The VAT refund scheme allows businesses to obtain refunds for value-added tax they have been charged in another country by a business based in that country.
The VAT refund scheme is governed in Germany by sections 18 (9) and 18g of the German VAT Act (Umsatzsteuergesetz/UStG).
In accordance with section 5 (1) no. 8 of the German Fiscal Administration Act (Finanzverwaltungsgesetz/FVG) the Federal Central Tax Office (BZSt) is responsible for administering the scheme.
Input tax refund to entrepreneurs in third countries – filing applications as of 1 July 2016
Applications of foreign entrepreneurs of third countries for input tax refunds must be filed exclusively electronically via the online portal of the Federal Central Tax Office as of 1 July 2016.
Until 30 June 2016, entrepreneurs from third countries can file their applications as usual, either in writing with form USt 1 T or via the present electronic accesses. Find details on filing applications and the requirements here.
After 30 June 2016, transmission of applications is no longer permissible via the present electronic access channel of the form server (FfW) and neither by mail with form USt 1 T.
The Federal Central Tax Office can waive the electronic submission upon request for reason of inequitable hardship. For this purpose, the entrepreneurs have to make credible that electronic filing of the request is economically or personally unacceptable for them.
In that case, the entrepreneurs have to request the refund application according to the officially prescribed form from the Federal Central Tax Office and personally sign it.
Find more information here regarding the details of the changes made to the filing of applications from 1 July 2016 onward.
VAT refunds by the BZSt to foreign businesses
Businesses domiciled outside Germany may apply to the BZSt for a refund of VAT. Applicants are required to use the forms and systems provided and comply with certain deadlines.
- Businesses from EU member states are required to apply online. The application must be submitted through the appropriate body in the Member State of Establishment. Further information is available here.
- Businesses from non-EU countries may submit the application online or using the special forms.
Information on the requirements for applying, the application forms with guidance notes and information sheets plus a list of frequently asked questions is available here.
VAT refunds for German businesses in foreign countries
Applications in the EU member states by German businesses can now only be submitted online via the BZSt. Further information is available here.
German businesses which receive supplies or other services from non-EU countries can apply directly in these countries for a refund of the VAT they have been charged. The forms required for the application, as far as the BZSt is aware of them, are available here (German language).
VAT refunds for diplomatic missions and consular offices
Foreign permanent diplomatic missions and consular offices and their members who are not permanently resident in Germany are also able to obtain refunds for the VAT they have been charged in Germany. Further information is available here.
VAT refunds for international and supranational bodies
International and supranational bodies can obtain refunds of VAT on goods and other services supplied in Germany. Goods and services supplied in other EU countries to international and supranational bodies domiciled in Germany can be exempted from VAT.
Further information is available here.
Agents in the VAT refund scheme
Special requirements apply to representation by agents in the VAT refund scheme, depending on where the representative and applicant are resident.
These requirements are set out together with other information on the application procedure available here.
VAT refunds for private individuals
Refunding of VAT to private individuals is never possible, as only businesses are entitled to deduct VAT.