Germany: Electronic Tax Audit in Germany

Last Updated: 16 August 2002
Article by Eugen Bogenschütz

A. Introduction

On January 1, 2002 new legislation became effective that significantly enhances the rights of the German tax authorities to retrieve electronic data in tax audits. The new regulations are sometimes dubbed "EAudit". The most important changes are incorporated in sections 146 para. 5, 147 paras. 2, 5 and 6 and 200 para. 1 Abgabenordnung or Tax Procedures Act ("TPA"). The Federal Ministry of Finance issued guidelines on July 16, 2001 that represent the tax administration’s views on the new regulations. Simultaneously sec. 14 para. 4 Value Added Tax ("VAT") Act has also been amended. Under sec. 14 para. 4 VAT Act an electronic settlement that fulfils the requirement of a sophisticated electronic signature can be accepted as an invoice.

The purposes of this briefing is to highlight the changes that stem from the new principles of electronic data retrieval and the obligation to make electronic data available for audit.

B. Scope of E-Audit

Under the new rules the tax authorities have three options to access electronic data:

  • Use the taxpayer’s hard- and software for direct "read-only" access at the taxpayer’s premises ("on site"). This includes data selection using available taxpayer's selection tools.
  • The tax auditor can require the taxpayer to select data as instructed by the tax auditor ("indirect access").
  • The Revenue Service can require the taxpayer to save all relevant data on external discs (typically CD-Roms), which can be taken away by the Revenue Service.

Sec. 200 para. 1 TPA imposes an obligation on the taxpayer to assist the tax authorities in carrying out the e-audit. It must be ensured that the tax auditor obtains access to all data relevant for tax purposes ("tax relevant data"). From the taxpayer’s point of view it is of the utmost importance to ensure that (1) the tax authorities only have access to tax relevant data to which they are entitled; and (2) the tax authorities are not prevented from having access to all tax relevant data. If tax relevant data is mixed with other data the tax authorities believe that they can surf all the available data electronically in order to retrieve the tax relevant data.

Not surprisingly the first technical discussions between tax practitioners and members of the tax administration revealed a big discrepancy with regard to what kind of information is relevant for taxation purposes and what is not. It is not hard to predict that the not very clear term "tax relevant data" will be the cause of many forthcoming disputes with the tax administration. While it is clear that accounting records, letters received and sent, and bookkeeping vouchers that have to be stored in accordance with sec. 147 para. 1 TPA are tax relevant data, other types of material are more problematic. This is in particularly true as regards e-mail correspondence, both external and internal. Whilst some members of the tax administration have expressed different views it is the author’s position that "tax relevant data" relates only to actual facts and circumstances, and not opinions (hypothetical or otherwise) Sec.102 para.1 no.3 lit.a) TPA sets out a comprehensive tax advisors' professional privilege that applies to all professions entitled to render tax consulting services in Germany eg attorneys-at-law, certified tax advisors and certified public accountants. It will be necessary for such advisers to ensure that they safeguard this professional privilege in day to day practice.

C. Organisational Precautionary Measures

It is obvious that under the new rules it is extremely important for each taxpayer to clearly define, and educate their staff accordingly, which kinds of information should be regarded as tax relevant and which should not. Briefly, taxpayers should go through the following steps:

1. Take an inventory of all available data within the organisation.

2. Define all data that has to be stored for tax purposes in accordance with sec. 147 para. 1 TPA (because only this can be accessed by the tax administration in accordance with sec. 146 para. 6 TPA).

3. Define what is tax relevant data and ensure that it is kept separately from other data. Keep documents that are privileged under the professional privilege separately.

4. Define which systems can, and which cannot, be accessed by the tax authorities.

5. Define access profiles.

In general terms the tax authorities have the right to electronically retrieve data since January 1, 2002, including that for prior years. However, if data has been kept in non-electronic form before January 1,2002 it does not have to be reloaded in an electronic form if this would result in unreasonable expense for the company. If in the case of a fiscal year other than a calendar year electronic storage cannot be implemented for technical reasons, the taxpayer has until the beginning of the next fiscal year (beginning in 2002) to fulfil the requirements. If the system permits electronic data retrieval it is the tax administration's view that they can use it to access prior years’ data as well.

D. Conclusion

Taxpayers should ideally have acted already to protect their position. Those which have not will have to move quickly if they are to avoid the tax authorities having the right to access the whole of the information on their systems.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.