Legal issue


In line with EU legislation, the Energy Tax Law provides that fuel supplied to commercial aircraft may be granted tax-exempt status. However, Germany is the only EU country in which exemption is not automatically granted to all commercial flights. Instead, customs permits are expressly required.

Recent audits of EU air carriers have shown that airline accounts departments are often unaware of the need to apply for an exemption from the tax.

Further, even if airlines have obtained an exemption, they often miss out on tax refunds. This is because fuel bills received from local service providers frequently include energy tax under headings which do not allow it to be readily identified, leading to airlines missing out on potential refunds amounting to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of euros.

Spotting these kinds of errors in a busy accounting practice with numerous invoices coming in from all over the world on a day-to-day basis is not easy - especially since Germany is the only EU country in which energy tax exemption is not automatically granted to all commercial airlines, but must be expressly requested.

Energy tax accounts for a substantial proportion of carriers' fuel bills. Airlines could thus be losing out on a significant amount of money over time.

Legal issue

The Energy Tax Law, in line with European legislation, stipulates that fuel supplied to commercial aircraft operators may be granted energy tax-exempt status.

However, the criteria for obtaining exemption are complex and onerous, especially for airlines operating a small fleet.

Completing the requisite paperwork for the exemption application is time consuming, as it must include the following documents:

  • completed application form;
  • carrier's operating licence;
  • air operator certificate;
  • airworthiness certificate; and
  • an excerpt from the commercial register.

The application for a tax refund also requires a number of documents to be compiled and submitted to the responsible main customs office.


For future operations, commercial carriers should review the status of their tax exemption and see whether it is subject to a time limitation or any other conditions.

If this reveals that the fuel supplier has levied energy tax even though the carrier is tax exempt, the airline should apply for an energy tax refund to the main customs office responsible.

The refund procedure can easily become a complex legal process and time is of the essence, as there is a one-year statutory limitation period for refunds. As a result, on December 31 of the year following that in which the fuel was supplied, any refund claim may be time barred.

For further information on this topic please contact Katherina Sarah Bressler or Ulrich Steppler at Arnecke Siebold Rechtsanwälte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0), fax (+49 69 97 98 85 85) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Arnecke Siebold Rechtsanwälte website can be accessed at www.arneckesiebold.de.