Invoices for freelances in Germany

From January 1, 2004, the requirements of invoices presented in Germany have changed. This came up in the comments to an earlier entry that mentioned an article on the BDÜ website. These requirements apply particularly if you want to set off an invoice against VAT.

First query: what form of electronic signature will be accepted? Does it require extra hardware or would one of the two or three forms of signature in Adobe Acrobat suffice?

It looks to me as if you do need the hardware, so I will go back to sending invoices on paper and wait for more advice. Here is some information in German).

Another requirement is that invoices are numbered consecutively. Information for German lawyers in two PDF files (here and here) at the Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer site is partly relevant to translators. (via There is a transitional period until 30 June 2004 in which this rule need not be followed. (Does this period apply to the electronic signature too?)

4 thoughts on “Invoices for freelances in Germany

  1. Hi Margaret

    Just as an after-thought, how come Telekom sends all my telephone and fax bills now only as PDF? Will they also not be recognised for VAT?? The PDFs don’t even have any digital signature of any kind.


  2. Paul, that’s a very good question – I might make a separate entry. At the end of last year, Telekom were saying on their website (Rechnung online) that there is only one kind of file that could be printed out and recognized by the tax office, and that was not the PDF, but a fax format, a DCX file. I have only ever succeeded in downloading two DCX files, one for Nov. and one for Dec. I had to download Irfanview to even print them out. I am assuming that the tax office will accept the PDFs and other printouts I made for earlier months. The DCX file has a date stamp on it, rather like a fax header. They’re now offering to send invoices by email, but they don’t say whether the tax office will recognize them. I just tried to look at their website, but it seems to be down…

  3. Hi Margaret

    Further to this thread, I had a client of mine today refusing to accept a bill since I had not put the “Zeitpunkt der Leistung” on it. I put “Datum der Leisung” and the date. My tax consultant burst out laughing, but it is an equivocal wording in the new statute which is causing the problem. Apparently “Zeitpunkt” = “Datum” .. or am I to put…”Zeitpunkt der Leistung: 10:15, 5 Sekunden, 6,1 Millisekunden”…??

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