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Germany: Business Email Retention

Germany’s regulations are clear and precise about most commercial documents, but are not specific about personnel records (apart from those relevant to tax – see table below). So, for employee-related information, follow GDPR and store personal data for the shortest time possible.

For other business documents, including emails, the following tax and trade laws apply:

  • GoBD, the acronym of a long German name, translating as “basic principles on the proper keeping and storage of financial books, recordings, and documents in electronic form as well as data access”
  • AO (the German Fiscal Code)
  • HGB, or Handelsgesetzbuch, Germany’s Commercial Code

These laws separate most business documents into two groups: one must be kept for six years, the other for ten. The table below gives a detailed list of all types of documents and related emails for these 10- and 6-years retention periods.

Retention Period Document Type/Related Emails
10 years

Keep the types of documents/emails described on the right for at least 10 years
Briefly: trading books, inventories, opening balance sheets, financial statements, and everything needed for understanding them, plus tax-related documents (e.g. accounting receipts)

Access regulations for EDP bookkeeping • Accounting documents, records and statements • Accounts receivable list (if balance sheet documents) • Annual financial statements with explanations • Appendix to the annual financial statements (Section 264 HGB) • Applications for employee savings allowance • Audit reports from the auditor

Balance sheets (including opening balance sheet) • Bank guarantees after the end of the contract • Block diagrams, as far as procedural documentation • Business reports • Business letters as booking vouchers such as invoices and credit notes

Calculations and calculation documents, if relevant under commercial or tax law, e.g. for inventory valuation • Capital-forming benefits, if accounting documents • Cash books / sheets • Cash-on-delivery documents • Cash reports • Changes in electronic bookkeeping • Chart of accounts and changes to the chart of accounts • Cheque and bill of exchange documents, as accounting records • Commercial register excerpts, certified or if necessary in your own interest • Company accounting sheets with receipts as a basis for evaluation • Consolidated financial statements (section 290 HGB) • Contracts, insofar as they are of importance under commercial and tax law and if accounting documents • Contribution statements for social security contributions (booking receipts) • Credits in the sense of "reverse invoices" • Customs documents

Damage documents, if balance sheet documents • Data sets, their description and structure • Data protection rules • Deposit statements (if not inventories) • Delivery notes (proof of receipt, connected with an invoice) • Document formats • Donation receipts, if booking documents

Employee insurance (booking receipts) • Entertainment expenses (documents) • Error messages, error correction instructions for EDP bookkeeping, if booking documents • Evaluation documents • Export documents

Field service invoices (booking vouchers bank receipts) • File notes: balance sheet documents or accounting documents • Files with their descriptions • File directories • Fixed asset books and card indexes

General ledger accounts • Gift certificates • Goods receipt and goods issue ledger bills of exchange • Group management report (sections 290, 350 HGB)

Hospitality documents (booking receipts or tax-related)

Import documents (applications, permits, declarations, licenses, customs documents, etc.) • Income statements (annual income statements only) • Incoming invoices including correction documents • Input descriptions for EDP bookkeeping • Input data formats • Insurance policies • Interim balance sheet (in the event of a change of shareholder or change of the financial year) • Inventories (section 240 HGB) • Inventory bookkeeping • Invoices to entrepreneurs

Journals for general ledger or current account

Land register extracts if inventory documents • Lease documents (after the end of the contract), if accounting documents • Liabilities (compilations) • List of assets • Loan documents as booking vouchers

Magnetic tapes (land register or account or document function) • Main financial statements overview • Management reports (balance sheet documents) • Mask (screen, print) • Meal voucher statements • Memory allocation plan of EDP bookkeeping • Menu overview

Operator manuals for computer operation • Organisational documents for EDP bookkeeping • Outgoing invoices • Overtime lists if salary slips

Pay slips as accounting slips • Payment instructions • Payrolls including lists for special payments as far as booking receipt • Price lists, if evaluation or booking documents • Property register (if inventory) • Postal giro statements and receipts, if accounting documents • Program directories and descriptions of the program sequence • Process files

Rental documents, including booking vouchers (after the end of the contract) •Retention regulations for company IT documentation • Records • Receipts • Receipts, if booking function (open item accounting) • Register of accounts

Sales books • Shipping and freight records if booking receipts • Standard value documents • Standing order documents (after the order has expired) • Subsidiary books • System manuals

Tax returns and tax assessments • Telephone cost statements if booking receipts • Trading books • Travel expenses documents/reports

User manuals for computerised bookkeeping • Utility bills

Work instructions (also for electronic bookkeeping)
6 years

Keep the types of documents/emails described on the right for at least six years
Briefly, all business letters received, and copies of business letters sent. For a list of particular documents, see below.

Asset-forming benefits (documents) **

Business letters (received and reproduction of dispatched)

Commercial letters (except invoices or credit notes) • Correspondence

Damage documents • Declarations of assignment, as far as completed • Delivery notes • Documents of importance for taxation • Dunning notices and reminders (commercial letters received and content reproduction of commercial letters sent)

Field service invoices, if other

Insurance policies, after the insurance expires • Investment allowance (documents)

Letters of credit • Loan documents (after the end of the contract) waybills, and loan documents in form of correspondence

Notes on files

Offers with order sequence

Payrolls for interim, final and special payments • Price lists • Protocols *, as commercial letters • Cheque and bill of exchange documents

Tax audit reports (external tax audit)
2 years Invoices to non-entrepreneurs in connection with land (obligation to notify)

* A 10-year retention period applies to protocols on the granting of bonuses for suggestions for improvement. For logs of the DÜVO notifications (data transmission regulation), however, only a 3-year period.

** The 10-year retention period applies to accounting records, and the 6-year retention period for received commercial and business letters and reproductions of commercial and business letters.

Sources: hk24.de  armaedfoundation.org  skslegal.pl  global-regulation.com


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