When does a Polish company need to acquire a German tax identification number?

  • Last update: 23.02.2024
  • Published: 07.07.2022
  • Read in: 5 min

What is the term used for the VAT number in the German language? How do you identify the TIN for a German company, and where can you access this information? Additionally, what is the name of the German tax authority? If you’re contemplating whether you need a German tax identification number (similar to the Polish TIN) for cross-border sales, this article will outline the situations in which registering a Polish company in Germany becomes mandatory.

When does a Polish company need to acquire a German tax identification number?

What is TIN (Polish for NIP)?

The Tax Identification Number, commonly known as TIN, is a ten-digit identifier assigned to every taxpayer, whether they are individuals or businesses. Poland implemented the TIN system in 1995, while Germany adopted it in 2007. Each TIN is unique, and every digit within it carries a specific significance. The initial three digits are used to indicate the specific tax office responsible for assigning the number, and the final, tenth digit serves as a control mechanism to verify the accuracy of the entire identification number. The introduction of the TIN was governed by legislation that provides comprehensive details on its functioning.

German tax numbers: Steuernummer and USt-IdNr

A tax identification number is a necessity for various purposes, including communication with authorities, invoicing, and tax return submissions. This unique number is typically issued when a company is established or upon registering for VAT.

In Germany, there are two tax numbers Steuernummer oraz USt-IdNr.

The Steuernummer is the German equivalent of the Polish TIN for a German company and is mandatory for all businesses operating in Germany. It facilitates transactions between German-registered companies and the billing of services provided locally. If you’re wondering how to obtain the Steuernummer, it is automatically assigned by the Tax Office when you register for VAT.

The USt-IdNr, also referred to as the Polish equivalent of VAT-EU (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer), serves as an identification number specifically for sales tax purposes. It is a requirement for all business entities officially registered in Germany that plan to engage in intra-Community transactions, offer services where the recipient bears tax responsibility, or utilize the services of foreign companies. Unlike the Steuernummer, the USt-IdNr must be requested during the VAT registration process and is not automatically assigned.

Is a German tax number always required when conducting sales in Germany? What is the process for acquiring a Steuer ID?

Some business owners who export their goods to Germany are not officially registered in the country but remain in compliance with the regulations. This is feasible because not all sales in Germany necessitate the submission of a VAT declaration to the German tax office. 

Below, we will clarify, using two scenarios, when it becomes necessary to apply for a German tax number and when it is not required.

You store and/or dispatch goods from Germany

Major online selling platforms, often referred to as Online Marketplaces (OMPs), provide a collaborative option where they manage warehousing, shipping, and customer service, such as Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA). Opting for this service means the platform stores your products in their warehouses and handles the shipping to customers, both within and outside the country.

When your goods are stored in Germany, regardless of whether it’s managed by Amazon or in your own warehouse, you are legally obligated to handle VAT in Germany. To comply with this requirement, you need to initiate the process of VAT registration with your local German tax office. Once your application is approved, the tax office will provide you with the Steuernummer.

If you are exporting goods from a German warehouse, as part of the registration process, you must also request assigning the USt-IdNr.

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You are shipping goods from Poland to Germany

Utilising the services of OMPs that operate across various countries offers entrepreneurs a convenient way to test or enter new markets.

In the European Union, the sales of goods remain untaxed in the countries where they are dispatched until they exceed a tax-free threshold. This threshold stands at €10,000 for the total sales made across all member states. However, this tax exemption applies exclusively to mail order sales. If your business stores goods in EU countries outside of its own premises, it becomes mandatory to register for VAT with the local tax authority.

When you’re shipping your products from Poland to Germany and your revenue surpasses €10,000, you are presented with a choice between two options:

  • apply for the Steuernummer,
  • register for VAT OSS.

VAT OSS in Poland provides a streamlined method for managing VAT settlements in other EU countries. Please note that entrepreneurs are not obligated to use it; it’s entirely optional. In that case, they can instead choose the second option, which entails registering for VAT locally and applying for the Steuernummer.

Read more about VAT OSS here.

When is it necessary for a Polish company to obtain a German tax number? - Summary

The Steuernummer tax number is required when:

  • You store and ship goods from Germany to local customers.
  • Your total revenue from mail order sales to Germany exceeds €10,000, and you didn’t opt for the VAT OSS method.

Additionally, the USt-IdNr tax identification number is required when:

  • You dispatch products to countries other than Germany from your base in Germany.
  • You provide services for which the recipient is responsible for paying tax.
  • You utilise the services of foreign companies.

Are you still seeking information on how to obtain a German tax identification number? Or maybe you require professional assistance with tasks like VAT registration in Germany, filing tax returns, and communication with German authorities? If so, please don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation.

Michał Doruch Michał has been dealing with VAT settlements, registrations, and filings in European Union member states and the United Kingdom for over 10 years. He also covers issues related to VAT OSS, Intrastat reporting, and direct customer support. Michał has been associated with Taxology since March 2021.