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E-commerce brings crucial advantages - you reach a much larger target group, have extensive marketing opportunities and keep up with the times. But not everything is as simple as it seems. Topics such as tax law, for example, can become downright complicated! Anyone who deals with the topic of e-commerce in Germany or is an online seller himself has had a hard time getting around a certain headline recently - the tax certificate 22f. We would like to explain to you today what is actually behind this legal text, what changes it entails and what you need to be aware of in the future.

1. what is the 22f tax certificate?

In short, Article 22f: Persons wishing to sell on an online marketplace must of course be registered with the tax authorities. The marketplace operator must take precautions and therefore demand a tax certificate from each seller. In this way, losses of sales tax in e-commerce are to be limited and in the best case completely prevented. The certificate according to 22f contains the most important information about the seller and his activities. This includes typical imprint information, such as the name of the entrepreneur and his address as well as the tax number and VAT identification number. In addition, the start and end date of the validity period must be given, as well as the place of departure or dispatch of the goods including the destination. The time and amount of sales are also listed here. Basically, the certificate contains all important information about the entrepreneur.

1.1 Why do I need the 22f tax certificate to sell on Amazon DE?

As mentioned in the section above, every online trading platform must secure itself for the new law. Amazon is also such a trading platform. Everyone who sells goods on Amazon DE - in whatever way - is now obliged to present such a tax certificate in order to be able to resell. We have explained the background of this in the following section.

1.2 What is the background of the 22f tax certificate?

But why all this effort? The necessity of the 22f tax certificate has a very understandable background. Up to now, everybody could offer products for sale on online marketplaces like Amazon - no matter from which country the merchant comes. So, this means that a German trader can act in the same way as one who is based in China. This alone is not a problem in itself, but actually offers many advantages for both sides. A much larger offer for customers visiting the marketplace on the Internet also benefits the marketplace operator. However, the issue of taxes is problematic. While a Chinese trader can avoid the German sales tax, a trader registered in Germany must of course pay it. This led to enormous price differences, as foreign traders could offer their goods at much lower prices than the German traders. These were accordingly at a disadvantage. Many cases of tax evasion were also the result - and these were often difficult to understand.

Since the liability for possible tax evasion lay with the trader himself, there were often problems that were difficult to solve. In order to solve these problems, since 01.01.2019 the responsibility has been with the marketplace where the traders sell. In our case, this means Amazon itself. But of course, by apportioning liability, the merchants cannot pull themselves out of the affair completely. The trading platforms now have to demand the 22f certificate from each provider to ensure that the sales tax is actually paid as soon as a sale is made to Germany.

1.3 How do I get a 22f certificate?

So, you need a 22f tax certificate - but where can you get one anyway? Applying for a certificate is much easier than it might seem at first. In the meantime, there are even electronic procedures for applying for it. Often you get a very punctual advice from your tax advisor about when you need it and where to get it. To continue selling on online platforms such as Amazon, it is best to go to the tax office responsible for you or to the website, if available. There you can find out about the "Application for a certificate of registration as a taxable person (entrepreneur) within the meaning of §22 Paragraph 1 Sentence 2 UstG", or "UST1TJ" for short. An example of this form can also be found here:

What has to be entered at which position is largely self-explanatory. At this point, however, the tax consultant will certainly be happy to help. There are also contacts at the tax office who are familiar with these topics.

By when do I have to have the certificate?

Anyone who now thinks they need such a certificate and has not yet received it will certainly wonder whether this will have any effect on possible business plans. Unfortunately, the answer here is currently yes. The law on the 22f tax certificate was already passed on 01.01.2019. There was even a transitional period at that time so that the regulations did not have to be changed completely overnight. Unfortunately, these deadlines have already expired at the beginning of 2020. Suppliers from third countries, for example from China, had until 01 March last year to obtain a VAT certificate. For German traders, this deadline was even a little longer: we had time until 01 October to take care of the certificate. If you want to start trading on Amazon from scratch, you probably can't avoid the certificate anymore.

What happens if I do not have a 22f certificate?

The background of the 22f tax certificate is, as is well known, that possible tax evasion by the traders is put a stop to.

Now the marketplace itself is liable - but of course this also brings about changes. So, what can happen in the worst case, if a trader cannot present a 22f certificate? At first glance, this in itself does not seem to be a big problem. However, some platforms such as eBay threaten to delete the profile if the certificate is not available. However, you should not take any risk, because the topic of tax evasion is a very serious one - and nobody wants to get into trouble here.

If a tax certificate is missing, it can even lead to the initiation of criminal proceedings for tax evasion.

The future of the 22f tax certificate

And what do you think will happen in the future? Already last year there were discussions about abolishing the certificate again. But these were nothing more than the same - discussions. So, nothing has changed until today. Work is underway to further simplify the electronic application process and to set up a completely electronic procedure. However, the 22f tax certificate is still mandatory - and admittedly has some advantages. Although the application means a little extra work for online traders, the certificate also offers more security for e-commerce. Ultimately, the most important thing at this point is that we are safe on our marketplaces on the net and that everything runs correctly according to the law.

And after the application, as I said, everything remains the same. With this in mind, we wish you all the best and continued success!

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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