This guide explains the difference between tax advisors (Steuerberater) and bookkeepers (Buchhalter).
- Tax advisor (Steuerberater) is a protected title in Germany. Bookkeeper (Buchhalter) is not.
- Tax advisors can submit tax declarations and financial statements in your name. Bookkeepers can fill the papers, but you must submit them yourself.
- Tax advisors are liable for their mistakes, bookkeepers are not.
- Tax advisors are more expensive than bookkeepers.
Steuerberater (tax advisor)
Tax advisor (Steuerberater) is a protected title in Germany. To become a tax advisor, you must have a university degree and 3 years of work experience,1 then you must pass the Steuerberaterprüfung, a 3 day long test.2
Because of their qualifications, tax advisors have special powers and special responsibilities. For example, only tax advisors can submit tax declarations (Steuererklärungen) and financial statements (Jahresabschluss) for you.3 They can even handle all communications with the Finanzamt for you. They can also certify documents like the Prüfungsbericht or the Gewinnermittlung.
Tax advisors are liable for their mistakes. If a tax advisor makes a mistake in your tax declaration and you get fined by the Finanzamt, your tax advisor must pay the fine.
Tax advisors have more powers and responsibilities than bookkeepers, but they are also more expensive than bookkeepers.3
Bookkeeper (Buchhalter) is not a protected title in Germany. Anyone can be a bookkeeper. They do not need a specific degree or certificate. Because of this, bookkeepers have limited powers. They are also cheaper than tax advisors.
Bookkeepers can’t submit your tax declarations or financial statements. They can help you fill financial documents, but you must submit them yourself. If your bookkeeper makes mistakes in your tax declaration, and you get fined by the Finanzamt, it will be your fault. You will have to pay the fine.