Tax audit in companies: From VAT to tax audit

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Among all tax audits, the VAT survey is the most unpleasant because it can be done without notice. For sales tax, there is also the sales tax special examination. From there it is not far to the tax audit.

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Reinhard Schinkel 58Is Reinhard Schinkel according to Handelsblatt one of Germany's best tax advisors and specialist author for tax law.


From the author:




Sales tax inspection

The sales tax inspection is carried out without prior notice by the tax office! This is not an external audit.

The review is limited to reviewing the facts that are significant for sales taxation. The land and business premises of the taxpayer may be entered. However, access to the living quarters is only permitted “in the event of imminent danger”. If further information is available, a regular VAT check can be carried out.

Examinations for the inspection are:

  • Business start-up at newly founded Company (does the company actually exist)?
  • High pre-tax refund claims in the pre-registration procedure (check whether the goods actually exist, the fixed assets)
  • Unclear usage or actual use of objects (eg sailing yacht)
  • Pre-tax adjustment according to § 15a UStG
  • (Eg when another taxpayer claims high reimbursement amounts from invoices with the company).

VAT special audit

The tax offices carry out the check. It is a drop test. The examiner is therefore selected on the basis of a risk profile. The same “selection criteria” play a role in the VAT review.

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The main focus of the audit is on:

  • Tax free supplies
  • export supplies
  • Intra-Community trade in goods
  • Choice of the right tax rate
  • Delimitation of operational to private expenses
  • formal requirements for deduction of input tax

The sales tax audit can only be limited to individual pre-registration periods!

From the VAT to the tax audit

The most serious test for the entrepreneur is the company audit or external audit. First, it is the most comprehensive test.

This is not limited to a single tax type as it is the case with the special audits. On the other hand, this test usually takes the longest.

Purpose of the tax audit

Because the disadvantage is: Instead of a few days, the examiner can also spend several weeks in the business to re-determine the tax bases. An audit is carried out by the tax authorities and is usually announced (except for the tax investigation).

The purpose of the tax audit (tax audit) is to identify and assess tax-relevant facts in order to ensure the uniformity of taxation (§§ 85, 199 para. 1 AO). Necessary tax adjustments are made both in favor of the taxpayer and to the detriment of the taxpayer.

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How does the tax authority decide whether to check or not?

When arranging and carrying out audit work, attention must be paid to the proportionality and least disruption of business operations. The tax authority decides at its best discretion whether and when an audit is carried out. This also applies if the taxpayer desires an early tax audit.

The audit is governed by an administrative regulation - the company audit regulations. For special audits (eg external payroll tax audits and sales tax audits) §§ 5 to 12, 20 to 24, 29 and 30 are to be applied mutatis mutandis with the exception of § 5 para. 4 sentence 2 of the company audit regulations.

Audit period

The examination period is usually three years. The following are checked: income tax / corporation tax, value added tax and trade tax.

In the case of private companies, the audit also covers the separate and uniform assessment of tax bases.

The timely tax audit

NEW since 2012 is the timely audit. For this, the company audit regulations were changed in advance and § 4a was inserted:

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§ 4a Timely audit

  • (1) The tax authority may select taxpayers for a timely tax audit under the conditions set out in paragraph 2. An audit is timely if the audit period includes one or more near-term tax periods.
  • (2) The basis for timely tax audits are the tax returns within the meaning of § 150 of the Tax Code of the tax periods to be audited (paragraph 1 sentence 2). In order to safeguard the participation rights of the Federal Central Tax Office, the taxpayer selected by the tax authority is to be named immediately to the Federal Central Tax Office, deviating from the period of § 21 paragraph 1 sentence 1.
  • (3) An audit report or notification of the unsuccessful audit is to be prepared for the result of the prompt tax audit (Section 202 of the Tax Code). ”

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