How to apply for a German VAT number

Photograph of a magazine showing Steuererklärung 2018 for a german vat number
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This how to apply for a German VAT number guide is for you if you:

  • started a new company in Germany
  • want to sell products in Germany via Amazon or eBay
  • are looking to grow your business in the German market

If any of these points apply to your situation, a registration for a German VAT number may be necessary. We will show you the exact process, where, and how you can apply for your VAT number in Germany.

What is a VAT identification number?

The principle of the VAT identification number (USt-IdNr. for short) exists in every country of the EU. The Umsatzsteuer Identifikationsnummer, also known as Ust-IdNr or UID, is a tax number used to clearly identify companies that operate within the EU and sell and purchase goods internationally. The VAT registration number is required by all companies that sell their services or products to companies in other EU countries or wish to obtain supplies from other EU countries. The reverse charge procedure applies to these intra-Community deliveries.

What are the advantages for VAT in Germany?

If you sell goods to a company in another EU country, you do not have to add VAT to your sales price – provided that the customer has a valid VAT number for identification. Another advantage if you sell within the EU: Through the SEPA network, payment by bank transfer is easy and free of charge, your customers do not need to use the SWIFT network for foreign transfers and do not have to worry about exchange rates.

What does a VAT number in Germany look like?

In Germany, the VAT registration number begins with the abbreviation DE, followed by nine digits. It therefore has the structure DE + 9 digits. In other EU member states, the structure is similar. The VAT registration number begins with the EU country code. This is followed by up to twelve alphanumeric characters, depending on the country.

To keep it short and simple, here is an actual example of a german vat number: DE123456789


Where do you find the German VAT number?

The VAT registration number must be stated on invoices and in the imprint of a company’s homepage. On invoices, it is usually printed below the address and telephone number or e-mail address of the invoicing party. However, it can also be printed elsewhere. It must be complete, correct, and recognizable as a VAT number.

According to §14 a para. 1 UStG, an invoice for an intra-Community acquisition must state both the VAT number of the supplier and that of the recipient. If one of the numbers is missing, the book evidence required for an intra-Community supply (§ 17c UStDV) for claiming VAT exemption is deemed not to have been provided.


Save time and effort applying for the German VAT number

In cooperation with our renowned tax advisors, we can help you save time and effort in communicating with the German tax authorities. Our services includes:

  • Compiling the necessary information and documents
  • Assistance in responding to official inquiries
  • Applying for a tax number and a VAT identification number
  • Monthly VAT declaration to the tax authorities

Furthermore, we can also support you with the application for the package registry and LUCID-number.

Avoid hours of unnecessary work.

When is a German VAT registration required?

German VAT registration in general terms, is necessary if you are a freelancer, self-employed person, or entrepreneur who only provides or receives services within Germany.

When issuing invoices, the tax number issued by the tax office is sufficient. A VAT ID number is also not required if goods are sold to private individuals across national borders in Europe. In addition, small entrepreneurs (e.g., Einzelunternehmer, UG, GmbH) who make use of the small business regulation are generally exempt from the obligation to have a VAT identification number.

The German VAT registration is mandatory as soon as products and services are sold to or purchased from business customers in the EU. These business relationships between companies in the EU are also referred to as intra-Community deliveries. The legal basis for this is regulated in detail by the Value Added Tax Act.

Foreign companies offering goods or services in Germany are generally obliged to register in Germany and pay VAT. This requires registration with the tax office responsible for them. Online Shops like Amazon or eBay often require a VAT certificate before you start selling in Germany.

Examples for a foreign company where a German VAT registration is required would be:

  • Maintaining a German consignment warehouse and selling products to German customers
  • Organizing live events (conferences, concerts, education) in Germany
  • Use of the German Amazon Fulfilment Service (FBA) as a foreign Amazon trader with delivery via the German warehouse

According to § 14 UStG, the VAT number in Germany must be stated on an invoice of a company for a trade that was carried out on the European internal market. In addition, according to § 5 TMG, a company must write the tax number in the imprint, for example on its own company website.


Is there more than one tax number if the business operates in multiple sectors?

No, even if more than one business is carried on, the whole is treated as a business unit with a single tax number. All commercial activities are combined in the company to be taxed.

In any case, multiple numbers would quickly cause chaos: Just think of the additional effort in bookkeeping and the numerous sources of error and confusion when preparing invoices.

When to apply for a VAT number in Germany

German companies can directly apply when setting up the company. When you register for your freelancer activity or your business (e.g., UG or GmbH) with the tax office, you must fill in the questionnaire for tax registration. In this questionnaire, you can also directly tick the box for VAT in Germany and then receive this automatically.

If you did not apply for german VAT number when founding your company, you can apply at the federal Tax Office at any time.

If a foreign company carries out turnover in Germany, this turnover is subject to turnover tax in Germany in the same way as domestic companies. Foreign companies are companies that have neither a registered office, management, nor a branch in Germany. In principle, a foreign company without a registered office in Germany must declare turnover tax to the German tax office for turnover taxable in Germany, pay the tax and submit a tax return.

For this purpose, the company must register for a VAT number with the competent tax office as soon as it starts selling its products or services in the German market.


If you’re self-employed, make sure to gather the following information beforehand:

  • Responsible tax office
  • Address and name of the business or of the entrepreneur
  • Legal form of the business as well as the tax number

How to check the VAT number

The VAT number is the verifiable identification of a company and is important for checking the taxes levied on the movement of goods in the EU’s internal market. This is why the European Union has created an information system, VAT Information Exchange System or VIES, where the number can be checked directly.

Anyone who is unsure whether their own VAT number or that of another company is correct can also submit an application for verification to the Federal Central Tax Office. The employees of the authority check the ID and openly state the validity of this as well as the assignment to the specific company. In such a so-called qualified request, several VAT IDs can also be queried at the same time.

Anyone who wants to request number of a business partner can also contact the Federal Central Tax Office. There is a simple confirmation procedure and a qualified confirmation procedure. The simple confirmation procedure confirms whether VAT registration number is still valid. The qualified confirmation procedure provides more information, such as whether the company name is correct or whether the legal form of the company is current.

How to apply for a German VAT number

On average, the duration until a VAT number in Germany is granted takes around one to two months. There are significant differences between the location and capacity utilization of the tax offices. Usually, it doesn’t help to follow up after the application to accelerate the process. You will then receive the VAT number by post. There are no costs for applying for the VAT number. After the receipt, you have to start with a monthly VAT declaration.

Foreign companies must apply at the responsible tax office. The law has regulated this by 21 Abgabenordnung (AO) Abs.1 Satz 2. Most tax offices only communicate in German.

Download our free guide to get a full overview of all responsible tax offices in Germany:

Source: Ordinance on the local jurisdiction for turnover tax of entrepreneurs domiciled in foreign countries (Umsatzsteuerzuständigkeitsverordnung – UStZustV)

Local German companies can apply for the VAT number online or by letter. The online form is available here. You can use it between 5 am and 11 pm. The application must contain your competent tax office, your tax number, the legal form incl. Name, postcode, and town of the company or, in the case of a sole proprietorship, the surname, first name, and date of birth of the owner. The written application for the VAT identification number must be sent to: Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, Dienstsitz Saarlouis, 66738 Saarlouis, Telefax: +49-(0)228-406-3801. The application must include the name and address of the applicant, the competent tax office, and the tax number.

Support and help

You now know all the basics about the German VAT application. The process of the application can still take a lot of time and experts like us can make sure that your application is successful and fast.

That’s why we’re here to help you out. Fill out the contact form or schedule a call here to directly get in contact with us.

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