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Apply for VAT ID online and by post: instructions, duration, deadlines

The VAT number is a must for most European traders. Often even one number is not enough and so VAT IDs have to be applied for in other countries. When this is the case, how it works and what needs to be considered, you will find out in the following paragraphs.

Maximilian Gampl

Last Updated on 17 September 2020

VAT number: overview

The sales tax number (USt.-ID / USt.-IdNr.) Is a mandatory "identification" of companies for trade within the EU.

On the one hand, it serves to identify companies that are active in the European Union and, on the other hand, is of course used to pay sales tax.

Trade between two EU member states is referred to as intra-community delivery / service and a sales tax number is always required for this. As a rule, the so-called reverse charge procedure is used to process the tax.

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Who has to apply for a VAT ID?

In principle, anyone who trades across borders in Europe - regardless of whether they are physical products or services - must take care of at least one VAT number. Registration in the "country of origin" is usually sufficient.

Danger: Only dealers / service providers who sell B2B are liable for sales tax.

In addition, there are other reasons that make registration necessary and so it may well be that you also need another VAT number.

So what leads to VAT liability in other EU countries? There are two main points to consider here: goods storage and the delivery threshold for distance selling.

Storage of goods

Anyone who stores goods in an EU country must also register for sales tax there. This also applies, for example, to Amazon retailers who store their goods in various fulfillment centers via FBA.

example: Amazon's Central Europe Program allows storage in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. As a result, Amazon retailers who use this service must be registered for VAT in Poland and the Czech Republic as well as in Germany. This also means that you have to take care of regular pre-registrations, Intrastat reports, etc.

Reaching the delivery threshold

Anyone who is exported from one EU country to another and the annual delivery threshold for imports to the destination country has been reached, then one must also apply for a sales tax ID there.

Monitor your delivery thresholds

Our sales tax automation software provides you with all the relevant information to know what's going on.

It is planned to introduce an EU-wide delivery threshold for 2021 and generally to simplify the associated processes. You can find out how this should look in detail and how it will be implemented in our news area in good time.


Dealers and service providers who only act and provide services in the "country of origin" do not need a VAT identification number. Those affected can simply state the tax number on their invoice and there is no need to worry about the sales tax number. The same applies to small businesses, dealers who only sell B2C (i.e. to private individuals).

Does a freelancer also have to apply for a VAT ID?

All of the cited provisions, obligations and exceptions apply to companies, self-employed people and freelancers!

Who is eligible to apply?

Entrepreneurs, dealers, service providers, freelancers, self-employed - everyone can apply for a VAT ID when registering at the tax office or do so afterwards.

You can apply for a VAT ID:

  1. Entrepreneurs within the meaning of § 2 UStG, as well as
  2. Legal persons who are not entrepreneurs or who do not acquire the items for their company, but who have the VAT ID no. for intra-community acquisitions.

When can I apply for a VAT ID?

There tend to be 2 options or points in time when you can apply for a VAT number: directly when the company is founded or afterwards.

If you need a VAT ID when starting business, you have to at the founding state - and this can usually be estimated roughly at this point in time. In the application form, you simply have to tick one more box and you will automatically be assigned a sales tax ID.

Who himself later decides in favor of a sales tax ID, which can apply to the responsible tax office at any time.

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the time at which the application is submitted 1. has an impact on the length of time until the granting of the application, and 2. some economic actors have to take care of it when they start doing business!

How can I apply for a VAT number?

The application for a VAT number can be done in most EU countries either on-line or written to be submitted by post. The requirements are mostly similar or the same in most countries, but there may also be country-specific peculiarities - especially for "follow-up" tasks such as submitting reports or advance registrations.

The easiest and most effective way to register for sales tax is our sales tax software. Registration in just a few steps is just one of the many features that automate control tasks.

Where can I apply for a VAT ID?

As already mentioned, VAT numbers can be applied for online or by post. The contact point in both cases is the Federal Central Tax Office or the responsible tax office. Especially if you decide to apply for a VAT ID when you set up the company, it naturally makes more sense to contact the local tax office directly.

Danger: In the following, possible routes as well as addresses and necessary information are listed using Germany as an example.

Apply for a VAT number online

Probably the easiest way to get a VAT number is to apply online. If you want to register online for a VAT ID in Germany, you should do so on the website of the Federal Central Tax Office:

VAT ID application

  1. Click on the link
  2. Provide the requested information
  3. And wait until your VAT number is in your mailbox.

What information do I need for the online application?

For a successful online application, the following information should be at hand:

  • State of the company / company headquarters
  • Local tax office
  • Tax number under which the company is managed
  • Legal form of the company,
  • for sole proprietorships also: surname, first name and date of birth
  • for all other legal forms: postcode and place

Apply for a VAT ID by post

In addition to an online application, an application for a VAT number can also be submitted by post - at least that is currently still possible. In the long term, the online route will probably replace the post route entirely, but it is still unclear when that will be the case.

What information do I need for the written application?

Anyone who decides to submit by post must include the following information in their application:

  • name and address
  • Local tax office
  • Tax number under which the company is managed

Who should the written application be sent to?

As with the online application for the VAT number, the Federal Central Tax Office is of course also the point of contact for postal services. The postal address of this authority is:

Federal Central Tax Office

Saarlouis office

66738 Saarlouis

Fax: + 49 228-406-3801

Are there any prerequisites for successfully issuing a VAT ID?

There are actually only two aspects to be considered for a successful allocation or successful receipt of the VAT number:

1. All information must be given correctly and completely.

2. At the time of submitting the application, proof of entrepreneurship must be provided. The responsible tax office forwards this proof directly to the Federal Central Tax Office. For the applicant, at least no own effort is necessary here.

Apply for VAT ID - how long does it take?

How long it takes before you are assigned the VAT number depends on the time of the application - i.e. when the company is founded or afterwards.

Who at the Start-up requests for a sales tax identification number must be accompanied by a Waiting time of approx. 2 months calculate.

Existing companies can already surrendered after 3-5 working days expect to receive the sales tax ID.

As is so often the case, this is of course different in every EU country. The waiting times mentioned here can, however, be used as a guideline across borders.

Tax number vs. VAT number

Tax number or VAT number? Since experience has shown that differentiating the two numbers has often caused difficulties for some (online) retailers in the past, here is a clarification:

tax number: All natural and legal persons who are subject to tax are assigned a tax number by the tax office. This number is necessary for administration within the tax authorities and so, for example, natural persons are automatically assigned a tax number at birth that will not change for their entire life.

memory: We are still dealing with the subject using Germany as an example.

The VAT number however, is particularly relevant and necessary for players in intra-European trade.

This means that a legal entity, say an independent online retailer, can only have one tax number, but possibly sales tax IDs throughout Europe. Anyone who has several jobs then only has ONE tax number!

Check sales tax IDs

If you want to check your own VAT number, or that of a potential business partner, you should use the European Commission's VAT information exchange system (VIES).

As a rule, dealers and service providers check the VAT number of potential business partners, especially if there are doubts or problems have already arisen in the past.

Checking the sales tax identification numbers of customers within the EU can also be very useful. The effort is more than manageable and bears no relation to the additional effort that can otherwise flourish.

As already mentioned, this online tool enables validation in a few seconds; alternatively, there is also a tool from the Federal Central Tax Office: check sales tax ID online.


Are there any costs involved in applying for a VAT number?

The application and the VAT number per se are free of charge.

When is the VAT identification number valid and for how long?

Start of validity: date of the notification letter. The validity ends with the VAT registration.

How can I change my details?

Changes to the data can only be requested and carried out in person at the responsible tax office.