Value added tax; application for a certificate for cultural institutions

If you operate a cultural facility, you can apply for a certificate for sales tax purposes.


Turnover of private theaters, orchestras, chamber music ensembles and choirs, museums, botanical gardens, zoological gardens, zoos, archives, libraries, as well as monuments of architecture and horticulture are exempt from VAT according to § 4 No. 20 of the Value Added Tax Act, if it is proven by an official certificate that they fulfill the same cultural tasks as the corresponding institutions of the federal government, the states, the municipalities or municipal associations.

The state authority responsible for issuing this certificate makes a statement that it fulfills the same cultural tasks as the state institutions. The certificate is a prerequisite for the sales tax exemption of the private cultural institution. It must be presented to the tax office.

The competent state authority is

  • the Government of Lower Bavaria (Bavaria-wide) for theaters, orchestras, chamber music ensembles and choirs, as well as for zoos, botanical and zoological gardens,
  • the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments (BLfD) for monuments and museums,
  • the General Directorate of the State Archives of Bavaria (GDA) for archives, and
  • the Bavarian State Library (BSB) for libraries.

These state authorities are also responsible for foreign institutions for which a valid certificate is not or no longer available if the foreign institution is operating in Bavaria for the first time (e.g. at the start of a tour).

The application of the tax exemption is not left to the discretion of the establishment. There is no option to waive the tax exemption by not submitting a certificate. Therefore, if the conditions for tax exemption of sales are met, it can be applied for by the competent tax office for the institution.

The term "theater" includes the entire performing arts, e.g. also literary cabaret.

Orchestras, chamber music ensembles and choirs include all groups of musicians and singers. The type of music does not matter. The term "institution" includes soloists and conductors performing as individual artists.

The sales of stage directors and stage choreographers are also tax-exempt insofar as they provide their services directly to an institution benefiting under § 4 No. 20 letter a UStG and if the competent state authority certifies that their artistic performance directly serves these institutions.

Zoological gardens within the meaning of the exemption provision also include aquariums and terrariums. So-called amusement parks are not beneficiary institutions. This also applies to dolphinariums, which are operated on the premises of zoological gardens by other entrepreneurs under their own management. The sales of zoological gardens and zoos are tax-exempt provided that they are typical services of the designated establishments.

Museums within the meaning of the regulation are scientific collections and art collections, although art exhibitions may also be considered. In contrast, art exhibitions that serve sales purposes and thus pursue commercial purposes cannot be considered museums. In particular, the services of museums for which admission fees are charged are tax-exempt.

Monuments of architecture are buildings which, from a monument preservation point of view, are to be regarded as architectural testimonies worthy of protection, e.g. churches, castles, fortresses and castle ruins. Monuments of horticulture include, for example, parks with artistic design.


The prerequisite for the certificate is that the private institutions fulfill the same cultural tasks as comparable state and municipal institutions.


A certificate may also be issued for past periods. Section 171 (10) of the German Fiscal Code must be observed. The tax office responsible in each individual case shall determine the specific VAT assessments for which the certificate or its revocation is relevant.


  • There is a fee range from 25.00 to 600.00 EUR.


Administrative court proceedings; information

Administrative court action

Status: 10.03.2023

Responsible for editing: Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen und für Heimat

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