Business letter

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Rüschwerke letterhead from 1906

A business letter is a letter that deals with business . It is the written form of communication between business partners in a business relationship ( business-to-business ) and between companies and private individuals ( business-to-consumer ). The contrast is the private letter between private individuals with personal content. It is also to be distinguished from the commercial letter .


Business letters are defined in the legal and dogmatic specialist literature as an "outwardly directed written communication with business-related content". Since business letters deal with financial transactions and / or legal content , they must contain all statements , declarations of intent or facts that are of importance to the recipient . Many business letters contain or are part of a contract . This includes contract offers , contract acceptances , order confirmations , commercial letters of confirmation , terminations , notices of defects , reminders , receipts or invoices .

Business letters from merchants are subject to a retention requirement in accordance with Section 147 (1 ) AO . Commercial or business letters - regardless of whether they are sent or received by the person obliged to make the booking - can also be accounting documents within the meaning of Section 257 (1) No. 4 HGB .



A transaction is a commercial, i.e., in particular profit -oriented, transaction between at least two contractual partners . This essentially includes the commercial transactions of a company that belong to its commercial trade ( Section 343 HGB) such as the sale of shoes in retail . As a common special form, e.g. B. the offer letter can be viewed. In addition, among the shops and are not directly associated with the trading business transactions that the company's operation maintained (such as the ordering of office supplies or termination of business interruption insurance through the shoe factory). Order forms count as business letters ( Section 268 (4) AktG). The business letter is also a commercial letter if it includes the preparation, execution, conclusion or cancellation of commercial transactions. All other business continuity transactions are the subject of a mere business letter.

Short letter

A short letter is a pre-printed form in A5 or A4 format. It is used when briefly the details such as short phrases or keywords suffice as a cover letter. The short letter does not contain a personal salutation. It is suitable for sending brochures , product catalogs, etc.

Legal provisions on business letters

Under commercial law, a trader must provide his addressees with certain minimum information in business letters. This results from the so-called imprint obligation . Further details are regulated by § 37a HGB (for sole traders ), § 125a HGB (for the OHG ), § 177a HGB (for the KG ), § 80 para. 1 sentence 1 Stock Corporation Act (for AG and KGaA ), § 35a para. 1 sentence 1 GmbH law (for the GmbH ) as well as § 25a GenG (for the cooperative ). For example, the Commercial Code stipulates that a business letter must contain the following information:

These specifications apply not only to letters in paper form, but also to faxes . There is a comparable regulation for e-mails (see signature (e-mails in business transactions) ).


Special styles and templates usually apply; The design of business letters in Germany is regulated by the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) in DIN 5008 . An important feature of a business letter is the mandatory compliance with the forms of courtesy. DIN 5008 regulates the content and formal structure of a business letter, using the following letter modules:

DIN 5008 is used in the design of the print. The exact dimensions for the division of A4 pages are given there. Among other things, it is regulated that the left side margin is 2.50 cm. At least 1.00 cm was specified for the right margin.


Section 24 (4) and Section 25 of the Media Act as well as Section 14 (1) of the Austrian Commercial Code (Unternehmensgesetzbuch) should be mentioned as “other information obligations” . Section 14 (1) of the Austrian Commercial Code (UGB) refers to websites as well as “all business letters and order forms that are on paper or in any other way addressed to a specific recipient” and therefore also applies in particular to emails .


Switzerland has a company obligation to use business letters ( Art. 954a Para. 1 OR , Art. 326ter StGB ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Adolf Baumbach / Klaus J. Hopt , Commentary HGB , 31st edition, 2003, § 37a marginal no. 4th
  2. Dieter Krimphove, Commercial Code , 2005, p. 42