What is the name of an official signature

This letter is valid without a signature - is that correct?

Can the entrepreneur also hang this sentence under his documents, invoices and correspondence? Offices and authorities write this comment very often, e.g. under notices and correspondence in general. If the office is allowed to do that, can the entrepreneur also? What should entrepreneurs know about this topic?

Berlin, October 10, 2018 - In a newsletter edition, tax tips reported on which forms or notifications entrepreneurs must receive in writing from the tax office and which ones an oral statement is sufficient. The tax code generally decides whether orally or in writing. In most cases the written form is necessary.

However, the editors of the founder's lexicon asked themselves another question: What does the addition “This letter was created by machine and is valid without a signature” actually mean. Is that really legal? Can authorities just write letters without a signature? In return, entrepreneurs could try sending letters with this notice. You will keep coming back with the note that the signature is missing. Is it always like that?

Do I have to sign my invoices?

It is certainly more personal and in many cases looks fancier, but the sales tax law does not require the entrepreneur to sign in order to claim the input tax deduction from the invoice recipient. From a sales tax point of view, it is simply not necessary to put a signature on an invoice. Take a look at how you should write your invoices and how an invoice is correctly structured! Also read what mandatory information must be in an invoice! With other documents, letters or binding statements from the entrepreneur, things look different. I would like to analyze that in the following:

It depends on the content

Of course, authorities and offices can also create documents without a signature. The signature is not mandatory for every text. Various information letters do not require a personal signature, for example if an authority has temporarily closed due to renovation work.

But what about “more important” documents, for example a tax assessment? Are these really valid without a signature? Tax notices are administrative acts. Section 37 of the Administrative Procedure Act (VwVfG) describes how these must look in form. Among other things, it says in excerpts:

"(5) In the case of a written administrative act that is issued with the help of automatic devices, in deviation from paragraph 3, signature and name reproduction may be missing."

It is clearly stated here that this sentence is justified in official correspondence. The background to this is that a huge number of letters are created which, for purely practical reasons, cannot all be personally signed.

However, in Section 1, Paragraph 1, the following can be read:

"This law applies ... unless federal legal provisions contain identical or contradicting provisions."

What could conflicting provisions be? Tax assessments must be issued in writing according to the tax code. Section 126 of the German Civil Code (BGB) expresses itself as follows on the written form:

"(1) If a written form is required by law, the certificate must be signed by the exhibitor himself by means of a signature or a notarized hand sign."

So the signature must also be placed clearly under tax bills.

Now one could argue that the BGB does not apply to a tax assessment because it regulates private law. Public law applies because it concerns a matter between the citizen and the state. But the distinction between public law and private law is controversial (see Wikipedia article) and not entirely clear.

If in doubt, consult your lawyer or tax advisor

If the tax assessment is in order and there are no major problems, it may not matter whether it is signed or not. But what if the going gets tough? In this case, a lawyer should always be consulted. Those who ask for a personal signature with the help of a lawyer often have the better cards. The background is that then the person who signed is also responsible for it.


Section 119 (3) AO explains:

"An administrative act issued in writing or electronically must show the issuing authority. It must also contain the signature or the name of the head of the agency, his representative or his agent;