Skip navigation


Notes on the obligation to retain documents and recommendations for submitting documents

Due to the change from the obligation to submit receipts to the obligation to retain receipts, there are currently still uncertainties in dealing with receipts.

Your tax return is largely processed electronically and paperless. As a general rule, you should therefore not initially submit any receipts when filing your tax return and only submit them in individual cases at the request of the tax authorities.

The following information sheet is intended to provide assistance in dealing with receipts. It lists situations in which the tax office is likely to request supporting documents and therefore, in exceptional cases, submitting them with the tax return can optimize the process.

Information sheet on the obligation to retain documents and recommendations for submitting documents

With the entry into force of the Act on the Modernization of the Taxation Procedure (Gesetz zur Modernisierung des Besteuerungsverfahrens), the so-called document retentionobligation has applied to most tax returns since the 2017 assessment period, i.e. documents no longer have to be submitted with the tax return, but must be retained for any document requests. The scope of the document request is at the discretion of the respective processor and is therefore a case-by-case decision.

By presenting the facts of the case in the tax return as completely, concretely and meaningfully as possible, the need for the tax authorities to request supporting documents is reduced to a minimum. The (optional) breakdown options provided in ELStER should therefore be used primarily.

As these are not (yet) available in all areas of the tax return, a supplementary explanation in the form of statements or supporting documents can optimize the process.

In general, the more significant the tax issue, the more sensible it is to submit the document immediately, as the requirements for the document submission increase with the tax significance.

A tax matter is generally significant if it is

  • is new, first-time or unique,
  • represents an exceptional (business) event
  • changes significantly compared to the previous year or
  • has a noticeable tax impact.

Significant circumstances with an actual tax impact can be, for example

  • Sheath:
    • Disability
    • Lump sum for care
    • First-time payment of pensions or permanent burdens
    • Extraordinary expenses (e.g. expenses for a nursing home, alternative medical treatment)
  • Maintenance annex:
    • Payments of foreign alimony
  • Annex N:
    • Different taxation of the use of a company car
    • Home office (explanation usually sufficient)
  • Annex G/S/L:
    • Business closure/disposal (explanation of profit determination, in the case of business closure, expert opinion on market values if necessary)
    • § Section 17 EStG Transactions
  • Annex KAP:
    • Application for loss offsetting
  • Annex V:
    • First-time letting
    • New depreciation series (explanation usually sufficient)
    • Increased depreciation
  • Attachment Child:
    • First-time school fees

Foreign circumstances:

  • Attachments AUS, N-AUS, N-Gre
  • Foreign income
  • Application for unlimited tax liability according to § 1 para. 3 EStG

The recommendations only serve to reduce the number of inquiries. Any further requests for supporting documents remain at the discretion of the tax authorities. The recommendations themselves do not result in any new obligations to submit supporting documents. It should also be noted that these recommendations do not constitute instructions for the tax offices to request supporting documents.

The Oberfinanzdirektion Karlsruhe also points out that donation receipts are currently increasingly being requested when donations are claimed.

This page uses cookies. You can find out more information about the General Data Protection Regulation under Data protection.