Following the publication of various circulars by the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany in 2021, rules on the taxation of guarantee commitments were made effective 1 January 2023. This blog explains how this affects insurers and other suppliers.
Scope of the rules for guarantee commitments
The Ministry of Finance published its initial circular in May 2021. This was in response to a Federal Fiscal Court judgment. It concerned a seller of motor vehicles providing a guarantee to buyers beyond the vehicle’s warranty.
In these circumstances, the circular confirmed that the guarantee is not an ancillary service to vehicle delivery but is deemed to be an insurance benefit. As such, it would attract IPT instead of VAT – unless the guarantee is considered a full maintenance contract.
The circular did not prompt immediate concern within the insurance sector. Markets outside the motor vehicle industry weren’t concerned either. The presumption was that it was limited to the specific context of the motor vehicle industry.
Matters changed the following month. The Ministry of Finance clarified that the tax principles it outlined in fact applied to all industries. As a result, the scope of these rules became potentially limitless in Germany. All guarantees provided as additional products to goods or services sold are now within the scope of the application of IPT.
The clarification could impact industries like those organisations selling electrical items and household appliances.
Effect on insurers and other suppliers
The effect on traditional insurance companies should be relatively limited as they do not usually provide guarantees as part of the sales of goods and services. There could arguably be a significant impact on other suppliers that do provide such guarantees.
First and foremost, there is a potential increase in the cost of providing the guarantees caused by the application of IPT. Unlike input VAT, a supplier cannot deduct IPT from its taxable income – it must either increase prices to compensate or accept a less favourable profit margin.
Any companies that purchase the guarantees cannot reclaim the IPT either, as they can do with VAT. The standard IPT rate of 19% in Germany is high compared to most European countries. This exacerbates these issues.
There are also practical considerations to bear in mind for suppliers obliged to settle IPT with the tax authority. They are presumably required to be registered for IPT purposes like insurers, although the Ministry of Finance has not formally confirmed this.
Perhaps more difficult is the issue of licensing. The Ministry of Finance circulars focus on taxation, leaving it unclear whether other suppliers are now required to obtain a license to write insurance under German regulatory law.
Looking for more information on general IPT matters in Germany? Speak to our expert team. For more information about IPT in general read our guide for insurance premium tax.