What should I do if I lose my account in Germany?
Losing an invoice can happen even in the best accounting system. Whether due to carelessness, fire or theft, the question remains: what do you do when the original invoice can no longer be found?
Contact your supplier or service provider
The first and most important step to take when you realise that an invoice has been lost is to contact your supplier or service provider. This should be done as soon as possible to avoid delays in invoicing and possible disagreements with tax authorities.
The importance of communication
Communication with the invoice provider is essential. An open and honest dialogue about a lost invoice can help maintain trust between business partners. It is worth describing the incident in detail and asking for understanding and assistance in resolving the problem.
Ask for a copy of the invoice or a replacement document
In most cases, suppliers and service providers are willing to provide a copy of the original invoice or a suitable replacement document. These documents should contain all the basic details of a valid invoice, including the full address of the person who issued the invoice, an accurate description of the goods or services provided, the date, the invoice number and the amount including VAT.
These replacement documents are legally equivalent to the original invoice, provided that they contain the necessary information and are duly signed and stamped by the supplier or service provider. In some cases, the invoice writer may also provide a digital copy with a qualified electronic signature, which is also legally recognised.
Documentation of the process
It is also worth documenting in detail the process of requesting and receiving replacement documents for your own accounting purposes and in case of questions from the tax authorities. Record the date of the request, the type of communication (e.g. email, phone call) and the response from the biller.
Request for a copy of an invoice
Once you have informed your supplier or service provider that you have lost your original invoice, the next step is to request a copy of the invoice. This process is essential to restore proper records and ensure compliance with tax laws.
The request process
A request for a copy of an invoice should be made in writing so that the line of communication can be traced. The request should state that a copy of the lost invoice is being requested and that it must contain all the necessary information that was on the original invoice.
Important features of a copy of an invoice
A valid copy of an invoice must contain all the essential features of the original invoice. These are:
- The names and full addresses of the supplier and recipient
- Unique invoice number
- Date of invoice
- An accurate description of the goods or services provided
- Invoice value and VAT indicated
Legal significance of copies
Copies of invoices are legally valid in the same way as originals, provided that they contain all the necessary information and have been duly certified by the person who issued the invoice. In some cases, the copy may also bear the supplier’s stamp or signature to certify its authenticity.
Handling digital copies
In today’s digital world, it is common to receive copies of invoices in electronic format. These should be carefully stored and printed if necessary. It is important to make sure that digital copies meet the same legal requirements as physical copies.
Documents used for accounting purposes
Once a copy of an invoice has been received, it should be included in the accounting records and carefully stored. It is advisable to include a record of the loss of the original invoice and the receipt of the copy so that you can provide any evidence of the process in the event of a future audit or investigation by the tax authorities.
Updating the accounts
When a replacement receipt is received for a lost invoice, the accounting records must be updated accordingly. This step ensures that your company’s financial records remain complete and accurate.
The importance of documentation
Updating accounting records is important not only for internal transparency but also in the event of a tax audit. Any deviation from the norm, such as replacing a lost invoice with a copy, must be carefully documented.
Creating a certificate for the submission of documents
The event certificate is an essential part of the documentation. It should include the date of loss of the original invoice, the date of discovery of the loss, the action taken to obtain a replacement invoice and the date of receipt of the replacement receipt. The certificate is evidence of the proper handling of the incident.
Attachment of other documents
In addition to the certificate, other supporting documents should be attached to the accounting records. These may include the following documents
- Order confirmations: These indicate what has been ordered and provide the context of the invoice.
- Correspondence: Emails or correspondence with the supplier regarding lost invoices and requests for a replacement document.
- Payment confirmations: bank receipts or bank statements confirming payment of the invoice.
- Delivery receipts: if available, documentation of receipt of goods or services.
Verification of conformity
It is important to check that the replacement receipt corresponds exactly to the purchase order and other documents. Any discrepancies should be explained so that the tax authorities do not have any questions.
Once the accounting records have been updated, all documents, including the replacement voucher and the receipt, must be archived securely in accordance with the retention periods laid down by law. This will ensure that all necessary documents will be available for future audits.
Summary: Lost invoice – what now?
Losing an invoice can be a challenge, but there are clear steps on how to deal with the situation and account for it.
Important steps to take if you lose your invoice.
- Inform your supplier/provider. Open communication helps to maintain trust and find a quick solution.
- Ask for a copy of the invoice: The copy of the invoice must contain all the necessary details of the original invoice and be legally equivalent. Digital copies can also be used if they meet the legal requirements.
- Update the accounting system: The replacement document must be integrated into the accounting system together with a complete file note and other relevant documents such as order forms or correspondence.
- Use your own receipts as a back-up: If you do not have a copy of the invoice, you can issue your own receipt. Please note that you cannot deduct input tax.
Digital sharing and legal issues:
- Digitising invoices: Scanning and storing invoices digitally can prevent the loss of invoices in the future.
- Legal significance of copies: Copies of invoices are legally equivalent to the originals if they are properly issued and documented.
Although the loss of an invoice is an unfortunate event, it can be dealt with effectively if the right action is taken at the right time. Thorough documentation and digital safeguards are essential to maintain the integrity of the accounting system and to comply with tax law.