Steuernummer: How to get a tax number for your business using ELSTER

Starting a business in Germany? You must register it with the tax office and apply for a Steuernummer (tax number) within four weeks of officially establishing it. You do this by completing what’s called the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (tax registration questionnaire) on the ELSTER portal. This article is your helping hand to get a tax number in the fastest time possible so you can start invoicing your customers.

 

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Andreas Munck

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Do you have questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.

 

Why do I have to fill in the ELSTER tax registration questionnaire?

The Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung (also known as the Betriebseröffnungsbogen – business opening questionnaire) collects tax-related data of a business/entrepreneur to help the authorities identify which taxes have to be paid. This, of course, is a legal obligation for all enterprises to do so.

By completing this form, a business (company, self-employed person etc.) registers with the Finanzamt (tax office) and receives a Steuernummer (tax number). This is an essential step in the company formation process because without it you can’t issue invoices.

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How do I apply online for the tax number for my business?

You do this by registering your business via the government website elster.de. Find instructions on how to create an account to get going here. After that select the online tax registration application form for the specific structure of your business:

 

After you have submitted all the data, you will receive your tax number from the tax office after a few weeks. Only then are you allowed to issue invoices.

 

What information do I have to enter for the tax registration on ELSTER?

You’ll be asked to input the following data about your business. The ELSTER tax registration form will be in German so familiarise yourself with the terminology below:

  • Allgemeine Angaben
    General information
  • Ort der Geschäftsleitung
    Location of management
  • Betriebstätten
    Permanent establishment(s)
  • Bankverbindung(en) für Steuererstattungen / SEPA-Lastschriftverfahren
    Bank account(s) for tax refunds / SEPA direct debit
  • Steuerliche Beratung
    Tax consultant
  • Empfangsbevollmächtigte(r) 
    Power of attorney for authorised recipient(s)
  • Angaben zur Gründung
    Details regarding the establishment of the enterprise
  • Freistellungsbescheinigung gemäß § 48b EStG („Bauabzugssteuer”)
    Certificate of exemption according to § 48b EStG (‘construction withholding tax’)
  • Angaben zur Anmeldung und Abführung der Lohnsteuer
    Information on the registration and payment of wage tax
  • Angaben zur Anmeldung und Abführung der Umsatzsteuer
    Information on the registration and payment of VAT
  • Besonderes Besteuerungsverfahren „One-stop-shop”
    Special taxation procedure ‘One-stop-shop’
  • Umsätze im Bereich des Handels mit Waren über das Internet
    Revenue from  the trade of goods on the Internet (e-commerce)
  • Gesondert übermittelte Unterlagen
    Separately submitted documents
  • Anhänge
    Attachments

 

Which tax office is responsible for me?

Enter your postcode here at the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern (federal central tax office) to find the correct office. This is your local office for your business’s registered address and is sometimes referred to as a competent office.

Can I fill in the ELSTER myself or do I need a tax adviser to do it for me?

Yes, you can fill in the electronic ELSTER form independently. But a tax adviser or similarly qualified person can save you a lot of hassle (especially if you’re an international). For example, revenue forecasts have a bearing on how much tax you’ll have to pay in advance or the use of the Kleinunternehmerregelung (small business regulation) and should therefore be calculated thoughtfully.

When do I have to submit the ELSTER tax questionnaire?

Nach § 138 der Abgabenordnung (AO) sind Sie dazu verpflichtet, Ihr Unternehmen innerhalb von vier Wochen nach der Anmeldung beim Gewerbeamt beim Finanzamt anzumelden.

Under § 138 of the AO (the German fiscal code), you are legally obliged to register your business with the Finanzamt (tax office) within four weeks of registering with the Gewerbeamt (trade office).

When do I get my tax number?

You will receive your Steuernummer (tax number) after the tax office has processed your registration. This can take as little as 2-3 weeks but often takes much longer. The processing time also depends on the individual tax office.

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Andreas Munck

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Andreas Munck

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years of first-hand experience

Hi, I’m Andreas.

For over a decade I have been advising businesses on how to do business in Germany.

I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions about your company formation in a one-on-one consultation.

 

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What is an Organgesellschaft (controlled company)?

If several companies are connected, for example, in a Konzern (group of companies), grouping these companies for tax purposes is called an Organschaft (tax group) or Gruppenbesteuerung (group taxation). In this case, one company (the Organgesellschaft, or controlled company) integrates into another (the Organträger, or controlling company) to form a single entity for tax purposes.

What are ‘ermäßigte Steuersätz’ (reduced tax rates)?

Generally, a standard tax rate of 19% applies in Germany. But, some products are subject to a lower, so-called ermäßigte Steuersatz (reduced tax rate) of 7% for food, water, books etc. Getting this right is fundamental for all businesses that have to issue invoices with VAT added to the net price.

What transactions are exempt from tax?

Section 4 of the Umsatzsteuergesetzes (VAT act) lists various transactions exempt from Umsatzsteuer (VAT). The better-known tax exemptions under § 4 UstG include flat rent or medical services. Other transactions that are tax-free, include:

  • Banking and financial transactions
  • Export deliveries
  • School and educational services
  • Medical treatment by doctors, dentists and hospitals
  • Letting and leasing
  • Real estate sales

 

Why does the tax office want to see the managing director’s contract even if there’s no salary?

The tax office wants to know the salaries of the managing directors as well as review each of their contracts. They do this to work out what wage tax is applicable, which legally is not a straightforward matter. The managing director (MD) of a corporation is generally subject to wage tax – regardless of whether the MD was hired externally or is a managing shareholder (partner).

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What is an Empfangsbevollmächtigter (authorised recipient)?

In the questionnaire, you can enter the person handling all communication with the tax office under the item Empfangsbevollmächtigter (authorised recipient). Ideally, you should enter your tax adviser here. Don’t forget to enclose a power of attorney for your tax adviser to make it official. If you do not (yet) have a tax adviser, you can leave the fields blank.

After the tax office has completed your tax registration, they’ll send your tax number, which you need to issue invoices. Then, finally, you can start doing business!

But, now is the time to think about accounting, insurance, trademark and patent registrations.

How do I apply for a tax number for Kleingewerbe?

Kleingewerbe (small businesses that are sole proprietorships or GbRs without Kaufmann status) must also submit the tax registration questionnaire via ELSTER and then receive the tax number from the tax office.

Note: The term Kleingewerbe has nothing to do with the so-called Kleinunternehmerregelung (small business regulation).

How do I apply for the Kleinunternehmerregelung in ELSTER?

If you anticipate sales of less than €50,000 for the coming financial year, you can apply for the Kleinunternehmerregelung (small business regulation). This will exempt your business from VAT. Enter the estimated amount in the appropriate field in ELSTER and opt-in. If you decide not to do this, you can only apply for it again after five years.

Note: If you exceed the threshold, standard taxation will be levied automatically.

Do Freiberufler also have to submit the questionnaire for tax registration via ELSTER?

Yes, to start a business as a Freiberufler you must send the relevant tax information to the tax office via this ELSTER form.

 

[BEGIN: Insert an Image between this tag]

Andreas Munck

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Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.

 

 

The Master list of all Company Formation articles can be found here.

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