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Refund of the German Value Added Tax

According to a provision of German value added tax law, the refund of value added tax paid in Germany requires the production of an original invoice. For the purpose of the electronic procedure, however, the transmission of a copy of the invoice was sufficient until the end of 2014. It has been only since the end of 2014 that scanned originals of invoices have had to be provided with the refund application transmitted by electronic means.

The Federal Central Office refuses VAT refund

The Federal Central Tax Office refused to refund the value added tax for 2010 to an Austrian limited liability company (GmbH) because the company had transmitted only a scanned copy of the invoice in the electronic procedure. The Federal Central Tax Office reasoned that even for the years preceding the end of 2014, the electronic transmission had to be based on an original invoice. The electronic procedure was introduced to save foreign companies the submission of invoices in paper form. According to the Federal Central Tax Office, this does not involve any amendments to the requirement of providing original documents.

Scan of the invoice copy fulfils the requirements

The Austrian company brought action before the fiscal court of Cologne and was successful. According to the fiscal court’s ruling of 01/20/2016, the transmission of a scan of the invoice copy was sufficient for the refund of value added tax paid by a foreign entrepreneur. Even a scan of an invoice copy fulfilled the legal requirements applicable in 2010, according to which “a copy of the invoice” had to be provided.

Original invoice required as of 1,000 euros

Since 12/30/2014, according to the German provisions of value added tax law, the transmission of a scan of the original invoice is required where the charge on the sale or import amounts to no less than 1,000 euros or to no less than 250 euros in case of invoices for the purchase of fuel. The original invoices in paper form only need to be produced in case of reasonable doubts upon request by the Federal Central Tax Office. If you have any queries regarding VAT refunds, WINHELLER’s tax experts will be pleased to help you.

Fiscal Court of Cologne, Judgment of 01/20/2016, Ref. 2 K 2807/12

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Stefan Winheller

Attorney Stefan Winheller has specialized in tax law for about 20 years, especially in the areas of cryptocurrencies, foundations/nonprofits and international tax law.

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