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Just moved to Germany and registered as a freelancer - now I'm supposed send my first invoice to a client from USA and am getting conflicting info from Google (my German is still a work in progress too) on what this invoice should contain - hope someone could help with that.

A few questions:

  • this shouldn't contain VAT (Mwst.) right?
  • should I qoute some article of German law on why VAT is not needed?
  • the crazy thing is I found websites saying that you're not obliged to translate your invoices (from German) to English but I find that a bit rude - would an invoice in English still be "legal" in Germany?
  • what info from my client should I have on this invoice? Name and address or is his US? tax number also required? Or not needed?
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    Why would you charge US client VAT??? – littleadv Jun 26 '14 at 6:48
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Technically, you're exporting services outside EU, so you're doing (probably) the most complicated operation from the accounting's point of view.

Because you're staying in Germany, you're subject to German tax law, so the invoice must be in German and must contain all fields required by German law.

The importer has obligation to translate the invoice! You can, however, provide the translation, but then you can (potentially) make yourself liable for errors when translating formal terms.

You don't pay VAT because you're exporter. Exporters don't pay VAT but they must document the export operation to have proof to tax office, no VAT was required from that sale.

The invoice must identify your client. So you must provide the company name, the address and the company id, according to US law.

In any case, you should consult "Steuerberater" because of many potential pitfalls in tax law. The sheer fact that you must properly document export operations and you don't know German perfectly should be enough. Any trivial errors in accounting can result in heavy fines!

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  • Given how common this operation should be, I would expect that it is possible to find some ready-made invoice template for exact this case. Can you recommend some, since you seem to be well into it? – Marko Jul 14 '14 at 6:40

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