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Information shown on an invoice – The issue of the usual commercial designation

The German VAT Act stipulates that business owners have to ensure that their invoices show the quantity and type (usual commercial designation) of the items supplied, or the extent and nature of other supplies. The Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium der Finanzen, BMF), in a recent circular, endorsed the opinion of the Federal Fiscal Court (Bundesfinanzhof, BFH) with respect to the matter of the usual commercial designation.

It is the view of the BMF, which was expressed in its circular of 1.12.2021 (reference: III C 2 – S 7280-a/19/10002 :001) and of the BFH that the usual commercial designation should not be considered as a tightening up for business owners with respect to the information that has to be disclosed on invoices. A distinction needs to be made between goods in medium and higher price segments, on the one hand, and trading in goods in the low-price segment, on the other hand. The commercial conventionality of a designation will always depend on the circumstances in a particular case. This could include, for example, the distribution channel, the nature and content of the business as well as the value of the individual goods.

The BMF further explained that it was not possible to make any generally applicable statements in respect of when a designation could be regarded as being commercially conventional. In cases of uncertainty, the business owner would be required to provide proof that the designation specified on an invoice is commercially conventional in the distribution channel concerned.

Please note: You have to be able to exclude the possibility of charging more than once for supplies. It has to be possible to clearly and easily verify the supplies. The goods supplied or services performed do not however have to be exhaustively described.

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