Modified German Federal Fiscal Court ruling on address details on invoices
Already in 2018, the Federal Fiscal Court [Bundesfinanzhof, BFH] ruled that an invoice that entitles the recipient to deduct input tax does not require the commercial activities of the supplying company to be carried out at the address provided on the invoice issued by it (cf. rulings from 13.6 and 21.6.2018, case references: XI R 20/14 and V R 25/15). According to the rulings, any type of address – including a so-called letterbox address – is sufficient provided that the supplying company can be contacted at this address. In its rulings, with reference to the ECJ (ruling from 15.11.2017, case: C-374/16), the BFH explained that the identity of the issuer of the invoice and of the supplying company were necessary for input tax deduction. What matters here with respect to checking the criterion of contactability is the date of the issue of the invoice, although the burden of adducing evidence for contactability by post is on the recipient.
It is also worth noting the somewhat relativizing BFH rulings from 5.12.2018 (case reference: XI R22/14) and 14.2.2019 (case reference: V R 47/16). The date when the invoice is issued also gives rise to the requirement for the party wishing to deduct the input tax to obtain documentary evidence of the issuer of the invoice being contactable by post. Furthermore, the issuer of the invoice and the supplying company have to be identical.
BMF circular has created legal certainty in practice
The fiscal authority, in the BMF circular from 13.7.2020, just recently responded to the BFH ruling on the identity of the issuer of the invoice and the supplying company as well as on the invoice element of a complete address for the supplying company. The principles set out by the BFH have been adopted by the BMF in Section 14.5(2) and Section 15.2a(2) of the ordinance on the application of VAT [Umsatzsteueranwendungserlass, UStAE]. These should be applied to all open cases.
Please note: The adoption of the BFH ruling by the fiscal authority has effectively resulted in a reversal of the burden of proof. In the case of a subsequent review, proving that the supplying company could not be contacted at the address provided on the invoice would thus lie with the fiscal authority.