How to register share capital for your Estonian company
Estonian companies require a minimum share capital of €2500. This is an investment in your company that can then be spent on developing your business. It also helps preserve trust in Estonia’s business environment, which benefits all Estonian company owners. However, Estonia also has a clever system that allows you to postpone this investment for as long as you like. The only catch is that your company can’t pay out dividends until your share capital has been registered, but you can start trading and even pay out salaries before then. When you start an Estonian company through Unicount, your share capital payment is automatically deferred, but we recommend you make that payment as soon as you can. So here’s our guide for registering share capital for your Estonian company.
As you can see above, Estonian companies registered without paying in their share capital are recorded in the Estonian Business Register as “established without making contribution” on the company’s registration certificate.
In addition to not being able to pay out dividends (or adding a new shareholder through the method of raising share capital), registering share capital gives your company a slightly more credible impression to potential partners and customers when they look up your company in the Estonian Business Register.
According to the Estonian Commercial Code, share capital contributions by shareholders can be made in either monetary or non-monetary assets. By far the easiest option though is to simply make a single payment from your personal bank account to your company’s bank account for the total share capital amount.
Making a monetary payment
In order to make a share capital payment, you must transfer the exact amount in euros corresponding to your percentage of the share capital as outlined in your company’s Articles of Association. This should be transferred from your personal bank account to the company’s account.
We sometimes get asked if it is possible to pay the share capital in multiple installments. This is technically possible, but we don’t recommend this because it creates extra hassle and potentially some confusion too, yet for no real gain. You only get the benefits of paying in share capital once the total amount is registered so you might as well keep your money until you are ready to pay it all in.
In order to make the payment, you will obviously need your company’s banking account already set up. Until relatively recently, the Estonian Commercial Code stated that share capital had to be paid into an Estonian credit institution, such as LHV Bank. The e-Residency programme worked hard to change that law though in order to open up banking and improve ease of business for everyone, particularly e-residents. As a result, the Estonian Commercial Code now states that you can register share capital with any credit or payment institution in the European Economic Area. That’s the EU, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. This means, for example, that you can now use TransferWise’s Borderless account for all your business activity. Despite being an Estonian-born company, their euro IBAN is based in Belgium and they are a payment institution, not a credit institution. So their account couldn’t previously be used for registering share capital for those two reasons, but that has now changed.
You may have noticed earlier that I used the slightly odd phrasing for ‘banking account’. That’s because payment institutions like TransferWise can legally describe their services as ‘banking’, but not themselves as a ‘bank’. There’s often a debate in the e-resident community about which credit or payment institution is best, but they all have pros and cons and there is no right answer for everyone. On a personal note, I mostly use TransferWise Borderless for my own Estonian company.
By default, all established private limited companies have a minimum share capital of 2500 euros, unless you had a reason to increase this amount. If there are several shareholders, each shareholder should make a contribution in the amount corresponding to the nominal value of their share. Any investments into the company by shareholders above their nominal share value should be made as separate transactions. Increasing the share capital before registration is not possible.
The payment description can be written in English or Estonian as either “share capital contribution” or “osakapitali sissemakse”.
The next crucial step is to prove to the Estonian Business Register that you made the payment. For this, you should ask your company’s payment institution for proof of the deposit or multiple deposits. This must be submitted online so there is no point in asking for a paper document.
When using an Estonian bank account, you are usually able to download it straight from your online account with a digital stamp as a DDOC or BDOC file. If you receive an encrypted CDOC document from an Estonian bank then it must first be decrypted with the DigiDoc program before submitting it to the Business Register otherwise only you can see it.
In addition, payment institutions such as TransferWise, Paysera or Payoneer also issue share capital certificates on request. If your payment institution cannot do that then you should ask for help from the Estonian e-Residency programme.
The certificate should then be submitted to the Estonian Business Register through their online service. For this, you should start a petition to change company data after logging in with your e-resident digital ID card. Smart-ID does not work there yet unfortunately.
The state fee for submitting a change entry like this is 18 euros, which can be paid from the company’s banking account.
If no errors are found in the documents then you will receive a notification from the Registry Department of Tartu County Court within five working days and the share capital is then officially registered. If there’s any problems then you’ll instead receive a ‘ruling on the elimination of deficiencies’, which will tell you what needs correcting and resubmitted within the time period specified by the court so that you don’t have to pay the state fee again.
After this, one common area of confusion is what a company can actually do with this money that’s now in their company account. Put simply, it can be used for any business activity but not returned to the shareholder. So you can also use it to pay any suppliers, make investments, and even give out loans (although not to the shareholder). Dividends, however, can only be paid out from profits.
A company established online through Unicount is not allowed to receive non-monetary contributions based on their initial standard articles of Association. These Articles of Association are ideal for single shareholder company owners, but you can change them if you want, including if you do want to pay share capital through non-monetary contributions.
In order to do that, an application to amend the articles of association must first be submitted to the Estonian Business Register online. Clause 1.5 of the Articles of Association has to be amended so that non-monetary contributions would be allowed.
After the court has accepted your amendment to the articles of association, a new application for amendment can be made to register the share capital. For this you would need a digitally signed shareholders resolution, the agreement on the transfer of the non-monetary assets, and the assessment of the management board regarding the value of the assets.
If you want to use Estonian real estate as a shareholder contribution then you also need an extract from the Estonian Land Register. If it is a car or similar vehicle registered in Estonia then an extract from the Estonian Road Administration is required.
Offsetting with dividends
In theory, the share capital contribution can also be made by offsetting it against dividends owed to shareholders. However, this would be a non-monetary contribution and must therefore be first permitted by the Articles of Association. Unicount always recommends making a monetary payment whenever possible due to its relative ease. You also don’t gain anything because the share capital contribution at the expense of undistributed dividends requires the payment of dividend tax anyway.
Declaration of share capital contribution to the Estonian tax office
Sometimes Estonian company owners wait until their first annual report to register the share capital just before the first dividend distribution for a good reason. Registering share capital requires submitting a tax return.
Your company’s monthly income and social tax declaration (TSD) Annex 7 must also include any share capital contributions and dividend distributions. When liquidating the company, your paid-up share capital can then be paid out to the shareholders tax free. If you do not have a monthly accounting service then you could also postpone share capital payment until your first annual accounts are due. Then you could ask your Estonian accountant to do that mandatory reporting with your first annual accounts.
Theoretically you should distribute dividends only after annual accounts with a shareholder decision that is taken when submitting annual accounts to the Business Register.
More detailed guide for registering your share capital online via Business Register can be found here.
Thanks for reading
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you’d like to start your own Estonian company then Unicount is the simplest way to do it. Check it out at unicount.eu.
We have an user-friendly online company formation service that’s been developed for citizens, residents and e-residents of Estonia. It takes just 3 minutes to get a company set up.