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VAT Registration

German VAT Registration - 2024 Guide by German Tax Advisors

Foreign companies selling goods and services across EU borders do not normally have to be registered for VAT in Germany. This fact falls under the measures to encourage the free internal market, introduced by the European Union.

German VAT registration for foreign companies

However, there are some important exceptions which are complicated by inconsistent interpretation of the rules in the individual member states. If one of these exceptions is applicable, a foreign company must register for VAT in Germany, even if the foreign company has no branch or place of business in Germany.

If you know that you need a German VAT registration, you can immediately send an email to info@vat-germany.com and we will contact you without delay.

Examples for when German VAT registration is required

Here are some examples of when companies with business activities in a foreign country must register although they have no branch in Germany:

  • Holding stocks in a warehouse in Germany and then selling it to German customers 
  • Maintaining a German consignment warehouse and selling products to German customers 
  • Use of the German Amazon Fulfillment Service (FBA) as a foreign Amazon seller with delivery via the German warehouse and/or Zalando Fulfillment Service (ZFS)
  • Selling via an electronic marketplace in Germany e.g Ebay, Zalando, Amazon etc.
  • Buying and selling products in Germany without the goods leaving the country 
  • Importing goods into Germany from a third country or another EU member state and selling the goods in Germany 
  • Moving goods between Germany and other EU member states (intra-community supplies) 
  • Organizing live events (conferences, art, education) in Germany 
  • If a company is a non-registered VAT trader in Germany, but receives a service in Germany under the rules of the reverse charge system 
  • The self-supply of goods 
Steuerberatung Meeting

Foreign companies must check their need for VAT registration

Foreign companies must  determine whether their business in the German market means that they must be registered for VAT in Germany. In  case  German VAT registration has not been completed or, has been completed late, there is a threat of severe punishments and, the German tax authorities are paying more and more attention to this area in view of the massive growth of fraudulent fictitious companies.

In particular, foreign Amazon sellers have in recent years been obligated by the German tax authorities to register for VAT. But other foreign companies are also receiving letters from the German tax authorities with regard to VAT registration in Germany when information reaches the tax offices via the tax audits of the foreign companies’ German customers.

How do you register for VAT in Germany?

Foreign companies must submit an application for German VAT registration at the jurisdictional tax office for the relevant state. The official language is German, and the tax forms are generally only available in German. This means that even when registering a foreign company for German VAT, the correspondence with the jurisdictional tax authorities must be in the German language.

According to our experience, the German tax offices are very critical when it comes to VAT registration of foreign companies, and they often ask questions. In view of losses in the billions every year in the European Union by way of fictitious companies and carousel fraud, increased checking is intended to ensure that VAT fraudsters will be registered for tax. These testing processes lead to longer wait times for receiving a VAT registration, which  generally takes several weeks.

HOW CAN WW+KN HELP WITH VAT REGISTRATION?

WW+KN has advised many foreign companies and corporations for many years on VAT registration in Germany and on fulfilling German VAT obligations. Additionally, WW+KN is the partner of several German chambers of commerce in various other states. WW+KN consistently supports more than 300 foreign companies with VAT obligations in Germany.

The team at WW+KN has also carried out several hundred VAT registrations for foreign companies in Germany over the years. This means that WW+KN is familiar with the exact requirements and the procedure with the German authorities for the VAT registration of foreign companies. This ensures that VAT registration for clients of WW+KN will be completed as quickly and smoothly as possible.

What documents does WW+KN need for registration?

After we have been assigned the task , WW+KN sends the foreign client a checklist with all information and documents required for VAT registration in Germany. Generally, this includes the following documents:

  • Founding certificates of the company 
  • Copy of the company registration document 
  • Current confirmation from the foreign tax authority about the company’s tax registration in the country of residence
  • Presentation of planned business activities in Germany 
  • Authority for WW+KN to be the tax representative vis-à-vis the German authorities

Depending on the country in which the company is registered, different German tax offices Finanzamt are responsible for the VAT registration. For example, for companies from the UK, the tax office in Hanover (Finanzamt Hannover) is responsible, for companies from the US, the tax office is in Bonn (Finanzamt Bonn) or for companies from Italy the tax office in Munich (Finanzamt München) is responsible.

VAT registration is complete - What next?

After VAT registration in Germany, for the first two years, the foreign company is generally obligated to submit monthly preliminary VAT  returns and an annual VAT return. These are transmitted electronically to the tax authorities. The language of correspondence is German.

WW+KN will also handle the  correspondence with the German tax authorities for the client in the time that follows. VAT-relevant documents will be coordinated with the client. WW+KN will then prepare the preliminary monthly VAT  returns and annual returns. In doing this, WW+KN will ensure  that the German formal requirements are met and there will be no fines or late filing/payment fees for the foreign client.

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Do you have questions about VAT registration in Germany?

Do you have any questions about the VAT registration of your company in Germany? Are you unsure whether your company must be registered for VAT in Germany? Do you want to know more about your tax obligations after completing VAT registration? Would you like a quote for VAT representation of your company in Germany? Yes? Then please send an email to info@vat-germany.com and we will contact you as quickly as possible.

As a member of SBC Global Alliance, WW+KN can coordinate international VAT compliance requirements worldwide.

Your advantages by working with WW+KN

  • Working together with one of the leading German VAT consultants for foreign companies with business affairs in Germany.
  • Fulfillment of all German legal requirements and avoiding any problems with the German tax authorities.
  • Having a reliable partner in Germany, that knows the country, the workflow at the authorities and speaks the language of the tax officers.

Summary of the most important details

  • By doing business in Germany, a foreign company can be obliged to register for VAT purposes in Germany.
  • Every foreign company with a business connection to Germany is obliged to check their VAT obligations itself. If the foreign company doesn´t register for VAT, although it is obliged to, the consequence may be high penalties, late payment and filing charges and investigations by the German tax authorities.
  • After completing a VAT registration, the foreign company is obliged to file German preliminary VAT returns within the legal deadlines.