16th Mar 2021
Germany uses many different tax identification numbers. For an entrepreneur who writes an invoice for the first time, it can be difficult to distinguish them. They are faced with the question: Do I have to state a Steuernummer (a tax number) or Umsatzsteuer-ID (VAT ID) on the invoice? Finally, both numbers can be given on the invoice. You can now find out the difference between those two tax numbers and when exactly which one is required.
As an entrepreneur, you can have both a Steuernummer and Umsatzsteuer-ID (VAT ID, sales tax ID) in Germany. Both numbers equally serve for tax identification.
A Steuernummer is your tax identification number. Every private (legal) person in Germany has such a tax number. If you write an invoice, you usually have to provide it for identification.
An Umsatzsteuer-ID (VAT ID) can only be assigned to companies in certain cases and is your tax identification number for other EU countries. In other words: it may be necessary when you write an invoice to a business partner in another EU country.
You should always state one of these two tax numbers on the invoice. But when exactly each of them is required on the invoice? Have a look at the table presented below.
You enter Steuernummer when you send invoices to another entrepreneur or to a private person who is based in Germany. It is, so to speak, your domestic German tax identification number.
However, you are also allowed to enter the VAT ID (sales tax number) instead of the Steuernummer also within Germany.
In fact, many entrepreneurs prefer to include their VAT ID on invoices within Germany because it is more secure from a data protection perspective.
Umsatzsteuer-ID (VAT ID) is required if you and your customer are both regular entrepreneurs subject to VAT and your customer is based in another EU country. Because then the principle of intra-community delivery or service applies: Your customer, not you, has to pay the sales tax for the purchase to their tax office.
In order to handle the VAT transaction within the EU, you and your customer must both be identified by a European VAT ID. You must therefore state both your VAT ID and your customer's VAT ID on the invoice. In addition, in this case, you are not allowed to show any other tax number on the invoice. Otherwise, your customer would pay sales tax twice: once to you and once to their tax office.
If you are a small business owner or your customer is a small business owner or a private person, the principle of intra-community delivery/service does not apply. This means that there is no need to include a sales tax ID on the invoice.
Foreign businesses that conduct taxable activities in Germany may be required to apply for a German VAT number. Typically, these activities include:
Applications for a VAT number must be submitted to the appropriate tax office. The choice depends on where the foreign company is located. Non-EU companies wishing to register must apply to the tax office in Berlin.
The Steuernummer and Umsatzsteuer-ID are both tax identification numbers that the tax office can use to assign invoices to companies. If you write an invoice to a customer in Germany, the Steuernummer on the invoice is sufficient. If your customer is based in another EU country, you have to state the Umsatzsteuer-ID on the invoice under certain conditions: this is the case if you and your customer are both regular entrepreneurs who are subject to VAT.
While the tax office automatically provides you with a Steuernummer when you set up your company, you must explicitly apply for the Umsatzsteuer-ID at the Federal Central Tax Office. You will not get this tax number if you declare a small business (Kleintunternehmer), because small businesses do not need to charge VAT.