On 2 December 2015, the Regional Fiscal Office (Oberfinanzdirektion) of North Rhine-Westphalia (“OFD”) introduced a regulation which sets out the formal requirements for obtaining a tax residency certificate used to prevent double taxation.
Foreign tax authorities often request that companies with tax residency in Germany which are seeking to avoid paying tax on income in that foreign jurisdiction under a double tax treaty, supply a residency certificate as evidence that they are tax resident in Germany. These certificates are issued by the relevant German tax office.
Under the new regulation, "blank certificates" without any specific information on the respective income will no longer be issued. The German tax authorities will only issue residency certificates if the taxpayer, in addition to a reference to the applicable double tax treaty, also provides detailed information on the income for which the residency certificate is required. For interest income this requirement can be fulfilled by naming the depository bank or, in case of dividends income, by naming the company distributing the dividend. Furthermore, proof as to the expected amount of income should also be provided.
An application for a residency certificate can only be made using certain forms which the German tax authorities have agreed upon with foreign tax authorities. These forms can be accessed via the website of the German Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, BZSt). Foreign-language forms which are not available on the website of the BZSt are usually also accepted by the tax authorities if such forms include English language (at least in addition to another language). In cases where there is no specific form available from foreign authorities – either on the website of the BZSt or directly from a foreign authority - a generic form provided on the website of the BZSt should be used.
The regulation also clarifies that if the taxpayer requires a residency certificate with an international certification (Apostille), the taxpayer himself is responsible for obtaining such certification from the competent authority.