WHO? WHAT AND WHY?

If you’re going to sell on amazon.de, amazon.nl, Zalando or Otto.de, you might need a German VAT number. But when do you exactly need it? Why do you need it? And what else is involved? In this article we will discuss all the questions you may have or should know about German VAT combined with the platforms mentioned before. We rely on questions we received from sellers or have been asked in our online community.

Just for the record: when we talk about VAT, we are talking about sales tax (Mehrwertsteuer [MWst.]). This is 19% in Germany and 21% in the Netherlands.

DO I NEED TO APPLY FOR A GERMAN VAT NUMBER IF I DO NOT EXCEED THE THRESHOLD AMOUNT AND HAVE NO STOCK IN GERMANY?

In principle, that’s not mandatory. However, it happens more and more that platforms like Amazon, Zalando and Otto.de expect sellers to register themselves in the country where they sell. This has to do with, among other things, that platforms have gained greater responsibility in collecting VAT. By requiring merchants to register, the chance that rules cannot be enforced on the platforms is considerably smaller.

HOW SHOULD I FILE MY VAT RETURN IF I EXCEED THE THRESHOLD AMOUNT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE YEAR?

With the threshold, it works as follows:

  • Imagine your turnover to Germany was over Q1 and Q2 was a total of 8k;
  • In July and August, you sell 5k and in September you cross the threshold amount by selling 3k.
  • In the Netherlands you declare 10k for Q3 (8k+2k), the amount until you reached the threshold).
  • In Germany you file your return monthly, so in September you declare 3k.
  • During October, November and December you also file your return in Germany.

In the Netherlands you don’t longer declare sales to German customers in Q4.

If you don’t expect to exceed the threshold amount this year, you can do two things:

  1. Nothing and wait for you to exceed it. From the moment you exceed the threshold amount, you can apply for a VAT number and retroactively file your return. You don’t need to have a number registered before.
  2. Request a German VAT NUMBER directly and request an exception from the Dutch tax authorities to directly file your return in Germany. The advantage is that you don’t have to keep an eye on the threshold amount and pay 19% VAT instead of 21%.

DO YOU NEED TO FILE YOUR RETURN 13 TIMES A YEAR IN GERMANY?

Yes, in the first year after registering a German VAT number. You, or your tax advisor, file monthly returns. Every year, you file an annual return on your total sales in Germany. Of course, that amount must correspond to the total of the amounts you have declared each month.

DO I NEED TO REGISTER WITH THE GERMAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TO APPLY FOR A VAT NUMBER?

No, you don’t need to register with the German Chamber of Commerce to apply for a German VAT number. In Germany it’s also known as ‘Industrie- und Handelskammern’ (IHKs). A German VAT number can be requested in the name of your Dutch company, whether you have a sole proprietorship or private company. For more information, please have a look at our article about the German Chamber of Commerce.

DO I NEED AN ADDRESS IN GERMANY?

Since the Brexit, a German address is required for the VAT application. The German tax autorities will only send correspondence towards EU-addresses. We can help you by setting up a German address.

HOW DO I REQUEST A GERMAN VAT NUMBER?

You can do that yourself at the Finanzamt in Hannover or you can hire a professional for it. Many sellers outsource it because it’s quite a lot of work to work through all German forms. Then you can file the monthly returns yourself via elster.de (German Tax Portal). If you don’t feel comfortable with this or just don’t want or have time for it, then of course we can help you!

IF I DON’T LONGER NEED A GERMAN VAT NUMBER IN THE FUTURE, CAN I CANCEL IT?

Yes, you can just unsubscribe the VAT number. You can do this by sending a letter to the German Tax Office.

We have a template available on the page “Cancel German VAT number”.