VAT 101: Refunds await for meeting & event taxes in Germany

Every dollar counts...

when you’re planning a meeting at home or abroad. In addition to offering excellent value for money in general, Germany also offers a VAT refund of up to 19% on certain expenses. The trick is knowing the rules of the road.


Value Added Tax (VAT), called MwSt in Germany, is a consumption tax added to most goods and services in many countries around the world.

Unlike many countries however, the national tax system of Germany allows most non-resident, North American business and organizations to claim a 7-19% VAT refund on key meeting, conference and trade show expenses including:

  • Lodging
  • Event venue expenses
  • Conference fees
  • Meals
  • Transportation
  • Import VAT & drop shipping
  • Sales by internet /e-commerce
  • Research & development

Get Smart on Germany VAT & Get Money Back

The key to getting VAT expenses back is to do some homework:

First, it is important to understanding the basics of VAT refunds in Germany based on the type and format of your event (e.g. a fee-based or no fees model) and the type of organization doing the planning (corporate, independent planner or non-profit, association etc.).

Secondly, VAT refund guidelines in Germany (and any country) can differ event to event and change as your event changes so be sure to get the facts as you move throughout your planning cycle.
Happily VAT experts are out there to help you make heads and tails of it all and to guide you through VAT reclamation options, scenarios and processes along the way.

$ Mindfulness - Basic Guidelines for Germany VAT Rewards
Here are some basic VAT refund guidelines to keep in mind for meetings, events, conferences & exhibitions held in Germany:

  • “For Fee” Happenings for Corporations: If attendee or exhibit space fees will be collected, North American companies are most likely required to register for VAT to claim a refund. That registration should be done during the planning stage vs. after transactions have already started taking place.  Here a VAT charge can be made to some or all of attendees & exhibitors.
  • “No Fee” Happenings for Corporations: VAT registration is usually not required for North American companies to claim a refund if there is no attendee fee, and no revenue is collected for a meeting, event, conference etc. e.g. in-house meetings, marketing events or free-of-charge education sessions, networking events or no-fee conferences.
  • Non-Profits, Membership Organizations & Associations: Where there is an attendee fee charged, the same rules basically apply as for North American corporate entities. VAT registration is required and VAT is also charged to participants. However, if no attendee or exhibitor fee is charged for a Non-Profit, Membership, or Association event it is not generally possible to claim a VAT refund if you are planning in-house. If you are incurring VAT charges through an independent planner for a no-fee happening, however, VAT generally can be refunded if requirements are met.
  • Independent Planners: In most cases a North American event planner who plans an event, meeting, conference etc.  in Germany on behalf of a corporate client or Non-profit, Membership Organization or Association usually does not have to pre-register for their VAT refund nor charge VAT to their client.
  • Incentives: VAT amounts incurred during incentive trips are generally not refundable in Germany or any other part of the EU.


Some other Tricks of the Trade … Did You Know?

  • Not all EU countries refund VAT to North American business entities or Non-Profits, Membership Organizations & Associations.
  • When getting a VAT refund in Germany it is important to file before the deadline or you will forfeit the refund. Invoices issued Jan 1 – December 31 are generally due with the German Tax authorities by June of the following calendar year.
  • Original invoices issued in the company or organization name and address are required when applying for a VAT refund from the German tax authorities.  Copies and credit card slips do not qualify.
  • If a company purchases a raw booth space in Germany in most cases no VAT will be charged if it includes 3+ services such as furniture rentals, internet access and cleaning. Also the German import VAT can be avoided if shipments of tradeshow products & goods for that booth are arranged and documented according to the German temporary import option (also called Carnet).


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