You say Steuernummer and I say Steuer-ID-Nummer,
You say Umsatz-ID-Nummer and I say Sozialversicherungsnummer.
Steuernummer, StIDNr, UStID-Nr, SV-Nummer, let’s call the whole thing off.
Hmm. Not really an option. So instead, I’ll take you through it simply, carefully and lovingly. I wish everyone would sing songs about tax.
Steuer-ID-Nummer (tax identification number)
Also known as the tax ID number, the StIDNr. and incorrectly as the social security number.
When you register your address for the first time in Germany, you don’t have to do anything extra to get this one. It just arrives in the mail about 3-4 weeks later. This is an 11 digit-long identification number that the tax office likes you to use whenever you call or write to them. It looks like this:
12 345 678 901
You only get one in your lifetime and it doesn’t change, even if you change your name or address. If your child is born in Germany, they’ll get it in the mail shortly after their birth. Sometimes it’s the first piece of mail your baby ever receives in their lifetime. I haven’t quite figured out whether I find that sweet or kind of creepy.
If you never received it or you lost the piece of paper, you can apply for them to re-send it to you online. It takes a few weeks to come through. You will only receive it at the address where you are currently registered, and they won’t send it electronically.
In the past, some people have had luck going to their local tax office and asking for it in person. I accompanied a few of these people a few years back – the employee at the Finanzamt just wrote the number on a piece of paper for them and hushed them away. But officially, you should only receive it by post. So plenty of people go to the Finanzamt and get turned away and told to use the website instead, especially in the last couple of years.
Your employer might hassle you for your Steuer-ID-Number before they will pay you. If that is their policy, you will just have to be patient and wait.
Steuernummer (freelance tax number)
Also known as the freelance tax number.
If you decide you’d like to become self-employed, you’ll need a Steuernummer (a freelance tax number). It looks like this:
12 / 345 / 67890
You get it by filling out a very long form and submitting it to your local Finanzamt. This is a separate process to getting your Gewerbeschein (business license), which you may or may not need depending on the type of work you do. But whether you are a tradesperson or in a freelance profession, if you are self-employed and need to write invoices, this number will need to be on them.
Achtung! Don’t get confused – there’s another Steuernummer that you might get after submitting your very first tax return in Germany that looks IDENTICAL to the freelance tax number. It’s also called a Steuernummer. How very confusing. But they are phasing this one out in favour of the Steuer-ID-Nr.
The 7 page form gives the Finanzamt important information about how you’d like to set up your business – things like your legal form, the type of work you do, your contact details and authorized representatives, how to handle income tax, how to handle VAT, etc. If you’d like some personalised help filling out this form, I’d be very happy to help.
Sozialversicherungsnummer (social insurance number)
This number is only issued to you if you are in a working arrangement that obligates you to make social contributions. For example, if you have ever been employed in Germany or if you are accepted into the Künstlersozialkasse as a self-employed person. Usually, it just happens, you don’t have to do much except let your employer sort that out for you, and you’ll find the number on your salary slip.
If you have one but have lost it, you can go to your closest Deutsche Rentenversicherung office (DRV) and just ask for it, ask your old employer, or look at an old payslip. If you are self-employed and not paying into the pension, you don’t really need the number for much. If you are a freelance teacher, don’t contact the DRV and ask to be issued with one or even make any contact with the DRV at all unless you’re cool with making compulsory back payments on your income as a freelance teacher for up to five years of the time you’ve been one. Read here to find out more about that.
Yep, that’s a word. This is your VAT identification number.
The VAT identification number is only for businesses (including self-employed sole traders). It starts with two letters that designate the country your business is registered in, and then continues with 9 numbers. Like this:
Even if you register as a small business (Kleinunternehmer) and don’t have to worry about charging or claiming VAT, you still might need a VAT ID number. For example, European companies with whom you trade might ask for it so that they can figure out whether they have to charge you VAT or not.
There are two ways to get a VAT ID number. You can either request one when you’re filling out the big long 7-page form to get your freelance tax number (Steuernummer) by checking a box, or, you can visit this website and apply. Choose “Vergabe einer USt-IDNr” from the right-hand menu.
If you’re feeling like this is all a bit too taxing (oh no she didn’t!) and want some personalised help, I’m always around.