, no such surcharge will be imposed.

Deductible

Persons insured under the Social Insurance Act for Commerce and Trade (GSVG) (or with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade, SVA) are charged a deductible of 20% for medical services. That means that 20% of the treatment costs are borne by the insured. There are no deductibles for children insured under dependent coverage or in the case of a hospital stay.

Exemption from deductible

An exemption from the payment of deductibles and prescription fees may be applied for in certain family or health-related situations and/or in case of low income. In addition, the SVA has introduced a bonus system for preventive healthcare measures under which the deductible may be reduced to 10% regardless of the insured’s income.

Heating allowance

Upon application, SVA may also grant a heating allowance of EUR 100 / year (NOTE: informal requests have to be made by mid-March – the exact date varies every year!)

Falling short of the minimum threshold at the end of a calendar year

If, at the end of a year, it turns out that the actual income fell short of the insurance threshold, the insurance cover will remain valid and contributions will not be refunded. The same applies in the case of multiple insurance.

Example

A saxophonist is employed with two schools of music in Vienna where he teaches on a regular basis. He also plays in several bands and formations and has approx. 20-30 gigs a year. With these performances, he generates income on a self-employed basis. As he expects his self-employed earnings to exceed the lower earnings limit, he registers for compulsory insurance with the SVA. However, at the end of the year he realizes that his income from self-employed activities fell short of the minimum threshold of EUR 5,108.40. The contributions he has paid to the SVA for the past year will not be refunded. However, the musician is free to decide whether he wants to maintain his compulsory insurance contract with SVA in the following year. 

Dropping below the minimum threshold during the calendar year

If you inform the SVA during the calendar year that you expect your income to drop below the insurance threshold, you can terminate your insurance as of the end of the month and do not have to pay any additional contributions. After a statutory grace period of currently six weeks, your insurance cover will end as well.

Example

A stage director expects to work on a large project and registers for compulsory insurance with the SVA. In September, she is informed that the project was cancelled. She now no longer expects her income from self-employed activities to exceed the minimum threshold of EUR 5,108.40 in the current year as she incurred various deductible travel expenses in connection with the project negotiations which will reduce her income. She cancels her SVA registration and – provided that she has acquired entitlements during previous employments – she may apply for unemployment benefits.

Voluntary self-insurance (opting-in) when falling short of the minimum threshold

Even if your earnings fall short of the insurance thresholds, you may opt into the health and accident insurance of the SVA on a voluntary basis. In such case, you will be charged the minimum contributions.

Example

An author was compulsorily insured with SVA for several years. In the current year, he only has very low earnings as he takes time out to focus on writing a new novel. His novel is scheduled to be published in the following year. He decides to opt in on a voluntary basis at highly favourable conditions. Unfortunately, he does not acquire any pension entitlements in that year.

Exceeding the minimum threshold during the calendar year

If it only turns out in the course of the year that your income from self-employed activities will be above the insurance threshold and if you register with the SVA only at the time this threshold is actually exceeded, contributions starting from the date you took up your self-employed activities will be charged to you with retroactive effect. However, you will be covered by health and accident insurance only from the date of registration onwards.

Please note

The tax office provides the social insurance institutions with all relevant information from the tax assessment. Therefore, the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA) is always fully informed about any self-employed earnings of relevance for social insurance. If a person’s duty to take out compulsory insurance is determined only after the tax notice is available, SVA will charge a penalty of 9.3%. If the insurance institution is informed of the fact that the insurance threshold was exceeded within eight weeks from the date of the relevant tax notice, no such surcharge will be imposed.

Example

A stage director works on a theatre project in April and earns a fee of EUR 5,000. She thinks that, after deducting travel expenses and other operating expenses, her income will fall short of the lower earnings limit for that calendar year. In June, she gets offered work for a fee of EUR 8,000. She accepts the job and registers with SVA at the end of June. She retroactively becomes subject to compulsory insurance starting from her first project in that year. However, her insurance cover will only start to run from the date of registration, i.e. from the end of June/beginning of July.

Suspension of self-employed artistic activity

Since 2011, it has been possible for artists to suspend their self-employed artistic activities and, as a consequence, their compulsory SVA insurance. By doing so, they may draw unemployment benefits during the period of suspension provided that all other eligibility criteria are met. 

This new rule introduced by the Artists’ Social Insurance Structure Act made it possible, in principle, to lawfully receive unemployment benefits even if one’s self-employed income in the respective calendar year exceeds the lower earnings limit. 

Please note

According to the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund Act, only artistic self-employed activities as defined in section 2 KSVSG may be suspended. If non-artistic activities are continued during the period of suspension, it is possible to clearly differentiate such activities from the artistic ones in agreement with the SVA PRIOR to the suspension and to earn an additional income from non-artistic activities up to the marginal earnings threshold

In practice, the implementation of this rule is often prevented by details or problems arise in an individual case, for instance because it is not possible to discontinue other self-employed earnings of the person concerned which are incompatible with the aforementioned exception.

Recognition

Suspension is only possible if the person has been recognised as an artist by the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund (KSVF). Persons who already receive KSVF grants have already been accepted. Artists who have not yet been accepted by the KSVF first have to apply for recognition as artists in order to be able to suspend their activities.

Please note

It is possible to file both applications at the same time. However, if you are not recognised as an artist by the KSVFG, suspension will not be possible and compulsory insurance will apply with retroactive effect if your self-employed income exceeded the relevant insurance threshold in a calendar year. Any employment benefits received in the respective time period will then become a problem – the entitlement may be withdrawn and, in some cases, the benefits may have to be paid back.

Activities are only deemed suspended if there is actually no self-employed artistic work performed during the respective time period. That means, in particular, that no taxable earnings must be generated in this period and that no operating expenses must be deducted in the income tax return for this period. Continuous deprecation is not possible either. 

During the period of suspension, the artist is not covered by the social insurance scheme of the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA) and not entitled to the grant by the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund allocable to that period.

Where do I apply for suspension?

Suspension has to be applied for with the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund (KSVF). Applications are also accepted by the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA) which will then pass them on to the Fund.

Please note

Activities cannot be retroactively suspended, the application needs to be filed ex ante.

Example

A performer has been engaged predominantly in self-employed activities in the past year and is subject to compulsory insurance with the SVA. In the same year, she filed an application with the KSVF and was accepted as an artist. However, as she used to earn her living as an employee in the hospitality industry, she is entitled to unemployment benefits. In April, the performer realizes that she will not receive any income before September when she will work on a new project. In order to bridge the financial gap until then, in April she informs the Fund that she has suspended her activities (as of May). As a consequence, her compulsory insurance with the SVA is also suspended and she may receive unemployment benefits until September. At the end of August, she cancels the suspension, deregisters with the AMS and registers for compulsory SVA insurance. In the respective year, she receives grants from the KSVF exclusively for the months in which her activities were not suspended. 

It is important that during the entire period of suspension, any self-employed artistic activity is actually fully suspended – and that no earnings are generated from such activities.

Detailed information on the suspension of activities

Pension fund for the self-employed

Since 2008, artists subject to compulsory insurance, like all new self-employed persons, have been obliged to pay 1.53% of their contribution basis as monthly contributions to a pension fund. From these payments, benefits comparable to those under the new severance pay scheme for employees (Abfertigung neu) will be paid to the insured persons in case they discontinue their self-employed activities or upon retirement. Within six months from the start of the obligation to pay contributions, the insured has to select a pension fund and enter into an accession contract. They can choose from nine different pension funds. If the insured persons do not select a fund in time, they will be assigned to a pension fund. 

The insured persons will be entitled to benefits/payments if they have paid contributions for at least 3 years and their business operations have been discontinued for at least 2 years and/or upon retirement. The amount of the benefits depends on the amount of the contributions paid and the fund’s performance. The pension fund informs the insured persons of their current account balances on an annual basis.