Money February 22, 2020

Germany: One-off quotes, invoices, recurring billing, VAT compliance, DATEV, please help me ;)

John @Jojo

Hello IH Community,

finally made the plunge into starting my own GmbH recently, which is a B2B SaaS catering mostly to international Enterprise customers. I will work with my tax-accountant through DATEV Unternehmen Online for bookkeeping in order to facilitate the Bilanz and UStVa (VAT advance payments) etc. I will fill that system manually with the generated invoices from whatever other system I end up using, so I'm not concerned with DATEV connectivity at the moment.

Now I'm trying to figure out the minimum amount of tools I need for the various types of customers and quotes / invoicing / billing I want to do. I have the following scenarios:

  • Enterprise customers on annual contracts. These want proper quotes, often with gotchas like having different bill-to and ship-to address. Payment for these is through wire transfer (SEPA/SWIFT), so effectively "offline".
  • Enterprise and SMB customers which will checkout using self-serve and credit card (e.g. Stripe).
  • Customers are mostly B2B, some within Germany and within the EU as well as third countries (USA, world) which will all need different VAT handling.
  • Invoices have to be compliant with German tax law, e.g. include correct VAT IDs for me and the partners, correct VAT totals, disclaimers in case of VAT reverse-charge, etc.

I think I can get by just with Stripe for now, and was thinking of complimenting the correct VAT invoicing and Quotation features through partner integrations. Can anyone recommend any and in general tell me if I'm missing some crucial part of the story?

  1. 2

    Congratulations on your product market fit :)

    I personally found DATEV Unternehmen Online horrible to work with, but if I remember correctly, they have a CSV import (Buchungsstapel) that you can use for importing automatically generated invoices. Using this import, you can also create debit records (Offene Posten / OPOS) for what the customers paying offline owe you. Your accountant can then reconcile those with your bank account and give you a report listing who still owes you how much.

    The invoices for EU and US are easy to do, you just slap the usual reverse charge text on them and do not include VAT in the final amount. For EU customers, you also need to put their tax ID (the one including the country code) on the invoice. Your accountant will then book these as paragraph 13 dual tax bookings, meaning you both pay the tax and get it refunded, so those show up in certain sums but you won't actually pay taxes.

    For the German invoices, you need to have a continuously incrementing counter to make it easy to spot missing invoices. Apart from that, you just charge the usual 19% for services and you'll have to declare and pay them to tax authorities. Or if your customer gives you their tax ID, you put that one on the invoice and do not charge the 19%.

    So it's actually not that complicated if you only sell B2B :) If you insist on everyone providing a tax ID, then all of your invoices will not list any tax.

    In my case, I wrote a small script to generate the invoices as HTML, then run to make the PDF that I email out to customers.

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      Perhaps irrelevant, but since wkhtmltopdf got mentioned, I wrote a MIT licensed library (and cmd client + server) to create PDF invoices:

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        Wow thank you for sharing :) That looks very useful.

  2. 2

    A couple services that I use to handle V.A.T and U.S. Sales Tax calculations.

    Geolocation -
    V.A.T. Rates & V.A.T Number Validation -
    U.S. Tax Rates & Calculations -

  3. 1

    Hey John!

    I’m developing Abowire to do exactly that, although no integration with DATEV just yet (soon!)

    Some of the features are:

    • Banking sync
    • Hosted checkout that handles EU VAT compliance
    • Hosted customer portal
    • Recurrent billing with Stripe / Adyen support
    • Data request handling (GDPR)

    You can take a look here:

    We’re looking for companies to work together with through this initial phase. If you’re interested, just get in touch and I’ll happily add anything that may be missing.

    Best of luck with your startup!

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