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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 25 September 2014

Taxation: Germany referred to Court over its rules on VAT refunds for non-EU operators

The European Commission has decided to refer Germany to the European Court of Justice regarding its rules on VAT refund applications which discriminate against non-EU operators.

Under German VAT legislation, taxable persons established outside the EU must personally sign the application form to be refunded the VAT charged on goods or services.

Operators established in Germany or in the EU, on the other hand, can authorise a third person to sign or submit their refund form to recover VAT.

The Commission considers that the German requirement for third country operators goes against the principles of effectiveness, proportionality and equivalence laid down in EU law. There is no provision under EU legislation which requires VAT refund forms to be personally signed. Moreover, requiring a personal signature from non-EU operators, but not EU ones, can make it excessively difficult for those not established in the EU to obtain a VAT refund. The Commission considers that Germany's stated aim of combatting tax evasion and ensuring a proper refund procedure could be achieved through other means, such as the appointment of a tax representative.

The Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Germany in September 2012 asking for these rules to be amended (see MEMO/2012/708). However the German authorities did not bring their rules into conformity with EU law.

Useful links

For press releases on infringement cases in the taxation or customs field see:

For the latest general information on infringement measures against Member States see:

On the September infringement package decisions: MEMO/14/537

On the general infringement procedure: see MEMO/12/12

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Franck Arrii (+32 2 297 22 21)

For the public: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 or by e­mail

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