I'm currently running a rather small online service with about 100-200 active users. In the past I paid all expenses, mainly the servers, myself. Now that the service reached this number of users, I would like to upgrade the backend but am lacking the financial resources to do so. Several users asked if they would be able to send me money to pay for the hosting. In the past I always rejected but it would of course be nice to have support.

I'm sure this sounds familiar on this site. I've searched through various other questions and websites but could neither find a answer suited to germany or the small amounts I'm going to deal with.

I do expect monthly payments to be about 10-20€ which is enough at the moment.

However, I am very unsure about the tax regulations and other possible factors that I missed. I am willing to pay tax, I'm just not sure how.

At the moment I think that I will just have to declare the amounts on my tax paperwork.

Several questions:

  1. Is this correct at all?
  2. Is this valid in Germany aswell?
  3. Do I have to inform my employer of this?
  4. Will I be able to deduct VAT/MwSt from my payments to the hosting service?
  • 1
    I'm confused. Who are the payments from and to? What exactly are they for?
    – Kat
    Aug 29 '17 at 0:18
  • Do you offer your services to the general public and on your own terms and for your own profit (or non-profit)? Then you probably only have to pay Einkommensteuer on your profit. - If you were acting on behalf of a known and closed group of "co-owners" we might be talking about a de facto GbR. - And Umsatzsteuer is a whole other topic... ;) Aug 29 '17 at 14:51
  • 1
    E.V., GBR, Kleinunternehmerregelung .. there are a lot of options. If you do not make any money with it, just cover the costs (or not very much) there should be the possibility to keep it simple and tax exempt. You should ask an Tax Advisor. IF you want to be able to deduct VAt, you have to also charge VAT from your members and do regular reporting...
    – Daniel
    Sep 13 '17 at 10:03

You do not need to inform your employer of your additional activity, but it is your responsibility not to work for more than 48 hours per week as long as you are an employee. So if you are working 38 hours for your employer, you may not work for yourself for more than 10 hours. It is, however, not so easy in practice to draw the line between work and a hobby, as long as you are not being paid by the hour.

The main reason to present your employer with an addition to your work contract is to make it legally very clear that he holds no intentions to claim copyright to your work. He may attempt to do something funky like claim your home computer is, in fact, a work computer because you used it once a month to work from home, and your work contract may contain a paragraph that all work performed on a work computer results in copyright ownership for your employer. I have no idea how likely this is in practice, but this is the reason I know is commonly given as legal advice to have a contract. So the normal contract you present your employer with says:

  • That you aware of the 48 hour limit and do not intend to work more
  • That your employer is aware and does not object to your side gig
  • That your employer does not have any kind of copyright claims to the work on your side gig

In order to earn user contribution money from a website, you need to register as a sole proprietor (Gewerbeanmeldung) and pay trade tax (Gewerbesteuer) and sales tax (Umsatzsteuer, alternatively you claim small trade exception, Kleingewerbe), which also makes a tax return mandatory.

I would guess, however, (and this is not legal advice in any way, just my guess), that a couple of contributions towards server cost in a strictly non-profit endeavor is not commercial ("gewerblich") at all but private, in the same way that you may write an invoice to someone you sold your old bike to, or a kid may get paid to mow someone's lawn. Based on that guess, my non-legal-advice recommendation is to take the contributions and do nothing else, as long as the amount is nowhere near breaking even if you count your work input.


As far as taxes are concerned, if your income is €10 to €20 a month, the Finanzamt doesn't even want to hear from you. To be on the safe side, give them a call and you will probably be told that there is a minimum amount, and if your revenue is below that you don't have to do anything.

As far as VAT (MwSt) is concerned: You can only deduct it from VAT that you would have to pay to the government. If you are supposed to pay €100 VAT to the government, you can deduct up to €100 VAT paid to suppliers. If you don't pay VAT, you can't deduct it.

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