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TELFA Country by Country Guide

Now Available.

This guide has been prepared by TELFA lawyers, drawn from a broad range of firms. (Click on the Guide to read it)

  • The guide analyses corporate forms across 24 European jurisdictions, listed alphabetically. Annex 1 is a summary of the terminology of corporate forms.

  • Annex 2 is a glossary of key terms.

  • Annex 3 puts you in contact with the corporate lawyers who have been involved in the preparation of this guide.

Corporate Forms Across Europe

This guide is intended to assist the reader in determining what corporate forms in other jurisdictions are most akin to those in one’s own jurisdiction. Whilst the terminology is often radically different, the principles are generally very similar, but with important specific characteristics. Some jurisdictions allow unincorporated business arrangements to arise as a matter of law or to subsist, others require a level of registration. In addition to company law aspects, it will always be necessary to consider issues of tax.

These readily digestible summaries are intended to give the reader a first flavour of another jurisdiction and should not be treated as a complete exposition of the relevant law. Specific advice will always be required. This document sets out the law and practice as it stands on 20 May 2017. Corporate Governance The last 30 years has seen an ever-accelerating development of the companion to company law and practice, namely corporate governance. The modern concept of corporate governance can trace its history directly back to the Cadbury Report produced in the UK in 1992, being the report issued by The Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance chaired by Adrian Cadbury and charged with investigating the issue in a business environment besmirched by the corporate scandals of the day. In more recent times we have seen catastrophic failures of governance and destruction of shareholder value in many areas. There does seem to be a clear link between poorly governed companies and systemic risk and significant value destruction. Good governance is much more than a defensive response to the latest business scandal. Well-governed companies set clear corporate goals, confidently stating the corporate ambition with a focus on delivering sustainable value for shareholders. We are now in a time where governance and law are ever-more entwined. One cannot effectively serve as a director in compliance with law without also considering issues of good governance and risk management.

Transparency Registers and Beneficial Ownership of Corporations Corporations are very convenient forms for conducting business. Across Europe companies exist within an environment where the social contract which allows shareholders to benefit from limited liability also requires the company to: • file public accounts; • provide certain narrative reporting and reporting to taxing authorities; • disclose owners. The transparency obligations on companies and investors are becoming more detailed and more burdensome. On 26 June 2017, all EU member states must implement the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive which will require almost all companies to maintain registers of beneficial owners of their shares in addition to registers of membership, etc. We cannot expect politicians to desist from pursuing this path. In our view, the need for greater transparency and disclosure presents an opportunity to do things simpler, removing artificiality and presenting a clear and understandable corporate structure which is easy to understand, efficient to govern and contributes towards simpler discussions with taxing authorities.


Trans-European Law Firm Alliance (TELFA) was founded in 1989 and born out of the need to serve clients doing business across the jurisdictions of Europe. TELFA member firms now have more than 1000 lawyers throughout Europe. Through the sustained commitment of its members, TELFA has become one of the strongest alliances of independent law firms in Europe. The fact that the member firms of TELFA are independent offers clients a flexible alternative to the global law firm model, in which internal pressures sometimes compete with the needs of client service.

TELFA‘s focus is on client service through the provision of quality legal advice, which can be managed by the member firm in the client‘s jurisdiction, or the client can go direct to the member firm in the foreign jurisdiction(s) in which the client has the need for advice. TELFA‘s vision is to create and maintain a network of independent law firms that share a similar ethos. TELFA member firms do not „sell products“, rather we build relationships with our clients so as to become trusted advisers allowing us to serve our clients more effectively. Just as the foundation of good service for our clients is built on strong personal relationships, so it

is among the lawyers that make up the membership of TELFA. The lawyers in TELFA get to know one another both professionally, through working together on client assignments. Also flexibility - either clients can have a single point of contact through which to engage lawyers throughout Europe, or a personal introduction to law firms in foreign jurisdictions, so that clients can feel comfortable with and assured in the service that they are to receive.The member firms share resources, knowhow and best practice whilst respecting the different requirements made of each firm by its local „bar rules“. For TELFA clients this means that TELFA is not just a referrals network that operates like a brokerage clearing house; rather the TELFA brand stands for personal service, facilitating clients’ needs for advice in what may be unfamiliar jurisdictions, so as to ensure the client feels safe in the knowledge that the firm is respected (and respectable) within their local jurisdiction.

TELFA firms can draw on and leverage the expertise and experience of its members so as to

respond effectively and flexibly to the demands made by clients. More information about TELFA and its wider international associations can be found following the link:

TELFA firms benefit from a strong relationship with USLAW Network, Inc., with firms across most of the Unted States, and other parts of North and South America. More information about USLAW Network, Inc. can be found following the link below:

Jurisdictions Covered in this Guide

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Cyprus

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Estonia

  • France

  • Finland

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Ireland

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Malta

  • Netherlands

  • Norway (EEA, non-EU)

  • Portugal

  • Slovakia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • United Kingdom

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