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When do I need a German VAT number?

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When do I need a German VAT number?

As a general rule, a foreign business must register for VAT in Germany as soon as a taxable supply is made. The following are the usual examples of taxable transactions:

  • Domestic supply of goods not reverse charged: A supply of goods located in Germany where the supply is not subject to reverse charge requires a VAT registration of the supplier.
  • Supply of services not reverse charged: Foreign businesses supplying services on which German VAT is due must register for VAT. These services are rather exceptional, as the general B2B rule would apply.
  • Import: Importing goods into Germany requires a VAT number before importation.
  • Export: Exporting goods to a non-EU country requires a VAT number before the export is made.
  • Intra-Community acquisition: Acquiring goods from another Member State where all conditions for intra-Community movements are met requires the customer to register for VAT. 
  • Intra-Community supply: Supplying goods another Member State is also a taxable transaction that obliges the supplier to register for VAT. 
  • Distance sales above the threshold of 100,000€ also require a VAT number. See German distance sales rules for more information.

A backdated registration is possible. In that case, all historic VAT returns must be filed and potential penalties may be charged by the authorities on late VAT payments. We suggest agreeing the approach beforehand with the responsible tax officer. 

There is no registration threshold for foreign non-established companies in Germany. For these businesses, a registration is required prior to the first taxable transaction made in Germany. Small established companies can avoid a VAT registration if the turnover of the previous year did not exceed 15,000€ and will not exceed 50,000€ in the current year.