The liability of Amazon & Co. for the unpaid Value Added Tax amounts in Germany since 2019 has resulted in additional revenues for the tax authorities.

However, these additional revenues are still well below the target - as far as the tax authorities collect corresponding figures at all. There is contradictory information on this.

  • The range of the annual turnover tax revenue lost by the Federal Government, the Länder (and to a very small extent also by the municipalities) before 2019 is over one billion - see here,
  • ... up to the recently published affidavit of the Federal Ministry of Finance: "The tax authorities in Germany collect no data on this matter." - see here.

A major gateway for online traders who deliberately do not want to pay their owed VAT is the fact that the proof of tax registration - the so-called 22f certificate - is still in paper form.

It is therefore not difficult to forge them, which seems to happen regularly.

Fraud on 22f certificates

Amazon & Co. are not liable for any unpaid Value Added Taxamounts if they have a so-called 22f certificate.

With this form, the respective tax office confirms that the dealer is registered for tax purposes in Germany.

Only: How can you ensure that a 22f confirmation has not been forged?

According to a trustworthy source known to us, forensic software used by Amazon us has found that about 11 percent of the uploaded 22f-certificates were very likely forged. The clues mentioned are: exact same signature, same stamp print, tax number does not match the tax office, signs of image processing, etc.

It is obvious that a simple paper certificate is everything - cumbersome, bureaucratic, out of date - but in no way forgery-proof.

The tax authorities were also aware of this from the very beginning. However, the technological infrastructure is still missing.

I want that to change.

Solution: RegID - from Q4/2021 at the earliest

In the future, marketplaces will no longer have to check 22f certificates, but will instead conduct an electronic query directly via ELSTER to determine whether the respective trader is actually registered in Germany.

Source: Presentation of the Bavarian State Office for Taxes of 29.04.2020
Source: Presentation of the Bavarian State Office for Taxes of 29.04.2020

The envisaged timetable for this is as follows.

Source: Presentation of the Bavarian State Office for Taxes of 29.04.2020

Conclusion

The marketplace liability is having an effect. However, the tax authorities still miss out on a considerable proportion of potential VAT revenue.

One of the fundamental principles of our tax law, that the tax authorities levy taxes equally - across all sectors and target groups (§ 85 of the German Fiscal Code), fails in online trading due to the technological infrastructure of the tax authorities.

In the end, the risk lies with Amazon & Co., who have to invest in technology to compensate for the mirrored failures of the tax authorities.

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