What does Section 147 AO Mean?

Section 147 AO (regulations for the storage of documents)

Individuals and companies have some important documents to manage that they have to present on their annual tax return. Important documents can also be invoices or contracts and certificates. However, the tax code is primarily about tax documents.

What is § 147 AO about?

This paragraph of the tax code regulates which documents and documents must be kept for how long. Such deadlines are regulated in both commercial law (HGB) and tax law (AO, UstG). In § 147 AO especially the deadlines for all books and records described the relevant taxation are.

What is the retention requirement?

Documents, contracts, business letters, tax documents, deeds and other documents must be archived somewhere where they can be found quickly if necessary. In business life, these are mainly important contracts and invoices or receipts that are later important as evidence for the tax office.

The retention requirement regulates which documents have to be kept and for how long. There are different long deadlines, which depend on the type of documents. The type of archiving (paper or email) also plays a role. Since the deadlines are stipulated by law, there is a risk of a fine if they are not observed.

Who has to pay attention to them?

Actually, the deadlines of the tax code have to be observed by everyone . This is because companies or organizations must take this into account if they are obliged to keep books or to make certain records under tax or commercial law. And private individuals have the same obligation to provide evidence when it comes to invoices or bank statements. Incidentally, a fine can also be imposed on private individuals if the deadlines are not observed.

Which documents are to be kept in accordance with Section 147 (1) AO and Section 257 (1) HGB?

Let’s start with commercial law first . According to § 257 (1) HGB , all traders are obliged to keep the following documents for 10 years :

  • Trading books, inventories, opening balance sheets, annual financial statements, individual financial statements in accordance with Section 325 (2a) , management reports, consolidated financial statements, group management reports as well as the work instructions and other organizational documents required for their understanding “
  • the commercial letters received, copies of the commercial letters sent
  • Accounting documents for the books to be kept by him according to § 238 (1) HGB .

According to tax law , i.e. according to § 147 (1) AO , the following documents must be kept “in an orderly” manner:

  • Books and records, inventories, annual financial statements, management reports, the opening balance sheet as well as the work instructions and other organizational documents required for their understanding,
  • the commercial or business letters received,
  • Reproductions of the commercial or business letters sent,
  • Accounting documents,
  • “All necessary documents” according to Article 15 paragraph 1 and Article 163 of the Union Customs Code ,
  • other documents insofar as they are of importance for taxation.

How long do I have to keep documents?

There are different retention periods. Possible are 2 years, 6 years, 10 years and in special cases unlimited retention periods . The beginning of the period is of course also important for determining the deadline .

  • 147 AO provides : “The retention period begins at the end of the calendar year in which the last entry was made in the book , the inventory, the opening balance sheet, the annual financial statements or the management report were drawn up, the commercial or business letter was received or sent, or the accounting document has arisen, furthermore the recording has been made or the other documents have been created. “

Statutory retention periods

Retention period 10 years:

This applies to all books, inventories and annual financial statements as well as opening balance sheets, but also work instructions or other organizational documents. In addition, there are the accounting documents and the documents for the customs authorities (which play a role in the ATLAS procedure).

In addition, there are, for example: order confirmations, delivery notes, wage receipts, dunning notices, rental and lease documents, personnel files, extracts from the commercial register, charts of accounts, contracts.

Retention period 6 years:

This deadline is relevant for commercial and business letters and for all tax documents and accounting documents. In addition, there are, for example: price lists, protocols, complaints, shipping and freight documents, reports, offers, training and training certificates.

Deviations from the 10 and 6 years, which are usual for business people, could result from other laws, because Section 140 AO also refers to other laws (e.g. the VAT Act ), from which deviating deadlines could result. In addition, there are some branch-specific regulations for certain professions and the regulations for wage and personnel records that result from social law.

In the private sector, the 2 year period and the unlimited retention period also apply.

tax documents