As a help we also offer the texts in English. However, the German version is (legally) binding.

and the answers (as of August 2015)

1. What is the legal basis for the tax?
2. What types of accommodation facilities are liable for the tax and what exceptions apply?
3. Who is liable for the tax?
4. How is the tax assessed?
5. Is the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture subject to value added tax?
6. How will the assessment basis be calculated if more persons use the service jointly (for example in a double room)?
7. How will the tax be collected?
8. Where can I find official forms for the tax declaration?
9. Will the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture also be charged for overnight stays of business travellers?
10. What is the legal basis on which personal data of guests will be collected?
11.1. Is an official form available for the employer’s certificate?
11.2 May the event organiser issue the confirmation of a work-related mandatory accommodation for tour groups?
12. Where do guests need to submit the declaration that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons (Art. 7 (2) of the KFA-Satzung)?
13. Must the declaration stating that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons be issued for each individual stay or does it suffice if recurring guests complete the declaration only once?
14. Will the accommodation facility check the declarations they receive? And who is responsible if any guest provides incorrect information?
15. Does the request for declarations stating that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons violate the provisions of data protection?
16. Why is the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture being levied?
17. What will the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture be used for?
18. May guests apply for a refund of the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture with the City of Cologne?
19. Is a “Refund Claim” form available?
20. Are the forms (“official form for employed persons“ and “official form for traders or freelancers“) also available in any other language?
21. May a modified form be used instead of the official form?
22. May fields be left blank or cancelled in the official forms?
23. What should hotels do if guests refuse to pay the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture?
24 a. Are severely disabled persons exempted from paying the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture?
24 b. Are school trips liable for tax?
25. Are citizens of Cologne obliged to pay the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture?
26. Will the link to the website always remain unchanged at all times?
27. Are hotels allowed to provide the refund also retrospectively?
28 a. Will the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture also be levied on cancellation charges?
28 b. Is overnight accomodation which is not taken still liable for tax (no shows)?
29. What is the basis for assessment for the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture if the accommodation is booked via a booking platform or an event organiser?
30. Must the tax be paid even if the guest booked or arrived before 01 Dec. 2014?
31. Where can I get information by telephone on the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture?

1. What is the legal basis for the tax?

The legal basis for the tax is the Satzung zur Erhebung einer Kulturförderabgabe im Gebiet der Stadt Köln [Statute on Charging a Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture in the City of Cologne] of 18 Nov. 2014 (shortly referred to as: KFA-Satzung). The KFA-Satzung was published in the Amtsblatt [Municipal Gazette] of the City of Cologne, no. 48, of 19 Nov. 2014, page 997 et seq. and applies to all accommodation services rendered for consideration after 30 November 2014.

Statute on Charging a Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture of 18 November 2014 in 1st Amendment of 16 December 2015
PDF, 184 kb

The Statute itself is based on Sec. 105 (2) a of the Grundgesetz [German Constitution] (GG) in conjunction with Sec. 7 of the Gemeindeordnung [Municipal Code] (GO) and Sec. 2 of the Kommunalabgabengesetz für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen [Local Tax Act for the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia] (KAG). The tax for the promotion and advancement of culture is levied as a direct local expenditure tax.

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2. WHAT TYPES OF ACCOMMODATION FACILITIES ARE LIABLE FOR THE TAX AND WHAT EXCEPTIONS APPLY?

By levying the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture, a tax is charged on the expenditure of the guest for being given the option to be accommodated in an accommodation facility (hotel, inn, boarding house, private room, hostel, holiday apartment, motel and on campsites, boats and similar facilities).

The tax is only levied on accommodation charges exceeding the basic need of being accommodated. For example, accommodations in a hotel necessary to avoid homelessness are exempted from the tax. The expenses for accommodation will not be liable to the tax when accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons. This may be the case when the commercial/industrial or freelance profession cannot be performed and therefore income cannot be gained without the accommodation (work-related mandatory accommodation).

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3. WHO IS LIABLE FOR THE TAX?

The overnight guest is liable for paying the tax.

The operator of the accommodation facility is the person liable to forward the tax to the city, i.e. they must collect the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture from the overnight guest and subsequently forward it to the City of Cologne on the basis of a notice of tax assessment, unless the overnight guest declares in a legally binding manner that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons (see also sec. 9 “Will the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture also be charged to overnight stays of business travellers?“).

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4. HOW IS THE TAX ASSESSED?

The tax rate is 5 percent of the amount paid by the guest for the accommodation, including value added tax (however excluding the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture).

 

Example

 ITEM AMOUNT
 Assumed net price (excluding tax for the promotion and advancement of culture) EUR 100.00
 7% value added tax on accommodation EUR 7.00
Assessment basis (net price plus 7% value added tax) EUR 107.00
Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture (5% of the assessment Basis)EUR 5.35

 

Catering services and other services associated with the accommodation (for example minibar consumption, web usage, surcharge for pets) must not be included when determining the expenditure for accommodation.

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5. IS THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE SUBJECT TO VALUE ADDED TAX?

All questions concerning value added tax can only be dealt with between the company and the tax authorities.

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6. HOW WILL THE ASSESSMENT BASIS BE CALCULATED IF MORE PERSONS USE THE SERVICE JOINTLY (FOR EXAMPLE IN A DOUBLE ROOM)?

As the individual guest is liable to pay the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture, the accommodation charge must be allocated to the individual persons. That is important for example if a family is travelling together, although only one member of the family must come to Cologne for work-related mandatory reasons.

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7. HOW WILL THE TAX BE COLLECTED?

Basis for the calculation of the tax is a tax declaration which the person liable to forward the tax (hotel business) must file until the 15th day after the end of a calendar quarter in form of an officially prescribed form (Appendix 1 of the Statute).
A notice will be issued after completion of the tax declaration procedure. The assessed tax for the promotion and advancement of culture must then be paid to the Stadtkasse Köln [Treasury of the City of Cologne] within seven calendar days after it has been notified. The assessment period is the calendar quarter as specified in the provisions of the Statute.

Tax declaration b (for accommodation facilities only)
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8. WHERE CAN I FIND OFFICIAL FORMS FOR THE TAX DECLARATION?

The official form for the declaration on the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture is available for download on the internet presentation of the City of Cologne under the following link:

Official forms on the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture
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9. WILL THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE ALSO BE CHARGED FOR OVERNIGHT STAYS OF BUSINESS TRAVELLERS?

In accordance with the decision of the Bundesverwaltungsgericht [Federal Administrative Court] of 11 July 2012 on the statutes on charging a tax for the promotion and advancement issued by the cities of Bingen and Trier, that tax may not be levied on overnight stays of business travellers if they are necessary for work-related mandatory reasons.

This may be the case when the commercial/industrial or freelance profession cannot be performed and therefore income cannot be gained without the accommodation (work-related mandatory accommodation).

An accommodation is, for example, necessary for work-related mandatory reasons, if the place of residence of the guest is located in such a distance from the workplace that a daily commute seems unreasonable or if their presence in the City of Cologne is inevitable for their professional activities.

By completing the official forms    

          a)    Appendix 2 of the KFA-Satzung (for employed persons); or    

          b)    Appendix 3 of the KFA-Satzung (for traders and freelancers)

the guest declares that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons.

Employed persons must attach a certificate issued by their employer to the official form (Appendix 2); this employer’s certification may also be issued on the official form, by stating the name and address of the company and by attaching a signature and the company stamp.

The relevant forms can be downloaded below:

Amtlicher Vordruck zur Erklärung der beruflich zwingenden Erforderlichkeit der Beherbung (§ 7 Absatz 7 KFA-Satzung)
Official form to § 7 section 7 KFA-Satzung
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10. WHAT IS THE LEGAL BASIS ON WHICH PERSONAL DATA OF GUESTS WILL BE COLLECTED?

In accordance with the case law of the Oberverwaltungsgericht Nordrhein-Westfalen [Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia], the guest and not the operator of the hotel is the person liable to pay the tax in North Rhine-Westphalia, in contrast to the legal situation in other federal states. Accordingly, the guest, being the person liable to pay the tax, must file the relevant tax declaration evidencing that their accommodation is not liable for the tax.
They may make this declaration on a voluntary basis, but it is necessary to avoid payment of the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture. The guest needs to provide personal data, such as e.g. their date of birth or ID number, to ensure a unique identification of the tax debtor. This information is required to validate the declaration and to be able to initiate the necessary steps in case of an incorrect declaration.

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11.1. IS AN OFFICIAL FORM AVAILABLE FOR THE EMPLOYER‘S CERTIFICATE?

No, an official form is not available. The certificate must be made in writing, state the name and address of the company (letter head or company stamp) and must contain a signature. The certificate must state that the accommodation in Cologne is or was necessary for work-related mandatory reasons.

In what language must the employer’s certificate be issued?
The employer’s certificate must be issued in German as it forms part of the taxation process.

Is a digital signature acceptable?
No, a handwritten signature is mandatory.

May the employer’s certificate be sent by fax?
The employer’s certificate may also be sent by fax.

To whom must the employer’s certificate be sent? 
The employer’s certificate is part of the guest’s tax declaration. It must normally be provided to the accommodation facility, together with the tax declaration to be retained as part of the booking process. Only if all of these conditions are met, will no tax for the promotion and advancement of culture be charged to the guest.If the tax declaration and the employer’s certificate are not provided to the accommodation facility, it is also possible to file an application for refund of the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture with the City of Cologne, by submitting the tax declaration and the employer’s certificate (Art. 11 of the KFA-Satzung).

Must an employer’s certificate be issued for each staff member? 
Yes, the employer’s certificate must, as a rule, only relate to one employee, because it forms part of that person’s tax declaration.

Is there a simplified procedure in place for presenting certificates for tour groups?
Yes. For reasons of simplicity, employers may, as an exception, issue a summary certificate for participants of tour groups whose accommodation is clearly made for work-related mandatory reasons. That certificate must state the names of the participants and the reason for their stay. Each page of the certificate must contain the declaration that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons and the legally binding signature of the employer.Irrespective thereof, the individual guest, being the person liable to pay the tax, must complete the official form (for employed persons) and thereby declare that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons (see in particular Art. 9).No general exemption from the obligation to provide evidence that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons can be granted.

It is advisable to consult the Steueramt (Tax Office) of the City of Cologne to avoid any handling problems.

Apart from the employer’s certificate are there any other ways in which employers can document that the accommodation of their employee is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons?
Yes.

  •  
When booking via a business customer portal, if the portal has a text in the booking confirmation which says that “the booking has been made by the employer and he confirms that the accommodation is absolutely necessary for work-related mandatory reasons”, then there is no need for an employer’s certificate.
  •  
If you do not use a business customer portal but the employer books, pays and confirms in the booking text that the accommodation is absolutely necessary for work-related mandatory reasons, then there is no need for an employer’s certificate.

 

Are there cases where the guest does not have to obtain an employer’s certificate for every single accommodation?
Yes. In the case of accommodation where normally always the same companies send the same type of employees on exclusively trips which are necessary for exclusively work-related mandatory reasons (for example, purely “fitter” accommodation facilities), then it is sufficient to submit one employer’s certificate per quarter. The certificate must contain a list of all the relevant employees and the length of their stays. The hotel and the Steueramt (Tax Office) of the City of Cologne must check with each other beforehand so that there are no handling Problems.

A similar type of ruling as the one for the “fitter” accommodation facilities is one where employers such as the Deutsche Bahn AG, the airlines or the federal army, book a contingent of rooms for a large number of employees and where the actual names of the persons requiring accommodation are not known at the time of booking. Here too, it is advisable to contact the Steueramt (Tax Office) of the City of Cologne beforehand.

However, the individual guest must submit the declaration stating that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons.

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11.2. MAY THE EVENT ORGANISER ISSUE THE CERTIFICATE OF A WORK-RELATED MANDATORY ACCOMMODATION FOR TOUR GROUPS?

Yes. For reasons of simplicity, event organisers may, as an exception, issue a summary certificate for participants of tour groups whose accommodation is clearly necessary for work-related mandatory reasons. That certificate must state the names of the participants and the reason for their stay. Each page of the certificate must contain the declaration that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons and the legally binding signature of the tour operator. We recommend contacting the Steueramt [Tax Office] of the City of Cologne in advance to ask whether the prerequisites are met in the individual case.

Irrespective thereof, the individual guest must complete the official forms (Appendix 2 or 3 of the KFA-Satzung) and thereby declare that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons (see in particular Art. 9).

No general exemption from the obligation to provide evidence that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons can be granted.

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12. WHERE DO GUESTS NEED TO SUBMIT THE DECLARATION STATING THAT THE ACCOMMODATION IS NECESSARY FOR WORK-RELATED MANDATORY REASONS (ART. 7 (2) OF THE KFA-SATZUNG)?

The accommodation facility must charge the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture, unless the declaration is presented upon check-out, at the latest.

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13. MUST THE DECLARATION STATING THAT THE ACCOMMODATION IS NECESSARY FOR WORK-RELATED MANDATORY REASONS BE ISSUED FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL STAY OR DOES IT SUFFICE IF RECURRING GUESTS COMPLETE THE DECLARATION ONLY ONCE?

The declaration as defined in Art. 7 (2) of the KFA-Satzung must be presented for each individual stay. That also applies to recurring accommodations made on a regular basis (for example to persons making recurring bookings for themselves). Otherwise, the accommodation facility must charge the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture.

For example, if any guest stays in a hotel for 7 days, but only 5 days thereof for mandatory work-related reasons and 2 days for private reasons, the guest may only submit the declaration prescribed under Art. 7 (2) of the KFA-Satzung for the period of 5 days. The tax for the promotion and advancement of culture must be charged for the 2 days for which no declaration has been presented.

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14. WILL THE ACCOMMODATION FACILITY CHECK THE DECLARATIONS THEY RECEIVE? AND WHO IS RESPONSIBLE IF ANY GUEST PROVIDES INCORRECT INFORMATION?

If the guest declares that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons, the accommodation facility must retain this declaration and present it to the Steueramt [Tax Office] of the City of Cologne upon their request.

The guest is responsible for the truthfulness of the information.

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15. DOES THE REQUEST FOR DECLARATIONS STATING THAT THE ACCOMMODATION IS NECESSARY FOR WORK-RELATED MANDATORY REASONS VIOLATE THE PROVISIONS OF DATA PROTECTION?

The case law of higher courts (cf. judgement of the Oberverwaltungs-gericht Nordrhein-Westfalen [Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia], 14 A 316/13 of 23 October 2013) provides that the collection and disclosure of required declarations does not violate data protection laws. As accommodation facilities are non-public offices, they are governed by the provisions of the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz [Federal Data Protection Act] (BDSG) in accordance with Sec. 1 (2) no. 3 of the BDSG. Sec. 4 (1) of the BDSG provides that the collection, processing and use of personal data by non-public offices shall be admissible only if permitted or prescribed by the Federal Data Protection Act or any other legal provision or if the data subject has consented. The KFA-Satzung is such a legal provision. Art. 7 (3) of the KFA-Satzung provides that the accommodation facility is obliged to retain the declaration defined in Art. 7 (2) together with the appendixes as part of the booking process. Sec. 147 of the Abgabenordnung [Fiscal Code] (AO) applies.

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16. WHY IS THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE BEING LEVIED?

The levy of the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture is one of many measures to decrease the budget deficit of the City of Cologne. Cologne is attractive for travellers both as an economic, congress and cultural location. Congresses are held in Cologne as our city provides a wide range of cultural offers. The tax for the promotion and advancement of culture makes an important contribution to consolidating Cologne’s role as a city of culture.

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17. WHAT WILL THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE BE USED FOR?

The income to be expected from the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture of approx. EUR 7 million will be allocated annually – practically as “consideration“ – to the areas of culture, education and tourism without incurring any obligations in these areas.
The objectives for using the tax are therefore in line with the name given to it.

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18. MAY GUESTS APPLY FOR A REFUND OF THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE WITH THE CITY OF COLOGNE?

The guest may file an application for a refund of the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture with the City of Cologne. The tax will be refunded if the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture has been charged by an accommodation facility and paid to the City of Cologne, although the accommodation was legally not subject to the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture. The legal basis for that procedure is Art. 11 of the KFA-Satzung (guest’s declaration to the city).

The relevant receipts, in particular the declaration that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons (Art. 7 (2) sentence 2 of the KFA-Satzung) shall be attached to the application.

The relevant forms are available for download under the following links:

Amtlicher Vordruck zur Erklärung der beruflich zwingenden Erforderlichkeit der Beherbergung (§ 7 Absatz 7 KFA-Satzung)
Official form to § 7 section 7 KFA-Satzung
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19. IS A “REFUND CLAIM“ FORM AVAILABLE?

No. A simple application in writing suffices.

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20. ARE THE FORMS (“OFFICIAL FORM FOR EMPLOYED PERSONS“ AND “OFFICIAL FORM FOR TRADERS OR FREELANCERS”) ALSO AVAILABLE IN ANY OTHER LANGUAGE?

Yes. The official forms for guests are available in the German and the English language:

Official form to § 7 section 7 KFA-Satzung
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21. MAY A MODIFIED FORM BE USED INSTEAD OF THE PRESCRIBED OFFICIAL FORM?

No. No supplements or modifications are permissible as these are official forms.

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22. MAY FIELDS BE LEFT BLANK OR CANCELLED IN THE OFFICIAL FORMS?

Only forms that have been completed, in full, will meet the prerequisites for an exemption from the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture. The form will be deemed not fully completed if fields are left blank or were cancelled.

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23. WHAT SHOULD HOTELS DO IF GUESTS REFUSE TO PAY THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE?

This situation compares to a case where guests refuse to pay the value added tax. If the services are still provided to such guests, the facility must still forward the value added tax.

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24 A. ARE SEVERELY DISABLED PERSONS EXEMPTED FROM PAYING THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE?

No. The Statute on Charging a Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture contains no regulation under which a tax exemption needs to be granted if certain conditions are met (for example severe disablement).

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24 B. ARE SCHOOL TRIPS LIABLE FOR TAX?

Basically, yes.
Trips which are organised privately by pupils or their parents outside of normal school-time (e.g. class trips in the final year of school) are classed as private overnight accommodation expenses and are taxable.

An exception are overnight stays by pupils if the trip is mandatory, i.e. prescribed by educational regulations. Evidence of this must be brought by means of a group collective certificate issued by the school headmaster stating the names of the participants and the reason for the trip.

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25. ARE CITIZENS OF COLOGNE OBLIGED TO PAY THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE?

Each guest who is unable to evidence that the accommodation is necessary for work-related mandatory reasons must pay the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture.

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26. WILL THE LINK TO THE WEBSITE REMAIN UNCHANGED AT ALL TIMES?

Yes. The website will be updated on a regular basis. The link, however, will remain unchanged, so that information will be easily available at all times.

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27. ARE HOTELS ALLOWED TO PROVIDE THE REFUND ALSO RETROSPECTIVELY?

The accommodation facility may provide refunds before they submit the tax declaration to the City of Cologne (Art. 7 of the KFA-Satzung), such refunds must then be taken into account in the tax declaration.

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28 A. WILL THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE ALSO BE LEVIED ON CANCELLATION CHARGES?

No.

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28 B. IS OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATION WHICH IS NOT TAKEN STILL LIABLE FOR TAX (NO SHOWS)?

Yes. § 2 of the Statute on Charging a Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture in the City of Cologne of 18. Nov. 2014 (in short KFA-Satzung) says that the object of the tax is the expense incurred by a guest for the possibility of a paid overnight stay in an accommodation facility. Whether the person actually stays in the accommodation facility is irrelevant and therefore overnight stays which are not taken and which are not cancelled beforehand are still subject to the Tax for the Promotion and Advancement of Culture.

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29. WHAT IS THE BASIS OF ASSESSMENT FOR THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE IF THE ACCOMMODATION IS BOOKED VIA A BOOKING PLATFORM OR AN EVENT ORGANISER?

The amount paid by the guest for the pure accommodation will form the basis for assessment even in these cases. A distinction must be made between the following two cases:

  1. Payment of the accommodation price to the event organiser or the booking platform
    (indirect payment to the accommodation facility):


    In this case, only a part of the payment made by the guest will be forwarded to the accommodation facility. The remainder will be retained as commission. In this case, only the amount paid or forwarded by the event organiser to the accommodation facility (including value added tax) will form the basis of assessment for the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture, however not the retained commission.
  2. Payment of the accommodation price by the guest to the accommodation facility
    (direct payment to the accommodation facility):


    In this case, the accommodation facility will forward a commission to the booking platform or the event organiser for introducing the guest. The (entire) amount paid by the guest to the accommodation facility (including value added tax) will then form the basis of assessment for the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture.
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30. MUST THE TAX BE PAID EVEN IF THE GUEST BOOKED OR ARRIVED BEFORE 01 DEC. 2014?

Yes. The tax will be levied from 01 Dec. 2014, regardless of the date on which the booking was made. If the guest has arrived at an earlier date, the tax liability for accommodation will commence on 01 Dec. 2014.

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31. WHERE CAN I GET INFORMATION BY TELEPHONE ON THE TAX FOR THE PROMOTION AND ADVANCEMENT OF CULTURE?

We have established a hotline for questions regarding the tax for the promotion and advancement of culture. We will provide you with expert information on the new tax under telephone number [+049] (0)221 - 22 19 69 13 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 am to 4 pm and on Wednesday and Friday from 8 am to 12 pm.

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