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A company is an organizational unit that covers the human need for goods and services through the permanent combination of means of production . The term has slightly different meanings in different areas of law and in business administration.

Economically relevant business entities

The word operation is derived from the verb “operate”. It is meant to express that someone is running a business or equipment to meet a need.

Business administration

The company is the object of knowledge in business administration , which, however, does not provide a uniform definition. In 1924, Fritz Schmidt placed the economic enterprise in the focus of his observation. For Josef Hellmer, the company is "not an economic, but primarily a technological term". Erich Kosiol subsumes all economic organizational units under the operating term. “The companies, whether households or companies, are the centers of action and shaping elements of the economy.” Martin Lohmann sees the company as a productive part of a company , he subordinates it to the company. A large part of the scientists, however, subordinated the company term to the company term, for example Erich Gutenberg , who saw a combination of production factors in the company. This subordination is fully adopted by Heinrich Nicklisch , Eugen Schmalenbach or Konrad Mellerowicz .

A dispute over methods arose between Gutenberg and Mellerowicz when Gutenberg equated business and enterprise from April 1955. In essence, the question was whether the company or the company was an object of research and knowledge. For Heinz Langen, the company is an “institution that serves the purpose of recording certain conditions (cash or stock levels, order and staff levels, etc.) or processes (income, expenditure, technical production, purchases or sales, etc.) on a to maintain a certain value level or to restore this value level in the event of malfunctions ”; for him, operation is a control loop.


In contrast to business administration, law makes a very precise distinction between businesses and companies. Naturally, labor law in particular deals with operational issues , which, however, also play a role in other areas of law.

Employment Law

The starting point for the development of a legal definition is a judgment of the Reichsgericht from February 1923, according to which the company is a living organism, “within which entrepreneurs and workers are united to form a production community and work together to achieve the same goal of achieving the highest possible standard and the greatest possible economic efficiency to strive towards the management ". Erwin Jacobi saw in the company in 1927 the union of personal, material and immaterial means for the continued pursuit of a technical purpose jointly set by one or more legal entities. The draft law for the BetrVG 1952 provided for a legal definition , according to which the company is the working association of employees and employers who continue to pursue certain non-sovereign tasks with the help of work equipment with spatial combination. Since the Federal Council did not consider a clear legal delimitation possible and the term should be developed through jurisprudence and teaching, the definition did not become part of the law. Today's BetrVG assumes that the term is known.

For the Federal Labor Court , a company according to § 613a BGB is "the organizational unit within which the employer alone or with his employees with the help of material or immaterial means continues to pursue certain work-related purposes that are not limited to the satisfaction of personal needs." the operation is not tied to the type or place of exercise. It depends on a unit that has only become a unit through the means of operational organization. Material and immaterial resources are nothing more than factors of production that are permanently used to meet external needs. This purely labor law definition contains components that are also relevant from a business perspective. The definition requires the permanent organizational combination of production factors for external requirements.

In various special laws (such as the KSchG or the collective bargaining agreement ), the company term is assumed to be known. There is no cross-legal definition because laws pursue different legal purposes and therefore the content of the term can vary depending on the regulatory objective. The company as an organizational unit must meet 4 criteria under labor law: a work organization and technical unit, a uniform management system, a spatial unit and a uniform operating community. The company is the organizational unit, the company the legal unit. Several companies can establish a joint operation, a so-called joint operation.

The work of the employee usually, but not necessarily, takes place in the employer's company. The company term controls many consequences under labor law. This concerns, for example, the transfer of business , the election of the works council (or in the public service the staff council ) or the size of the company as a prerequisite for protection against dismissal . The company is understood as an independent organizational unit that is formed to achieve a work-related purpose. Restricted participation rights of the works council apply in so-called tendency companies , i.e. above all companies with religious, charitable or scientific objectives or companies of broadcasting and press companies.

The organizational unit “company” must be distinguished from the terms “ entrepreneur ” or “ company ”, even if they are often mixed up in colloquial terms. The entrepreneur or - usually if supported by a legal person - the company is the owner ( legal entity ) of the company and also the contractual partner of the employee. The company can also be the owner of several businesses.

Several companies can combine to form a group . It is also possible for two companies to combine in order to run a particular business together.

The term “ company ” , which is often used as a synonym, does not belong here at all . Company is the commercial name of a businessman (for sole traders , partnerships and legal entities), Section 17 HGB . The term has no function under labor law.

Commercial law

In German commercial law , a distinction is traditionally made between the company and the company. The operation is defined as a technical and organizational unit, the company as a legal unit. In contrast to the above diagram, the term company is then not a generic term for the company.

Other areas of law

According to Section 2, Paragraph 1 of the ArbStättV, workplaces are locations in buildings or outdoors that are located on the premises of a company. The operation is not defined here, but assumed to be known. It is to be interpreted broadly and includes every location within the employer's sphere of influence.

The sales tax law taxes the sales of companies, not of individual businesses ( § 1 Paragraph 1 No. 1 UStG). However, in Section 1 (1a) of the UStG, which exempts the sales of a business from sales tax, it is linked to the operating term. According to p. 2, there should be a sale of business if the entire company or a company managed separately in the structure of a company is sold. According to the earlier German legal opinion, a separately managed company in this sense existed if a part of the company was operated economically independently, i.e. independent of the other business of the entrepreneur, in the manner of an independent company and externally was an independent, self-contained economic structure. In a guideline-compliant interpretation, however, the term is to be understood in such a way that it is not based on the seller's organizational circumstances, but on whether a sub-fund is transferred that can be continued by the purchaser as an independent company.

According to Section 1 (1) No. 6 of the KStG, legal entities under public law are subject to sales and corporation tax as part of their commercial operations . From a tax point of view, the prevailing opinion in Austria is that the company is regarded as part of a company.


Depending on the size of the company, a distinction is made between micro, small, medium-sized and large companies . According to the purpose of the business , a distinction can be made between production companies ( agriculture , mining , craft , industry ) and service companies ( trade , transport , banks , insurance companies ). There are also seasonal farms and campaign farms, depending on the focus of employment .


In the sense of the Council and Commission law of the European Union , a company is defined as the entirety of the production units managed by the company owner that are located in the territory of a member state . For the ECJ , the operation is to be equated with the economic unit: "An economic unit is an organized combination of resources for pursuing a main or secondary economic activity."

The Austrian Labor Constitution Act of December 14, 1973 provides a legal definition: “A company is any workplace that forms an organizational unit within which a physical or legal person or a community of people continues to pursue the achievement of certain work results with technical or immaterial means, regardless of the situation on whether or not there is an intention to acquire a job ”(Section 34 (1) of the Labor Constitution Act). In Switzerland, the term `` company '' is not described in any more detail in the law or the Accident Insurance Ordinance. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court understands the term “company” in the sense of accident insurance law to mean “legal person, partnership or sole proprietorship that acts as an employer”. This equates the “company” with the “employer”.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Operation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Günter Fandel: anniversary issue for the 80th year . In: ZfB Special Issue , 6/2010, p. 4.
  2. Josef Hellmer: On the formation of terms in business administration . In: ZfB 1926, p. 514.
  3. Erich Kosiol: Pioneer of Business Administration - Appreciation of the research achievements of Leitner and Nicklisch . 1950, p. 3.
  4. Erich Kosiol: Pioneer of Business Administration - Appreciation of the research achievements of Leitner and Nicklisch . 1950, p. 397.
  5. Martin Lohmann: Introduction to Business Administration . 1955, p. 20.
  6. Erich Gutenberg: Fundamentals of business administration . Volume 1, The Production . 1958, p. 381 ff.
  7. ^ Willi Albers: Concise dictionary of economics . Volume 8. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980, ISBN 978-3-525-10257-2 , from p. 67.
  8. ^ Heinrich Nicklisch: The business administration . 1932, p. 6 ff.
  9. Eugen Schmalenbach: Pretiale economic management . Volume 2, 1948, p. 7 ff.
  10. Konrad Mellerowicz: General Business Administration . Volume 1, 1958, p. 17 ff.
  11. Hanns Linhardt: Wilhelm Rieger's influence in younger business administration . In: Hanns Linhardt: Attack and defense in the fight for business administration . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1963, p. 181 ff. ( Limited preview in the Google book search).
  12. Heinz Langen: The operation as a control circuit . In: Erwin Grochla (ed.): Organization and accounting . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1964, p. 91 ( limited preview in the Google book search)
  13. Christian Wilplinger: Making company acquisitions and sales tax-optimized . Facultas.wuv, Vienna 2007 (also dissertation, University of Vienna). ISBN 978-3-7089-0141-1 , p. 19.
  14. ^ RG, judgment of February 6, 1923 (Az .: III 93/22), RGZ 106, 272, 275
  15. ^ Erwin Jacobi: Operation and company as legal terms . In: Festschrift for Vietor Ehrenberg . 1927, pp. 1 and 9.
  16. Bundestag printed paper 1/1546, p. 2
  17. ^ BAG, judgment of February 17, 1981, Az .: 1 ABR 101/78
  18. BAG, judgment of May 25, 2005, Az .: 7 ABR 38/04 - NZA 2005, 1080 Os. = NJOZ 2005, 3725 (3727)
  19. ^ Andrea Bonanni: The joint operation of several companies . Otto Schmidt Verlag, Cologne 2003 (also dissertation, University of Cologne). ISBN 978-3-504-68040-4 , p. 21 ff. ( Limited preview in Google book search).
  20. ^ Andrea Bonanni: The joint operation of several companies . Otto Schmidt Verlag, Cologne 2003 (also dissertation, University of Cologne). ISBN 978-3-504-68040-4 , p. 3 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  21. Wiebauer / Kollmer in Landmann / Rohmer, trade regulations, 65th supplementary delivery 2013, § 2 ArbStättV, Rn. 7th
  22. Robisch. In: Johann Bunjes: Value Added Tax Act . 12th edition. 2013, § 1 UStG Rn. 133
  23. BFH, judgment of December 19, 2012 - XI R 38/10, DStR 2013, 585
  24. ^ Markus Fellner: Acquisition of a company in Austria . WUV-Universitäts-Verlag, Vienna 2000, ISBN 978-3-85114-555-7 , p. 21.
  25. Article 2 letter b of Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003
  26. Art. 1 No. 1 b) Directive 2001/23 / EC of March 12, 2001 . In: Official Journal of the European Union . L, No. 82, 2001, pp. 16-20; BAG, judgment of May 4, 2006, Az .: 8 AZR 299/05
  27. BGE, judgment of November 12, 1987, Az .: 113 V 327