Legal matters

ELSTER - The tax administration standard

The German Fiscal Code and the individual tax laws contain various regulations for the organization of electronic data transmission. On the basis of § 87a to § 87d Fiscal Code and the Ordinance on the Automated Retrieval of Tax Data (Tax Data Retrieval Ordinance) provide extensive opportunities for electronic communication between citizens, companies and tax authorities.

Electronic communication with the tax authorities requires access via a secure procedure. The tax authorities provide the ELSTER procedure for this purpose. This enables the tax authorities to take appropriate organizational and state-of-the-art technical precautions to comply with the statutory provisions.

The tax authorities provide Mein ELSTER and ElsterFormular for the use of ELSTER. In addition, the implementation of the legal requirements for secure communication with the tax authorities is ensured by using the ERiC software library, which is integrated into many commercial and freely available tax programs.

ELSTER is the standard for tax administration.

After § Section 87a (1) of the Fiscal Code electronic communication to the tax authorities is only permitted if the tax authority has opened access.

For the electronic transmission of officially prescribed data records (e.g. for tax returns), the following applies § Section 87a (6) of the Fiscal Code use a secure procedure that authenticates the data transmitter and guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of the data record. This is ensured by the ELSTER procedure. This is the only way in which the tax authorities have opened up access for the transmission of officially prescribed data records in accordance with Section 87a (1) of the German Fiscal Code. The use of the tax authorities' ERiC software library is mandatory for this purpose, so that the implementation of the legal requirements for secure communication with the tax authorities is guaranteed.

After § 87b Fiscal Code when transmitting officially prescribed data records electronically, the data transmitter must properly use the interfaces officially specified for the respective tax period or time. Otherwise, the electronic transmission (e.g. of the tax return) is deemed not to have taken place.

Manufacturers of non-official data processing programs for the taxation procedure must, according to § 87c Fiscal Code to comply with various requirements and to ensure the correct and complete processing of the data of the program scope specified in the program description.

If a third party (contractor - for example, a member of the tax advisory professions within the meaning of Sections 3 and 4 of the Tax Consultancy Act) is commissioned with the electronic transmission in accordance with the officially prescribed data set, the contractor is obliged, in accordance with § 87d Fiscal Code shall be obliged to obtain certainty about the person and address of the client before transmitting data (identification) and to record the corresponding information in a suitable form. In addition, he must make the data available to the client in an easily verifiable form for approval, who must check it immediately for completeness and accuracy. In accordance with Section 72a of the German Fiscal Code, the Contractor is liable for tax damages caused by non-compliance with its obligations under Section 87d of the German Fiscal Code.

For the electronic retrieval of data by the taxpayer or a representative, the tax authorities have, in accordance with § 9 and § Section 2 (1) of the Tax Data Retrieval Ordinance to take appropriate organizational and state-of-the-art technical precautions to safeguard tax secrecy and data protection.

Data transmission with electronic authentication

The regulation in § Section 87a (6) of the Fiscal Code enables the transmission of paperless tax returns via ELSTER. The certificate file required for electronic authentication is created free of charge as part of the registration process. Alternatively, security sticks can be used or signature cards supported by ELSTER can be registered for the electronic authentication procedure.

The certificate used for electronic authentication ensures that the data transmitter can be clearly identified to the tax authorities. When transmitting data for a third party, the data must be made available to the "third party" (client) in a form that is easy for them to verify.

Forms and services at Mein ELSTER

Overview of forms and services

Legal obligations for electronic transmission

The income tax return is due after § Section 25 (4) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act generally have to be submitted electronically if profit income is generated.
Profit income is income from

  • Agriculture and forestry (§ 13, § 13a, § 14 Income Tax Act),
  • Business operations (§ 15, § 16, § 17 Income Tax Act) and
  • self-employment (Section 18 of the Income Tax Act).

If the income tax return is to be submitted electronically, the electronic submission obligation applies in accordance with § Section 34a (1) sentence 2 in connection with § Section 25 (4) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act In principle, this also applies to Schedule 34a (application for preferential treatment of undrawn profit).

The declaration for the separate and uniform determination pursuant to section 180 (1) sentence 1 no. 2 letter a of the German Fiscal Code of the basis for income taxation (investment income) must be submitted in accordance with § Section 181 (2a) sentence 1 of the Fiscal Code must always be submitted electronically. Access to electronic transmission is currently limited to a maximum of 1,500 parties and will be gradually increased. Until the opening of access for declarations with a higher number of participants, these declarations must continue to be submitted in paper form.

The declaration for the separate determination in accordance with Section 180 (1) sentence 1 no. 2 letter b of the German Fiscal Code of the basis for income taxation (profit determination) must be submitted in accordance with § Section 181 (2a) sentence 1 of the Fiscal Code must always be submitted electronically.

The declaration on the separate determination of the profit from the notional sale of old shares as at December 31, 2017 in accordance with § Section 56 (5) sentence 4 Investment Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The questionnaire for tax registration when starting a commercial, self-employed (freelance) or agricultural and forestry activity (sole proprietorship) and when founding a company, founding a corporation or cooperative or founding a partnership / joint venture is to be completed after § Section 138 (1b) of the German Fiscal Code must always be submitted electronically.

The trade tax return is due after § Section 14a sentence 1 Trade Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The declaration for the breakdown of the trade tax base amount is to be made in accordance with § Section 14a sentence 1 Trade Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The balance sheet and income statement have been prepared § Section 5b (1) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The revenue surplus statement is to be prepared § Section 60 (4) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Implementing Ordinance must always be submitted electronically.

Profit from agriculture and forestry is determined in accordance with § Section 13a (3) sentence 4 of the Income Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The declaration for the determination of the property tax value is to be submitted after § Section 228 (6) of the Valuation Act must always be submitted electronically.

The capital gains tax declaration for the withheld capital gains tax in accordance with the Income Tax Act must be submitted in accordance with § Section 45a (1) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The capital gains tax declaration for the withheld capital gains tax in accordance with the Investment Tax Act must be submitted after § Section 50 (2) sentence 2 Investment Tax Act and the reference therein to § Section 45a (1) sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The corporate income tax return and the declaration for the separate determination of tax bases are to be submitted in accordance with § Section 31 (1a) sentence 1 of the Corporation Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The declaration for the apportionment of corporation tax is to be made in accordance with § Section 6 (7) sentence 1 of the Disaggregation Act must always be submitted electronically.

The option application for corporate taxation and the re-option application are to be submitted after § Section 1a (1) sentence 2 and (4) sentence 3 of the German Corporation Tax Act (Körperschaftsteuergesetz) must always be submitted electronically.

The income tax registration is due after § Section 41a (1) sentence 2 of the Income Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The income tax certificate for the employee is issued after § Section 41b (1) sentence 2 of the Income Tax Act must be transmitted electronically. In addition, the employee must § Section 41b (1) sentence 3 of the Income Tax Act a printout or make it available electronically.

The tax declaration for the tax deduction in accordance with Section 50a of the Income Tax Act for remuneration to persons with limited tax liability must be submitted in accordance with § Section 73e sentence 7 of the Income Tax Implementing Ordinance must always be submitted electronically.

The VAT return must be submitted in accordance with § Section 18 (3) sentence 1 of the Value Added Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The advance sales tax return is due after § Section 18 (1) sentence 1 of the Value Added Tax Act must always be submitted electronically.

The application for a permanent extension together with the application for the special advance payment must be submitted after § Section 48 (1) sentence 2 of the Value Added Tax Implementing Ordinance must always be submitted electronically.

The regulations for the electronic transmission of the Summary message and the Notification in accordance with the Vehicle Delivery Notification Obligation Ordinance are available on the website of the Federal Central Tax Office for Value added tax shown.