A German freelancer needs to buy work equipment (computer, printer, paper, etc.) in Germany, and wants to recover the VAT (Mehrwertsteuer/Umsatzsteuer) that is included in the price.

Is it sufficient that he gets an invoice on which the included VAT is shown separately? Or are there any other requirements?

For example:

  • Must the ‎invoice recipient be the freelancer himself, or could it be a friend? If the recipient is the freelancer, must it show the freelancer’s business address/name, or could it show his private address?

  • Must the invoice show the freelancer’s VAT ID (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer)?

In other words, can the freelancer buy in the same way as if buying privately, or does he have to sign up as business customer in web shops?

1 Answer 1


Yes, the Freelancer can buy just the same as a private person, and later decide this is a business-expense. Recipient must be the Freelancer himself though, not a friend etc.

The invoice has to fulfill all requirements of a regular invoice under German law, see here (German)

The usual cash register-printout (Kassenzettel) does not suffice, at least not for anything over 150€.

One other thing: Some consumer-protection rules like the two weeks return right for goods ordered online do not automatically apply to B-to-B transactions. So be careful when you order something as business!

  • 1
    Very small disagreement on the register-printouts or receipts: many of them are designed to satisfy the requirements for small expenses under 150€, for example in bookstores. But always check and if in doubt ask for a "full" invoice.
    – mschuett
    Mar 21, 2018 at 18:33
  • 1
    @mschuett you are right, and the document I linked also mentions it - edited.
    – Daniel
    Mar 22, 2018 at 8:32

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