There are different types of tax numbers in Germany, namely the Tax ID number, the local tax number and the VAT ID number:
1. Tax ID number / VAT ID number – Tax ID number:
Natural persons who get registered at the registration office will receive a Tax ID number from the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern (Federal Central Tax Office). This number is valid for life and it does not change if you move to another city. If you are a foreigner and you have German taxable income without getting registered here your German tax office can apply for the TAX ID number at the Federal Central Tax Office. You cannot apply for it yourself.
2. Tax ID number / VAT ID number – Local tax number:
If you have been registered at your local tax office you will receive a local tax number. This number will change if you move from the geographic area of one tax office to the area of another tax office, so sometimes even within a city. You will need this number if you want to apply for a VAT ID number.
3. Tax ID number / VAT ID number – VAT ID number:
Only companies and entrepreneurs who are liable for VAT can apply for a VAT ID number. You need this number for conducting international business. If you import something from another EU country the supplier will accept your VAT ID number as a proof that you are a VAT entrepreneur and will invoice you VAT free. If you are doing international business and your business partner uses his VAT ID number you need to check if this is valid. You should always print out the result because sometimes a VAT ID number gets invalid retroactive. In these cases the tax auditor must accept your print out as a proof that you did everything you could.
The local tax number or the VAT ID number has to be listed on every invoice.
If you prefer German explanations please click here to get forwarded to my German homepage.