Online retailers who trade on online marketplaces or platforms must enter a VAT ID there from July 1, 2021. This results from a change in the Value Added Tax Act (UStG) through the Annual Tax Act. In return, the so-called registration certificates, which traders have used to prove their tax registration in recent years and which can only be obtained with great effort, are no longer required. There is now a need for adjustment, especially for small businesses: Entrepreneurs who use the small business regulation do not yet have a VAT ID in all cases.
Background: The liability of marketplaces for tax debts
In 2019, the principle of registration certificates in connection with marketplace liability was introduced. Because there are particularly frequent tax losses with regard to orders executed on online marketplaces and the tax debtors concerned are more difficult for the tax authorities to grasp, liability was imposed on the marketplaces without further ado. The operator of a marketplace can therefore be used as a substitute if a marketplace trader does not pay his tax debt. However, the marketplaces can avoid this liability if they can prove that the traders are properly registered for tax purposes. To this day, this is done by means of registration certificates in accordance with Section 22f (1) sentence 2 UStG, which retailers apply to the responsible tax office and then usually submit to the marketplace.
From July: VAT ID instead of registration certificate
On July 1, 2021, the annual tax law will change the law. From this point in time, the registration certificates are no longer provided for in the UStG. Instead, the operators of electronic marketplaces and similar electronic interfaces escape liability for unpaid taxes from the relevant traders if they have a sales tax identification number (VAT ID). This is what section 25e (2) sentence 1 of the UStG provides in the new version.
From this point in time, the VAT ID is also part of the information that the operator of the marketplace or platform must record, as the new version of Section 22f (1) sentence 1 no. 3 UStG reveals. In cases in which a trader cannot apply for a German VAT ID because he does not have to declare any taxable transactions in the domestic taxation procedure and therefore does not require any domestic tax registration, a notification to the marketplace may be necessary so that this can remove any liability - those affected should contact the respective marketplace or their tax advisor in these cases.
Online dealers may have to apply for a sales tax ID and adjust the imprint
Where many traders already have a sales tax ID and have then usually indicated this on the marketplaces and in their imprint, there is now a need for action, especially for users of the small business regulation according to § 19 UStG: Up to now, they were not fundamentally obliged to have a sales tax ID lead - which means that this may now have to be applied for. This can be done free of charge at the Federal Central Tax Office (BZSt) using an online form. Here you will also find further information about the VAT ID. And don't worry: the small business regulation can still be used despite applying for a VAT ID. If the identification number is not submitted to the marketplace in good time, a blocking of the sales function must be expected. Ebay already expressly refers to this consequence in the seller portal.
But then there is a need for action not only directly with the marketplaces: the sales tax ID, if available, must be listed in the imprint - even if the specific imprint is not used for a marketplace. Anyone who has not previously had a VAT ID and now has to obtain the identification number because of their activity on a marketplace should check their imprints if necessary. This also applies to small business owners.
Members of the Händlerbund will shortly receive an individual notification. Interested parties can also find further information and details in the letter from the Federal Ministry of Finance dated April 20, 2021. Although this does not constitute applicable law, it does provide the tax authorities with an interpretive framework.