A German entrepreneur receives upon registration of a business a single tax reference number for all applicable taxes, including VAT.
Entrepreneurs who intend to supply goods or services within the Single European Market have to apply for a separate VAT identification number. This identification number is standardized within the European Union and has to be quoted on invoices received and issued in relation to all intra-EU supplies of goods. The validity of VAT numbers can be checked at the VIES (VAT Information Exchange System) web page. The VIES might also help to find verify the entries name and address of the seller.
Foreign companies that are not established in Germany may also register for VAT without having to form a local company. A VAT number must be in place before the foreign company can start carrying out its business in Germany.
Registering for German VAT may take at least three weeks, although this can vary. In order to receive a general tax reference number the foreign enterprise/entrepreneur must register with the tax office (Finanzamt) allocated to his country within Germany. The VAT identification number is also available through an online application procedure which may be accessed through the website of the Federal Tax Office.
Since VAT is a very complex subject and there are many different cases and exceptions, it is recommended that all trading companies seek competent advice in this area, to make sure that they are fully informed about the taxes that apply to their products. A suitable tax advisor might be found through the search engine of the German Association of Tax Advisors.