When it comes to doing business internationally, you need to check what tax and legal regulations apply. Some points are only relevant if you do business outside the EU. However, many points are already relevant when you do business anywhere outside Germany.
Value-added tax (VAT) within and outside the EU
For deliveries from suppliers or to private individuals or business customers based in other EU countries or third countries: Find out in advance how to manage input tax (“Vorsteuer”) and value-added tax (“Umsatzsteuer”). Even companies that make use of the “provision for small businesses” (“Kleinunternehmerregelung”) can be affected!
One Stop Shop procedure for EU VAT
Online retailers must pay VAT in other EU countries if their sales to non-business customers (i.e. private end consumers) in other EU countries is more than €10,000 (net and including shipping costs) in a calendar year. This €10,000 threshold value includes all products and services sold, including digital services such as downloads. In order to register and pay this tax in other EU countries you can use the One Stop Shop procedure (OSS), which involves registering with the Federal Central Tax Office in Germany and submitting your tax declaration to them for your entire EU sales. This also applies to small businesses, i.e. regardless of whether an online retailer is obliged to pay VAT in Germany.
International online trade and sales law
Sales law regulates topics such as warranty, possible compensation claims, the right to exchange and return goods, as well as specific aspects of international sales contracts.
The CCI brochures on selected countries, “Online verkaufen in …” (“Selling online in …”), answer important questions on entering the respective (online) market, as the legal conditions vary from land to land.
Dealing with imports and exports
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Munich (CCI) offers information and support on customs and foreign trade law:
CCI guide to internationalization – doing business successfully abroad [in German]
Product safety and product liability
Whether manufacturer, importer, or retailer – anyone who puts products on the German market must ensure that the products meet the European regulations for product safety or else risk liability procedures, sanctions, and loss of reputation. Product safety regulations also affect labeling and information obligations.
CCI guide to product safety [in German]
CCI guide to product liability [in German]
Special regulations apply to many products including:
- Electrical products
- Food supplements
- Medical products
- Food (production and/or retail)
A1 certification for cross-border activity
If you work temporarily in an EU country, in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you will always have to carry an A1 certification with you. It is proof of your existing social security protection in Germany. It is valid regardless of the length of your business travel. Other certifications may be required for other countries.