Home Based Businesses in Government Quarters and Overseas OCONUS

January 4, 2012

Blogging, Military Life

In April 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families. The initiative aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society — citizens, communities, schools, non-profits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government — to ensure military families have the support they have earned. (from the Joining Forces website)

I would like to share a challenge that I see facing many of our Military Families who are stationed overseas.
These are my experiences I would like to share in hopes of starting a discussion to find a good solution for everyone.


Home Based Businesses are an entrepreneurial venue for Military Spouses to earn extra income while living in this transient military lifestyle of moving around the world every two to four years. In fact, Military Spouse Magazine has published several recent articles about the benefits of launching a home-based business that fit both your passions and interests.

The challenge arises, that when living in a foreign country, all of us need to comply with the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. This international agreement allows us as family members to live with our service member in Europe, drive our American vehicles, and establishes the rights and privileges of foreign personnel (meaning Americans) present in a host country (ie Germany) meaning OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States).

Daddy and Madeline at the Train Station

What does all of this mean?

A year ago, I started asking questions about what I needed to do in order to have this website, Household6Diva.com become a Home Based Business. I wanted permission to sell ad space, use affiliate links, and be paid for producing content for other websites. I also wanted permission to accept compensation for photographing family, maternity, and newborn sessions on site. As an ‘on post’ resident, I first contacted our Army Community Service (ACS) office which directed me to the Human Resources Department where I received two applications.

Basically, I needed to sign an agreement statement that I would not violate any SOFA regulations and provide a summary description of my proposed business. From what I could gather, the packet was then submitted to the Legal department, Family Morale Recreation & Welfare, and AAFES for their recommendations, and finally to the Garrison Commander for the final say.

My blog proposal was approved.
My photography proposal was not – the reason being I would compete with AAFES. (I’ll come back to this.)


It was months later, (my husband deployed and quite frankly, I put this project on the back burner), when I finally went to my local German Town Hall or Rathouse to ask questions as well as legally register my business in Germany. I brought along a printed explanation of what a “blog” was from de.Wikipedia to clear up any information my basic vocabulary couldn’t.

A few weeks later, my tax paperwork arrived to my German mailbox. The clerk who had been so helpful on the day I registered my business, had recommended I visit the Tax Office located across the street to help me with my paperwork when it arrived. Thankfully there was someone in their office who spoke fluent English.

As we sat down to discuss my business, she asked me “How much money are you planning to earn with this if you are planning to leave next summer?”. I responded “Honestly, less than 40 dollars a month – I am just going through the entire process that I’ve been informed I need to – in order to blaze a trail for others.” She was stunned. After more questions, she basically told me what I was doing was just a hobby that wouldn’t even pay for itself considering computer, internet, office space, let alone her fees as an Accountant/Tax advisor. She wrote down my phone number and put my paperwork in a folder and offered to call me back later that day after speaking with the regional finance office in Idar-Oberstein.

A few days later, she contacted me that in this specific case, my blog was not a business that needed to be registered.
So we met again and walked over to the Rathouse to complete backdated paperwork to end my business the day it started.


As for my proposed Photography Business, I spoke with our local AAFES manager who said the decision is made by the next higher level management. Our base had a photography studio in 2007 which closed sometime during 2008. Three or four times a year, a photography business will set up a table in our Post Exchange lobby and make appointments for a two or three day set up in the food court. These are usually themed glamour shot style, vintage style or simple classic family portraits with a backdrop. I decided not to pursue further proposals for this business but instead continue to take photos for my family and dear friends without financial compensation.


I know of only one other approved Home Based Business here in Baumholder and she is a Pampered Chef Consultant. From what I understand, this system works much like an affiliate link – customers order from a website using her consultant code thereby giving her an income. She does not use her personal APO mailbox for distributing items, but instead she is paid for giving the referral to this company.

So for my Military Spouse Readers – Have you ever lived overseas?

What has your experience been with Home Based Businesses on your installation?

Is this an issue for on post or on base residents with HBBs stateside as well? or just for overseas?

Is this an issue for Army installations or other branches as well?


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82 Responses to “Home Based Businesses in Government Quarters and Overseas OCONUS”

  1. Kim Kravitz Says:

    THANK YOU! for writing this. Hopefully the right people will see this. Going the the HBB process here is a pain. I’m scared to death to file my taxes here in Germany because I can’t read the forms. It would be nice to have someone on post who is able to help us with setting up a HBB. When I married my husband, I had to put my dream career on hold. We’ve been married 5 years and have moved every year. There is no way I can build a career moving every year. Owning my own business is the best option I have. It can move with me. I would love to see the HBB process here in Germany simplified and made less intimidating. I feel fortunate enough to live off post so I only had to register with the Germans. I didn’t have to apply for my HBB. When we move, tentatively, again this year, I would like to live on post and will have to go through the HBB process. I’m crossing my fingers I won’t get denied.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Where did you end up finding the information you needed to get everything registered in Germany? Did your Army Community Service or Human Resources or Legal Office help you? (You ARE at an Army post right?)

      • Kim Kravitz Says:

        Yes, at an army post. Heidelberg to be exact. I first went to the Employment Readiness lady at ACS. She had no information for me. Then I bounced around from person to person for about a week before I was directed to the lady who handles the HBB stuff here. I don’t know her exact “title” or what “department” she works for. The legal office was less than helpful. Even the German lawyer they have on staff there was less than helpful when I took the forms into her. I had to go hire an attorney on the economy to make sure everything was good to go. Still on the hunt for an accountant. :-/

    • Kevin Says:

      are you going to do business with GERMAN people? then you dont need to bother with any GERMAN anything!

  2. Alisa Says:

    My husband and I are stationed in Bamberg, Germany. I have a small business, making blankets and other crocheted small items. I have not tried to go through this process yet, but I live off post. I have been told I do not need to, because like you, my financial compensation is very little – if I crochet full time I can only make about $400 a month! O.O Being a military wife stationed overseas is a unique challenge, since work is so hard to come by.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Our Arts and Crafts center had a craft show a year ago where folks could sign up for a table to sell their creations – it didn’t happen this year because they are moving to a new building! Maybe you could ask around and see if there is something like that at your base? And/or if you have a thrift store on post you could sell your blankets on consignment there! (Our thrift store takes 10%)

      • Holly Says:

        I doubt it would happen this year anyway after the HHB crackdown last spring. I had a table at the BCSC luncheon last year and shortly after stopped making hats because of this. It’s also difficult to purchase the supplies I need on the economy or order from the states and have it shipped here without using my APO box. Which makes me question..if the items are only being sold on post to family members that also have access to the same tax free stores that I do, why couldn’t tax free supplies be used?
        Holly recently posted..Passports, get your passports…My Profile

      • Alisa Says:

        Thanks for the ideas! We are one of the bases without a true arts and crafts center, so I don’t know if they do that here, but I know they have garage sale type shows during the warmer months, which I might look into. The base near us has a arts and crafts store that I plan on visiting to look at their yarn selection, I’ll have to ask about shows like that as well! :) I also post my items on bookoo, saying that if you will meet me on base to pick up your item it will be free shipping.
        Alisa recently posted..Dark Green AfghanMy Profile

  3. Sandra Miller Says:

    Yes you are right it is very hard to do something as a military spouse here in Germany. I just started my HBB in November and became a Pampered Chef Consultant and it works just like you said in your blog. We’re in Hohenfels it’s a small base and if i have a good month i will earn about $400 if it’s a bad month it could be under $100. I never know how my Shows turn out. I hope within the next few year they will make this whole HBB thing easier for us.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Were you involved with Pampered Chef before you moved overseas? or was this something you got into over here?

  4. Gigi cuccaro Says:

    Check in with Betsy at Javacakes. Her email address is Betsy@Javacupcake.com. She sells cupcakes. She may be able to give you some ideas for your business. Good luck!

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      We’ve had a couple conversations about this issue! :) Betsy is a wonderful lady!

  5. Nina Says:

    Dear Ann Marie and fellow blog readers:

    We were stationed in Stuttgart, Germany for a total of 12 years. We had a professional (German lady) translator at ACS and at JAG. They were both knowledgeable and helpful with foreign tax stuff. What they didn’t know they forwarded to a German lawyer who came to JAG about once a month. I’m sure where you are stationed there is someone the like. If not, I am sure you can call Stuttgart JAG and speak to the lady or even set up an appointment.

    We had several spouses who had HBB’s. However, they all (including me) lived off post. One lady had a successful photography business (check out her page on FB: Tanya Price Photography) and another is a successful life and business coach (The Tailor Made Life) who has since moved on and is now stationed in Japan. Where there is a will, there is a way.

    Good luck in your endeavors and don’t be scared of German taxes… as long as you make less than 400 Euro a month you are not subject to income tax :) — hint: as a business you always have expenses that come out of your income as well (if you work it right you’ll never make more than 400 Euro). And as long as you make less than $400.00 a month you also don’t have to file U.S. income tax as you are considered a hobby.
    Nina recently posted..**Special** All In-Stock Ninsac’s $50.00My Profile

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      That’s fantastic! I wonder why there are so many differences between bases? So were HBBs handled through Stuttgart ACS? I will definitely be checking in with our ACS to contact them!

  6. Kamryn Says:

    Being assigned an APO mailbox + having a HBB = Violating SOFA rules, per Viola Runia, Baumholder Customs Office. It doesn’t matter what your HBB is, whether or not you live on post, or if you have your German Tax ID. If your name appears on an APO mailbox (even if you don’t use your APO for business purposes), you violate the SOFA agreement if you run a business.
    This was learned during the 2011 Baumholder Army Family Action Plan conference.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      I remember as part of the HBB packet I filled out there was an agreement I had to sign that I would not use my APO mailbox for business purposes. I wonder if that is supposed to cover these Customs Office concerns? Maybe the Customs office should be included as one of the stops during the HBB packet approval process.

    • Kelly Says:

      This exact issue came up at our last AFAP conference. I learned, thru JAG, that according to SOFA, businesses can not be run off post. However, if you live on post you can run a HBB.
      I wonder how we can get all the same answer. Seems so strange that SOFA can say one thing to one office and the opposite to another.

    • Sidnie Says:

      I’m curious if the loop-hole to the SOFA & CMR box rule would be to just NOT have your name assigned to a CMR box.
      Like- remove it from the box paperwork and just have mail sent to your husband’s name through that box…

      I know the point is to find correct and consistent answers and to not have to find loop-holes… And not to find loop-holes, but all I’ve heard/seen is ways around the issues….

  7. Rachel Says:

    I am a stickler for rules, so when I arrived in Germany I went to the base (RAB) to find out what I needed to do to set up my business. I had a business licence and paid taxes back in the US, so I knew that something would be expected of me.

    NO ONE could give me straight answers or point me in the right directions, they were happy to tell me what I couldn’t do (use any base privileges like APO box and our American registerred car and base gas)

    The sofa agreement is out dated and does need to be updated in the aspects of running a home business… just so spouses can earn money and support their significant others. If we are willing to buy everything German and use our german address, most importantly pay german taxes it should show that we want to do things right.

    It should be made possible that we as spouses are able to work in our homes, to do things like crafting, web design, and photo editing, these are things we can do while watching our children instead of passing off our children to strangers, it often helps us meet new friend, which can be hard when you move around a lot.

    The biggest changes to the sofa agreement that I would like to see are:
    That we can use our American cars to travel to photograph sessions but we must re fuel on the German economy tracking milage and receipts (if I worked at a bar down town i could drive to and from work with no rule breaking)
    That we can have a home office / craft room designated to our business with in our homes- even if we have to pay an extra amount in euros so that the military was not associated with the room
    The rule that Kamryn pointed out above “It doesn’t matter what your HBB is, whether or not you live on post, or if you have your German Tax ID. If your name appears on an APO mailbox (even if you don’t use your APO for business purposes), you violate the SOFA agreement if you run a business.”

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      These are very well thought out recommendations! Thank you for commenting!

  8. Cricket Says:

    I think that it’s discrimination against military spouses to limit our earning power. As military spouses it is a near impossibility to build a career when you’re moving every few years. I don’t feel that they’re taking this into consideration. Just saying.

  9. Susanne Says:

    When we lived in Okinawa Japan 2003-2006 it was relatively easy to get your home base business permits. I knew people who did discovery toys, & pampered chef, etc.
    However Spangdahlem Germany was a whole nother story. No one had answers, they bounced you from one person to another. After weeks of attempt you were basically told no to what ever business you were trying to run. The only thing that was accepted was Day Care through the FCC or what ever that was. Horrible, horrible bs. The rules need to change, with all of the moving spouses are put through especially overseas we should be able to have HBB’s.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Spangdahlem Germany is an Air Force base right? What is the Air Force version of Army Community Service?

      • Donnetta Says:

        Yes, Spangdahlem is Air Force. That is where I’m currently at myself, and I was given the same run-around and varying answers. All I want is to have my own Etsy/Artfire shops. But for all of the inconclusive and conflicting answers, I’ve gotten so frustrated that I’ve thrown my hands in the air and basically just said, “Forget it. It’s not worth this headache. I sell stuff when we get back to the States.”

        As best I can tell, the ACS is like the Air Force’s Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC, or AFRC).
        Donnetta recently posted..Trier & Kinderspiel!My Profile

        • Melissa Says:

          I live in Okinawa right now and it is still super easy to get your permit (I sell Scentsy) I was told I couldn’t use my APO to get products to resell. Meaning I have my parties and everything I sell is shipped directly to my customers. I do use my APO to get my supplies, and that’s not breaking the law. I don’t sell my supplies, and it all comes under MY name, not my husband’s. As long as it doesn’t say “Melissa…..Independent Scentsy Consultant” on the lable, it’s fine. I can’t believe that it’s so much harder in Germany, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard wives getting the run around out there. I’m sorry :( And this goes across all Branches of Military. My husband is Army, but we have to go to the AF base for our permits, but I live on a Marine Corps base. The rules are the same for all of us regardles of our Branch affiliation.

  10. Julie Says:

    I found it very frustrating being over there and having all these ideas in my head. I also had to give up my Ebay business when we moved. I think the SOFA agreement is outdated and there must be some kind of agreement than can be made that would allow spouses to have a HBB over there. There are a lot of spouse that would suffer if they had to move overseas just for this reason. How do you give up a business you put so much into because you are stationed overseas? Hopefully the right people will understand that things need to change.
    Julie recently posted..Our Special Needs Story Part OneMy Profile

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Did you know anyone while you lived overseas that had an HBB at your base? (approved or not) When did you find out you had to give up your business – was it before your PCS or during in processing?

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Stateside I think they want you to file with the post, but really, if you don’t file taxes as a business, and you’re not obvious, like a daycare, I don’t see how they can make you. All you have to do is say, “I’m a hobby.” I don’t consider less than $100 in 4 years in affiliate money a business.

    The taxes here, as it’s been explained to me are that it’s not worth it to file as a business unless you’re really serious and plan on building to make a significant income because you can only claim loss for the first 3 years. Hobbies are anything where you make less than a certain dollar amount, and you can claim expenses up to that amount so that you break even. I think it’s $500. A lot of people go by the fact that if they don’t get a 1099, they don’t claim it.

  12. Jessica Lynn Says:

    I am in Italy right now (we arrived within the past three months) and were told over, and over, and over again that, because of the SOFA, we absolutely can’t have any sort of home-based business. During Spouse Start they had people come in from the law office come in and explain how you could go about working anywhere but on base (including home businesses): basically you have to give up your visa and obtain a work visa to be in Italy (that’s the short version). The guy that came over even said how ridiculous the agreement is, but it’s not going to change any time soon. He did say that other countries (Germany, Japan, etc.) have more lenient regs. So do people have home-based businesses out here? Probably, but they scared me enough during that spouse start to not even bother with it. Such a bummer, too.
    Jessica Lynn recently posted..Buon Anno! (Happy New Year!)My Profile

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Wow! I didn’t know the Italy SOFA was so stringent! This would be a good thing to know ahead of time for families considering an assignment there! Thank you for sharing!

    • Donnetta Says:

      I recently came to Germany (Spangdahlem) from Italy (Aviano), and, like they told you, they didn’t even give us hope of an option of being able to have an HBB. (Granted, Aviano is actually an ITALIAN military base that they allow American sot occupy, so that presents a whole massive set of rules that are different from other overseas stations anyway. I don’t know about other bases in Italy.) But here in Germany, there have been so many different answers as to what is and isn’t allowed (even from the people that are supposed to know!), I figure I’ll just wait out our last two years overseas and start my HBB up when we get back to the States.
      Donnetta recently posted..Trier & Kinderspiel!My Profile

    • JusikaRenae Says:

      Jessica, they will deport your arse! ha There are plenty of home business though that aren’t legit in Italy, you just take that chance of getting caught. The SOFA agreement there really is part of the reasons spouses dislike it so much, even though they are living in ITALY!
      JusikaRenae recently posted..You spin my head right round, right round…My Profile

    • Sarah Says:

      Thanks Jusika for the info! We’ve only been in Italy a short time, and hadn’t thought about starting a hhb until recently, and had no idea where to get started. I don’t! lol Guess my little dream will just stay a hobby until we’re stateside again. :)

    • Pat Travis Says:

      Our situation is a bit different: we are a non-profit association serving military families and have an employee moving to Italy. Her responsibilities are connected with working on our website and she has done so remotely all over the US. We can’t find any regulation that says she would not be allowed to work 20 hours per week doing the same thing in Italy. She will not live in government quarters and uses an Association computer. Does anyone have comments or information regarding a situation like this?

  13. Julie Says:

    Oh also the ladies I knew with direct sales companies would not be allowed to have things shipped to them. But they did have parties and we would work and have things shipped directly to us. Not sure if all that was legal but it seemed to be what people did.
    Julie recently posted..Our Special Needs Story Part OneMy Profile

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      That sounds a lot like a friend of mine who was approved to do Pampered Chef. Same concept as an affiliate link. I’m sure it must be frustrating for them to explain each time they buy from the company itself though… No I’m not selling these items… Well I AM selling items such as these, but not THESE particular items – THIS box is just for me! Really!

  14. Colleen P Says:

    Just commenting to support those overseas-This really needs to get sorted out. You shouldn’t have to give up your earning potential to live overseas, but that’s essentially what happens. With multiple moves over a military career, not to mention the military spouses often multiple deployments, it is nearly impossible, and at the very least extremely difficult, to be employed unless one is self-employed. The SOFA agreements as they currently stand are outdated and a hindrance, not only at the time of the overseas tour but also for years after. Employers can pick and choose now, back in the US, and the person with long periods of time when they had no employment are simply not going to be given an opportunity.

  15. Bee Says:

    This has got to change. I’m an artisan. I specialize in hand made Jewelry, and I have a friend that I work with that makes handmade frames. We both make hair accessories too. I have a gift that I love to use, and it is something that I think that I am entitled to use to make money. I’ve spent years learning how to do the thing that I can do, just like someone who studies the law or accounting. It is so unfair to not be able to utilize the talent that I have to help support my family. I will happily pay taxes, and I will happily buy the supplies that I need on the German economy, and if I can’t purchase my supplies here, I will happily pay taxes and customs on anything that I need shipped in. We are so limited here as spouses, and really, there is no way around not breaking the SOFA agreement. Even if you pay German taxes, and have business license, you still can’t use your vehicle for anything business related, nothing. I spent two day going to housing and to the JAG office trying to find out how to do this thing legally, and I received different answers from every person that I spoke with.

    • Heike Says:

      Bee, even if you are a lawyer or have another “regular” profession, you need to get a local work permit and comply with the local requirements. Which is a big frustration to a lot of professional military spouses that I have met (including an opera singer, lawyer, math teacher etc). Outside of the military when spouses are being sent by their employer to an oversea location, it’s the same issue. So to me it’s not just a problem the military faces. However based on the sheer number of employees the military has, and requires to move frequently, obviously the impact on the number of spouses is much more significant. I have often wondered, as someone with an advanced degree and a corporate career, why the military doesn’t pair better with employer sponsors who will support employees’ transfers from one military location to another. For overseas stations this will only work if the employer also has a local subsidiary and can provide the logistical support to obtain the work permit for the civilian spouse.
      Generally I have found that military spouses generally only focus on HBB or on SAHMom, and have found very few who, like me, have pursued their own careers, and have worked with their employers to take their jobs with them, contributing significantly to the family income. As my husband retires next week from 20+ years in the Army, I earn more than 5 times what he earns, easing his transition to retirement. So as a comment to all the participants in this conversation, don’t limit yourself to HBB possibilities. For some talents and for some family circumstances, it might be your best or favorite choices – but there are MANY options out there. It also provides healthcare options far superior to what Tricare provides.
      As to working in Germany as a self employed, this CAN be lucrative. Keep in mind that all your professional actions cannot be supported by any US military benefits due to SOFA (such as tax free gas, military sponsored office space, etc), but it can provide OTHER benefits (salex tax is reimbursable via an input/output tax offset, you can have access to supply whole sale not accessible to end consumers, etc). The best way to inform yourself is to network with local German HBBs and their associations – they have all the legal documentation on what you need to do and don’t, when you have to register. ideally, ACS or other base affiliated support groups SHOULD provide such information, facilitate setup of HBB etc – but then I have learned in the past sixteen years not to rely on any help from my husband’s employer. Rather than receiving the run around, you may be better off with local grass roots approach. By joining into an “interest group” or “initiative”, you can also pool procurement, expenses for legal advice, receive tax exemption, etc. You can find friendship, networks, and a support infrastructure.

      BTW, my non-military associated employer has always been very accomodating to my military specific needs, such as three major moves, funky timezones, visa needs, inability to travel to certain job locations due to my military affiliation, etc.

      Good luck to all of you! Keep up your enthusiasm – and keep in mind how much of a role model you are to fellow spouses, your children, and your families for your initiative and entrepreneurial spirit!

      • Nina Says:

        Heike, you are exactly sharing my thoughts on this topic. Especially what comes to military spouses not pursuing their own careers beyond HBB or SAHM. Establishing own career for example in the corporate world opens so many doors to new possibilities and opportunities. Like you, I have been working in the corporate world since 1998, and it has been nothing but a huge benefit for me. Larger corporations usually are willing to accommodate the location changes, as well as assist with the work permit etc needs.
        Nina recently posted..New Year, New FollowersMy Profile

      • Life Says:

        Hi all,
        I am so happy to have found this blog! My husband and I moved to Stuttgart, Germany about 9 months ago and I have had a very hard time finding answers to these questions. My situation is a little different from most I have read here and I am hoping to get some advice.

        I graduated from law school and passed the Virginia Bar right before moving to Stuttgart. As I do not speak German, I cannot (and frankly don’t want to) work for a German firm. On the other hand, I just spent 3 long years studying to become a lawyer and I do not want to put my legal career on indefinite hold while living abroad. I would like to set up a local mediation practice helping Americans resolve disputes and aid in family law issues. I do not live on base and I would not practice on the base. Although, it sounds like I could not work from my home either. I am happy to set up a practice on the local economy. My biggest concern there, however, is having to sign a lease. We may only get a few months notice when we have to move back to the States and many German leases require that you give notice to vacate far in advance (more than 3 months).

        My husband is a civilian contractor (not a DOD employee) and he has TESA status (Technical Expert Status Accreditation). I have been told that I not only have to deal with the SOFA issues, but that my starting a business in Germany could jeopardize my husband’s TESA status. However, I have not been given a clear answer as to why. Because my husband is not military, we do not have access to many of the advisory services on base, but it sounds like those are not very helpful anyway.

        Heike, your post was very encouraging and I was wondering if you or any of the other wonderful contributors here could give me some advice as to how I can go about setting up my mediation practice. Any suggestions as to people I could contact who have been successful setting up a professional service company in Germany? One post mentioned a photographer and life coach and I will try reaching out to them. Any help you all can give would be greatly appreciated. I love the idea of joining an “interest group” or “initiative” as Heike mentioned. Anyone in Stuttgart interested?

        And just as an aside – I was very inspired reading the posts here. You are all strong, resourceful, and courageous women and I am rooting for all of you!!!

        • Betty jones Says:

          I am very interested in if you were able to find out any information on setting up a legal consultant business. Currently, I am living in the States but I plan on moving to Germany to set up my legal consultant business. As a former Active Duty Military member station overseas in Germany, I realize there were no legal assistants for former military members & their family members. Please let me know what you had to do to get started. Any information would be greatly appreciated.


          Betty Jones


  16. Marsha Says:

    Regardless of what I have found with talking to the local Rathaus, the Garrison, and the HR dept of our Garrison, Home Based Business’ are against the SOFA agreement and are all illegal. Whether you have an approved HBB packet, local tax ID or not, they still violate the current German/American SOFA agreement. I think it is a crock of crap that we as military spouses do not have the potential in supplementing our families income in a way that is not going to break the bank with day care fees (which are astronomical while overseas). This was an issue at our local AFAP conference and was worked in a way that it will eventually have to be presented to the German Finance Ministry if we would like for it to be changed. I honestly don’t see that happening, sadly, no one cares about the earning value of a military spouse. It is not about taxes or anything other than if a HBB involves a product being sold (Pampered Chef, Avon, Tupperware, Scentsy, photography, cakes, etc), whether you live on post or off, it is illegal. If it is a service provided, it is not illegal – children babysitting, housecleaning, lawn maintenance, etc. I can also play devils advocate as well. The military does NOT have to allow us (spouses and families) to be here. They can easily say that if we still want to live overseas with our soldier, we give up the right to have a HBB for the duration of our visit in Germany. Do HBB’s exist, yes. Do ALL communities/garrisons care or enforce the rules- nope. But if you are in one that does (Baumholder) proceed at your own risk.

    • Sidnie Says:

      In reply to the devils advocate comment, I’m not sure I agree that we should give up the right to have a HBB.
      If run properly, HBBs could give back to the military community AND the host country community. It could be a bridge between the two and benefit everyone. I know that the military/host country have the right to do whatever they deem right and legal… But making all of this so hard to navigate does nothing but breed hostility and frustration and encourage illegal/under the table businesses.

      • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

        I think too, if this issue were more well known, families could make an educated decision to move overseas. For example, we have small children. My extra income would be just that. A supplement to our household budget for extras such as travel and other luxuries.

        But 10 years from now? Let’s hypothesize my photography hobby grows into a well established business. Our children will be teenagers eating us out of house and home. We’ll be saving aggressively to help them go to college and buy their first car. Perhaps, if given the opportunity to be stationed overseas again, we might decide an unaccompanied 2 year tour would be better. I could continue to earn an income, make payments on our house, our children could remain in the the local school system, and we could travel back and forth on vacation. It would be our decision to make instead of moving overseas and suddenly learning my earning capacity as an Entrepreneur was zero.

  17. Abi Says:

    Thanks for this post! I am not a military spouse, but my husband is with the American Red Cross and we may be heading overseas soon and will be living on post. I was hoping to continue my photography/design business on the side but wondered if it would be possible. Good to know this ahead of time – would be nice if there was some way to do something small – like earning up to a certain amount per month or doing mostly digital business (have customers download designs/prints online and get them printed at their own expense somewhere).
    Abi recently posted..2011…a year in reviewMy Profile

  18. Allie Says:

    Yikes. I had no idea how strict such things were on base overseas. The odds of us ending up there are pretty slim, but it is discouraging to read about all the same. Raising a family on one income is very difficult, regardless if you are military or not. You would think there would be better options than what they currently have!
    Allie recently posted..Resolutions?My Profile

  19. Lindsey White Says:

    My husband is Air Force (A1C, so E3). We have been in Germany for a little over a year, and I have had my photography business since August.

    It was a stressful, difficult thing to move to overseas. Especially being our first duty station, no travel card yet and fronting all the expenses. ESPECIALLY moving from a high paying job which I excelled at. I stuck through the giant headache that was attempting to register my business, then finally becoming “legal” to avoid deportation (and worse). All I asked for along the way was a bit of help. I couldn’t even get that. It was disheartening.

    If First Lady Michelle Obama wants to help us:

    - She can make it so that we can at least drive our base registered POV’s to and from shoots. If we spoke German and worked on the economy, we could drive to and from work. But because I am a business owner, I can’t drive my own car without getting a German drivers license (expensive and difficult to obtain), paying German taxes/registration/insurance (also expensive). I don’t mind buying gas on the economy; I think that’s fair. But I don’t agree with the registration laws.
    - She can create some sort of liaison at legal who can help with those wishing to start up a HBB and help them determine if this is even the right decision. It’s not for many, but they don’t realize until it’s too late (tax time) that they are over their heads. Or they don’t understand certain parts of the SOPA. Or they are getting mixed answers from other places.
    - She can make establishing a HBB more fair and reasonable. A wedding photographer or someone who does environmental portraits IS NOT COMPETITION for AAFES portrait studio. PERIOD. This whole concept is just absurd.
    - She can make it so that we are permitted to ship a certain weight, dollar amount, whatever; of business items with household goods when we PCS. I am a photographer: my camera, lenses, flashes and all the little bits and bobs that go with it are used for more than just my business. This is a HOBBY that happens to make me a few bucks here and there. I want to be able to ship my hobby home without worrying if I’m breaking a law.

    I hope that your blog post can shed some light on this situation and help us military spouses out. We don’t choose to become unemployed and shipped overseas. We choose to support our husbands and country from the back seat and try to keep busy, active and maybe make a few bucks while doing it.

  20. Sarah Says:

    I knew that in order to have a business overseas there were a lot of hoops to jump through but oh my! I’m still figuring out how to have a business or “hobby” in on-base housing stateside, so if you or anyone has any information on that it’d be welcomed! :)
    Sarah recently posted..Change, transition, and a new year.My Profile

  21. Tina Says:

    When we were stationed in Korea several years ago, I had to quit my career of 13 years. According to the SOFA agreement my visa was a “housewife” visa, i.e. no working. If I wanted to get a job on the Korean economy or have my own business I would need to go back to the US at my own expense and apply for a work visa. Then I could return to Korea at my own expense when that came through. I “think” that would be the case for DOD civilian jobs as well. The min wage jobs at the commissary and BX were filled with Koreans, as per the SOFA agreement. The only people I knew that worked from home were people who continued to work for their US company (not self employed), but were able to do all their work on their computer & email it back, and their paychecks were direct deposited in their US bank account, and they paid US taxes in their state of residency – i.e. it didn’t impact the Korean economy. I don’t know if it was legal or if they got approval, but if they didn’t blab about it, who would really know?

    I now have a true HBB (not a consultant), but haven’t lived overseas since I started it. I do know that stateside, if we live on base, I have to get my business approved by the housing office and sometimes the base commander. I have to register to get my sales tax license with the state, but since base housing is on federal property there is no local city business license to get. I pay state and federal income taxes, sales taxes on all my sales (including on base sales), but not local business taxes. If we live off base then I have to get the city business license, pay local business taxes, get zoning approval, and permission from my landlord if we rent.

    I really don’t make enough money to keep it as a business vs a hobby, but I would lose some of my suppliers to get raw materials if I don’t have a tax or business license. Not to mention if I had to pay retail prices & sales tax on all my supplies, then my finished art would be too expensive to be competitive with others.

    I’m an artist and I love what I do. I will create art no matter where we live, even if I can’t sell it until the next move. It is hard to have a sucessful HBB when you move every 2 years. I have to basically start from scratch every time. This particular move was difficult because my husband’s job prevented me from even marketing my business to most of the people on base. I got lucky and got my art into a gallery off base, but I will lose that when we move because it features “local” artists.

    I love my husband and the adventure of military life, but biggest sacrifice military spouses make is giving up their careers. After being out of my career for 10 years it would be almost impossible to be competitive enough to go back. Just thinking about it makes my thankful that my marriage is strong, because I would be totally up a creek if my husband divorced me.

    SOFA agreements need to revised to make it easier on spouses. I think most HBB owners are perfectly willing to pay appropriate host country taxes to be able to continue their HBB.

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write / share your story with all of us! I agree that many spouses are willing to pay the appropriate host country taxes and fees if all of the information is easily accesible and understand. Your husband is a lucky man to have such an amazing woman by his side! Thank you for supporting him and being creative with your career along the way! You are an inspiration!

  22. Nina Says:

    The SOFA is a serious headache for the spouses in order to work overseas. With the number of hurdles related to it, especially the spouses with professional background and adequate academic training (in my opinion) should try to prepare the move already beforehand in the States, and try to find employers who are willing to sponsor the work permits overseas – either local or US based companies. Based on my experience in hiring people while I was in Europe, the work permit process can be lengthy, so the earlier start, the better.

    While it would make sense to allow spouses to continue/establish home based businesses overseas, it also creates a problem from the immigration and residency point of view. Military service members are in another country serving their own country, and hence still tied to the US, not the foreign country. For comparison, if a non-military person expatriates to another country for a work assignment, (s)he in most cases establishes life in that country by paying local taxes and so on. Furthermore, the spouse who is following the service member to a foreign country, and is tied to his/her residency status – just like in any immigration situation.
    Basically the SOFA follows the rules of general immigration and work permit processes, and unfortunately makes it rather complicated for spouses. While I don’t necessarily agree with SOFA rules and regulations, changing them is also a rather complicated task that requires quite a bit of diplomatic work.
    Nina recently posted..New Year, New FollowersMy Profile

    • Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva Says:

      As I shared in a previous comment, I would think if this issue were more well known, families could make their own better informed decision to move overseas. For example, we have small children. My extra income would be just that. A supplement to our household budget for extras such as travel and other luxuries.

      But 10 years from now? Let’s hypothesize my photography hobby grows into a well established business. Our children will be teenagers eating us out of house and home. We’ll be saving aggressively to help them go to college and buy their first car. Perhaps, if given the opportunity to be stationed overseas again, we might decide an unaccompanied 2 year tour would be better. I could continue to earn an income, make payments on our house, our children could remain in the the local school system, and we could travel back and forth on vacation. It would be our decision to make instead of moving overseas and suddenly learning my earning capacity as an Entrepreneur was zero.

      • Nina Says:

        I so know what you mean. However, if your photography becomes a well established business, and you have images published, win competitions, and so on – you might qualify for work visas based on your artistic capabilities. It definitely is not an easy/super fast route but there are options and possibilities to get the work permits on your own.

        However, the whole SOFA concept is outdated, and doesn’t make any sense for families where both spouses want to build/continue to build their careers. While our government can’t directly give spouses permits to do business in foreign countries, it would definitely be helpful if there was a special agreement that would allow spouses to get temporary work permit for example their own businesses during the time they are stationed in the country.
        Nina recently posted..New Year, New FollowersMy Profile

  23. Tina Says:

    HBB like Pampered Chef, are not true home based businesses – i.e. you do not have your own business license and tax license – you are not a sole proprietor or a LLC. You are technically a commission only consultant for the parent company. They report your income to the IRS & give you a 1099. You pass all sales monies & sales tax collected to them and they pay you a commission. Because of this, it can be easier to get approval to have this type of business. Since you don’t have a business license, you don’t need zoning approval. Most landlords or base housing approve this because you don’t have customers coming to your house – you’re going to the customers house. I would be willing to bet that most consultants never get their landlord’s approval. Ironic & frustrating is that for my true HBB license I had to get zoning approval that said I couldn’t have ANY customers come to my house. But I could have a “party” sales event at my neighbors or Pampered Chef party for a friend at my house. Most city zoning needs updated because there are more opportunities to work from home that honestly don’t have a lot of traffic that would annoy your neighbors.

    Overseas a Pampered Chef customer has a right to place a personal order online and have it shipped directly to them – just like they can order something from Amazon. Where it gets dicey is that the consultant earned the commission while in the host country and the SOFA agreement sometimes dissallows spouses from earning any money from foreign sources (the US) or from having professional jobs on their economy (takes jobs away from their citizens).

  24. Melinda Says:

    I do live overseas. At our last base (Lajes) I did not set up a HHB, however I did do tutoring on base and I wonder now if I needed to set that up as a HHB. It never occurred to me, and I lived off base, and it was just for one person, and I was given the lead through the school where I was actually working. Until now, it never occurred to me that this could have been considered a HHB and needed to be registered. Lesson learned…it was my first overseas assignment.

    Now we live in Japan and I have started my HHB simply because if someone wants to ask me for nutrition counseling I can give this to them and charge. I knew as soon as someone asked me for help that if I did not have a HHB set up, I would not be able to charge and thus my skilled profession would either be given away for free, or the person would not get the help they needed. In my case I see my business as different, but at the same time I am still a spouse just looking to stay employed. I say mine is different because I am a registered dietitian, and I have a clinical skill, which I think is different in what it brings to the table versus selling products. I have seen others sell a service (like massage therapists) so I think I am more closely related to this, although again, we are all just military spouses trying to work.

    At Lajes there were little jobs for spouses, and HHB are highly encouraged. Photography is a big one there. The only major option on base is substitute teaching, and if you have an undergrad degree this is a great way to make money. The base was just too small to support more jobs, and you are warned of this in advance. As a result, I made sure I was well established teaching online. In my case, I finished my Master’s degree before moving overseas and was able to get a good job teaching online. This is great job security for me and something I encourage to anyone with a graduate degree living overseas.

    I happen to have a skilled profession in the medical field and I am glad that I can have a HBB that is different from others here and can really standout. We have one military RD on the base, and besides me only 1 other RD that I know of (and she teaches with me at UMUC). I think the opportunities for spouses to make money depends on their skills and their motivation. I know I want to work, I know I want a job, and I know I like to make money so I am always on the look out for something that can showcase my skills, use my abilities and give me work. I know I need to make connections on base and I know I need to put myself out there. It really helps to be proactive, and honestly (yes, I am an educator so I can’t help myself) an education helps. Any degree can give you an advantage over someone without a degree. Living overseas is a great time to enroll in school and get yourself established in a field that can set you apart from others. You have to find out what you like and learn how to get creative. Even in the the US people are having trouble finding jobs, so you really do need to be creative.

    I also wanted to mention that without a really good reason (safety etc) they should not turn down HHB even if they feel they compete with something offered on base. There should be a free market or they should have more openings for hiring qualified individuals. We have a dietitian on base, but there is no place for me to be hired at this time (I will state that I will be filing in at the WIC clinic for a bit and excited about that) and I don’t even know how I would react if they would not let me practice my profession here. I went to a lot of years of schooling to be told I can’t practice when the US based accreditation board says I am qualified to do this. The same can be said for a variety of other business, photography included. There is no reason why competition should be an issue. In the real world, in the US, there is competition everywhere.

    Well, glad I could rant a little here. Just in case you, or anyone else is interested, my HHB at Misawa is called In a Nutshell, and I have a FB page where I post nutrition tips, tidbits and links, so feel free to check it out. https://www.facebook.com/InANutshellNutrition
    Melinda recently posted..Checking on Goals from 2011 and New Goals for 2012My Profile

  25. Betsy @JavaCupcake Says:

    The outdated rules are exactly why I don’t have a HBB license. My blog isn’t up to make money and I don’t sell my cupcakes to friends and family as a business while I’m here in Germany. I do it as a hobby and will continue to unless the rules make it easier for someone like me to have a HBB.

    Betsy @JavaCupcake recently posted..New Year’s Raspberry Champagne CupcakesMy Profile

  26. Sidnie Says:

    It makes my head spin to try and understand all of this. I can see why those at ACS and legal just kind of brush the conversations and questions off, because there really aren’t any clear answers. Either HBBs need to have clear and consistent rules and regs… Or it needs to be clear that HBBs aren’t allowed.
    For now, from what I understand, there is no need to have a HBB packet submitted because it’s not going to be approved and cannot be legal. But there are packets approved, regardless of legality with SOFA…

    All of this makes no sense.
    If the SOFA is seriously this outdated, it needs to be amended.

  27. Alisa Says:

    Betsy, I completely agree. After reading this I think I’m just going to keep my HBB strictly as a hobby, and not let it get any bigger. We are due to move to Italy (in Germany now) and that scares me that I will have to give it up for good. I have a craft room in my off-base home, but again, its a hobby. All my “customers” have been friends and family. It really saddens me that we all have to go through this.
    Alisa recently posted..Reusable Pink Coffee Cozy Sleeve with Blue Mint Border/SquaresMy Profile

  28. Lisa Says:

    I will never for the life of me understand AAFES and it’s monopoly power particularly in Europe.

    I also want to say that “No” is the easiest answer in the world and I find that DOD Civilians (and military too) will just say no rather than to the research to give you good information. If you get answers that don’t make sense, just keep pushing until you find the right person and the right information. The job market for us MilSpouses isn’t going to improve anytime soon so we really need to have the option of a home-based business for our own happiness and to contribute to our households financially.

    And I hate to say it, but my personal strategy is don’t ask, don’t tell. I live in Military Housing and just do my work and leave the housing office out of it. Of course, I’m not overseas so it is much simpler.
    Lisa recently posted..Healthy New Year!My Profile

    • Kim Kravitz Says:

      I don’t understand the whole AAFES thing either. To deny someone because they will compete with AAFES just boggles my mind. I in no way compete with AAFES. There are people who would rather go with me or go with them. There are definitely enough fish in the sea for both AAFES and HBBs.

  29. Heather Says:

    We were stationed in Okinawa, Japan for almost 3 years. During part of the time we were there I had a HBB (pampered chef). We are an Army family but we were living/working on an AFB. To get approval for my business I had to get a form from the housing office on-base (office responsible for ALL housing on Okinawa) and fill out the form and then have my husbands commander sign it (I think I may have had to get someone from legal to sign it too, but I don’t think I actually did this step). I then took the form back to housing and about a week later it was approved and I picked up the form with the approval stamp. The biggest problem I faced with having a HBB overseas was with the postal system. We had to make sure that we did not receive products for others or to re-sale in our PSC box. Almost every consultant (Tupperware, Mary Kay, PC, Stamp it Up, etc) was having a hard time receiving supplies through the MPS system. From what I understand, this is pretty much cleared up in Okinawa. I have recently became a Pampered Chef consultant again (back in the states this time) and heard from my director that consultants in Germany are having a hard time getting their business approved through legal and are told they cannot drive their car to/from parties.

    • Kim Kravitz Says:

      The whole driving to and from issues if you are a HBB is a load of crap! Other spouses who are not HBB owners are allowed to drive their POVs to and from work. I should be allowed to do the same. All I’m doing is driving to and from work. I’m not using my vehicle to deliver pizzas, transport goods, etc. etc. I don’t see how this rule makes sense at all.

  30. Amber Says:

    I do not understand why it is so hard to be approved for a HBB. When I moved here (Baumholder) in August, I thought that it would be easy to get a HBB approval, and that I would be able to do my photography and get paid for it. After talking to so many photographers like myself, I have been to scarred to even try to apply now. I don’t want to go thru all of the work and hassel of it all, if the people that I am going to talk to and propose my plan to, don’t have a clue about it anyways. It’s discouraging. So for now, it’s my hobby and I do it all for free.

    • Kim Kravitz Says:

      It is very discouraging. :( Unfortunately, I’ve heard Baumholder is one of the hardest places to get a HBB setup and running. Hang in there, though. Hopefully something can get fixed and the process will be less painful. :)

  31. Heather Says:

    This is a subject I have been dealing with for the past 11 years while living overseas between Japan and Italy. We started our overseas journey in Yokosuka, Japan and while there, I started my HBB. I am a hair stylist and have been licensed since 1988. Initially, I did not intend to work from home but discovered that there was a NEED for skilled stylists. I suppose I could have applied to the NEX but I wanted freedom of time to travel and volunteer while overseas. So I looked into the rules for HBB and went through the process. I was approved through the base and through my husbands command but was denied by the NEX (competition-although there is no way a base salon would have the manpower or space to service the entire base population all the time) however this did not affect my overall approval from legal to operate my HBB. While there I worked from home on a part time basis and it was all good. Fast forward 3 years and we move to Italy. By this time I am enjoying being able to work from home, keep my skills up, meet people, provide a needed and wanted service to spouses and earn a bit of money to boot. Assuming Italy would be the same system as Japan, I go to base legal to get the forms to register and get approval for my HBB. I am told that there is NO HBB allowed other than operating a home day care under the CDC.
    The SOFA agreement in Italy does not allow for any HBB at all, on or off base. However, I was told to “fly under the radar”. I tried this for awhile but in the end, I was asked to stop by base officials. Thankfully (or not so, since I loved Italy) we were leaving shortly after this and headed back once again to Japan. Sasebo this time. Again, I registered, got approval and operated my HBB successfully and peacefully there for 2 years.
    And now this takes us back to Italy for our final 4 years overseas. Coming back, I knew it would be strange but the whole climate was different when I returned. The base was less concerned with hunting down the spouses operating HBB and so those of us who were entrepreneurs went about our businesses “underground”. We did the best we could to maintain our businesses while trying not to flaunt it at the base. I’ve only been out of Italy since this summer but in that last year I was there, the HBB movement seemed to be on the rise and almost even accepted. I’m sure this could change in an instant but what really needs to change are the laws, rules and ideas concerning military spouses and HBB. Sure, I was lucky to have spent all that time living overseas- we loved every new adventure. However not everyone is willing to take those jobs. There are trade offs for everything but being forced to give up a job, hobby or dream, to follow your spouse overseas should not be one of them. I’m preaching to the choir here but we as military spouses have skills, talent and resources that are invaluable to our communities and this should be celebrated and encouraged whether conus or oconus.
    I would be willing to join forces with anyone wanting to take this one to the mat. And I know plenty of others who would as well. Perhaps if we stand united and get our message to the right people, we can make a change.

  32. Shasta Says:

    We spent the past two years stationed in Korea and there were virtually no jobs available to spouses. The agreement with Korea specifically states that when an on-post job position is filled by a Korean national, that position will be reserved for a Korean in the future. So every time there was a job opening on post, spouses weren’t eligible for the job because of the agreement. I’d say about 95% of the jobs on post were for Korean Nationals.

    Anyway, back to the HBB issue. I remember hearing that we could only sell or provide services to other military families and DoD employees, and that we were not allowed to make a profit off the Korean economy. If we were to make any profit off the Korean economy, we would be required to give up our SOFA status and file taxes in Korea. We did of course, have to report any extra earning we made when we filed our U.S. taxes.

    There was never any issue over getting approved to run a business, but there really should have been some sort of permits or certification. People were running food based services out of their homes, and some of these homes weren’t what I would consider sanitary. There was no enforcement of this though. Command sponsorship is still relatively new to Korea, so I’m sure it’s going to be a while before this issue gets addressed. Right now they’re still trying to work out the kinks in the whole command sponsorship process.

  33. Erin Says:

    We recently moved back to the states from Germany and I have to tell you I couldn’t be happier to be gone! The rules and lack of opportunity was just too much for me. My question is – what about the soldiers who marry germans so those spouses may have hbbs or work on the economy but drive tax free cars with tax free gas etc? Who is regulating that? Also we all see the spouses in the px and comm. With 10 family members buying dozens of turkeys or what have you to resell on the economy and no one stopped them! There needs to be an overhaul of the system that’s for sure.

  34. Beth Says:

    Wow, trying to figure all this out is making me dizzy. I just started my own blog and etsy shop online (selling my own made earrings, jewelry and other accessories online to the states only). We are stationed at Ramstein, AB. I had no idea this was so complicated. I feel like such a moron right now for asking this but as long as I don’t make more than $400 a month I’m not facing any legalities with taxes? I know I’ll never make nowhere near that but still, I want my butt covered! My only earnings (which I haven’t made any yet, HAHA) are htrough Google Adsense and my etsy shop online. I called the legal office on base and got the run around as well. Is a blog and etsy shop even considered a HBB? This is nuts!

  35. Vania Oblander Says:

    Audio began playing from the moment I opened this web-site, I thought I’d inform you about it.

  36. Air Force Spouse Says:

    My family is currently stationed in England at RAF Menwith Hill and although I am not a business owner myself nor do I have any “hobbies” such as yours resulting in even a small amount of income, I can tell you that there are several people on our base that advertise their businesses (photography, babysitting, house cleaning, music lessons and hair to name a few) in our weekly base newsletter. I know/have known a couple people personally who charge(d) for their services and did not file this as income. Maybe it was such a small dollar amount it’s not? Is there a cut off at which point it needs to be filed with the IRS? Since I do not have a HBB, I’m not familiar with IRS laws. Our Family Support Services office on our installation offers a class about starting your own business. I’d imagine it goes over the laws/regulations that would apply and possibly answering the questions you’ve asked. I don’t know how/if at all the laws differ in England vs. Germany. It might be worth a phone call. Good luck.


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