The identification number is an 11-digit number which is allocated to every individual who is liable for tax. In general, it applies throughout the whole of the individual's life and does not change.
By introducing the tax identification number, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the German government aimed to simplify the taxation process and reduce bureaucracy. The identification number is used to send data electronically to the revenue administration. Similarly, it allows different sets of data that belong to the same person to be collated and the person in question to be identified unambiguously.
Who issues the tax identification number?
The Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) is responsible for issuing the identification number. For individuals living in Germany, this happens automatically when the German registration authorities send the individual’s registration data to the Federal Central Tax Office.
If you do not have a residence in Germany and only receive pension income from Germany, then you do not need to take any action. The pension provider is obliged to send a notification of pension payments to the relevant tax office following the end of the calendar year when the pension was received. The pension provider requires your identification number to do this. If the pension provider asks you for your identification number and you have not yet been issued an identification number, please inform the pension provider of this. In this case, the pension provider will exchange data with the Federal Central Tax Office, thereby ensuring that you will receive a new identification number. This process is carried out using IT systems, which means you cannot influence this process or speed it up.
It is a different situation if you have already received an identification number, for example because you previously worked in Germany. In this case, please notify the pension provider of this identification number, at the latest when you retire.
If your pension provider is not familiar with the computerised system for requesting that an identification number be issued, or if it experiences communication problems, more information can be obtained from the Zentrale Zulagenstelle für Altersvermögen (ZfA) pension agency using their telephone hotline (+49 (0)3381 21 22 23 90) or by visiting their website.