Finally, your goods have arrived. In addition to the invoice, there is also a delivery note. You are about to crumple it up and throw it in the wastebasket when you remember: “There was something about retention periods.” Right, there are retention periods for delivery notes too, and these are regulated in the tax code.
Statutory retention periods for delivery notes
As an entrepreneur, you are obliged to keep business documents for a certain period of time. The Tax Code (AO) regulates the retention periods in tax law, while the Commercial Code (HGB) defines the retention periods in commercial law. The self-employed, freelancers and small business owners are consequently also affected by the retention requirement.
Delivery note as a commercial letter
You have received your own delivery note with your invoice , which is also marked as such. In this case, the delivery note is therefore regarded as a commercial letter and must be kept for 6 years in accordance with Section 147 AO . The period begins at the end of the calendar year in which the accompanying document was issued. Your delivery note from 2018 can therefore only be destroyed on December 31, 2024.
Delivery note as invoice
If the delivery note is also your invoice, then the delivery note no longer counts as a commercial letter. In this case, the retention period that also applies to the invoice: 10 years. From an accounting point of view, invoices are booking documents and every company is obliged to keep the booking documents for a period of 10 years.
According to definitionexplorer, the retention period for delivery notes can be extended if the tax office is still reviewing a case and has not yet closed it. This can occur if the decisive calendar year is the end of the calendar retention obligation. As a result, the retention period is extended until the tax office ends the process for tax purposes.
What does a delivery note look like?
A delivery note is considered a commercial letter and accompanies the delivery of goods. It contains the type and quantity of the product delivered, as well as the date and number of items delivered. A delivery note is the description of the contents of your package. It is proof of whether you have actually received all of the goods you ordered.
Delivery notes are optional. Nevertheless, it should contain the following information:
- your name and address
- the name and address of your customer
- the date of issue
- the delivery date of your products
- the description of the products ordered
- the amount of each product
- as an option: your signature and stamp to confirm delivery
This way you can avoid ambiguity. This can save you anger and stress, but also your supplier or customer. A delivery note template or software can be quite helpful.
Delimitation problems with delivery notes
Nowadays, many self-employed people, but also larger companies, refrain from issuing a delivery note. Instead, they enclose an invoice with the shipment. A waybill is also used as a delivery note. However, the problem here is that you cannot always clearly identify a delivery note as such. Especially with regard to the retention periods, you are facing a major challenge here if you want to keep your bookkeeping properly. You should therefore take a close look at all the documents relating to a business transaction and make sure that you have all the relevant documents.
When can delivery notes be thrown into the trash according to the new legislation?
Since the first of January 2017, the legislature has exonerated you. A delivery note sent to you only needs to be kept until you have received the invoice. In your case, you can now dispose of the delivery note in the trash. The same goes for delivery notes that you send. The retention period expires when the invoice is sent. However, this does not apply if the delivery note is used as a booking voucher. Then you have to keep it for 10 years.
The law that gave you this relief is called the Bureaucracy Relief Act. It came into force retrospectively as of January 01, 2017 for delivery notes. All documents whose retention period according to Section 147 (3) AO has not yet expired by December 31, 2016 are affected. This means that you no longer have to keep the delivery notes from previous years. Delivery notes as booking documents are excluded.
But be careful: you can only destroy your delivery notes if you have an invoice with the same content.
Store delivery notes digitally
Do I have to keep delivery notes? There is no legal requirement that you have to keep the original. Of course, you can also record it electronically. The GoBD guidelines allow the original to be stored on paper or digitally. However, you have to make sure that the delivery notes match both visually and in terms of content. In addition, there should be an entry stamp on every goods receipt. If you receive a delivery note by email, you must first print it out, stamp it and then scan it again. So you are on the safe side. The easiest way to do this is with archiving software .
The solution for creating a delivery note
There is no legal requirement that you have to create a delivery note. But it always makes sense if you send or deliver products, but can or want to issue an invoice later. The delivery note is proof that your product was delivered to the customer in the desired quantity. This is how you avoid disputes, because your customer can use the delivery note to check whether your delivery is complete and whether he has received the correct product. To help you, you can also download free delivery note templates and use them.