After a year of working with Xero - and on account of frequent inquiries - we summarize:
The problem: XERO is not certified for the German market
This means that accounting and financial statements can not be fully prepared in Xero and then submitted to the German tax office. Xero data and evaluations do not meet the German standards for generally accepted accounting principles. Xero data can not be transferred over an ELSTER interface (Elektronische Steuererklärung = electronic tax return) to the German tax authorities the data. For profit assessments according to § 4 para. 3 EStG as well as for balance sheets, however, is the digital submission to the tax office via ELSTER mandatory.
Moreover, in Xero the distinction between German commercial law and German tax law not implemented. Numerous tax regulations often lead to differences in the commercial and tax balance sheet. While the annual tax balance sheet is to be provided for the tax office, is the annual financial statement (based on German commercial law) necessary for the mandatory disclosure in the trade register.
Xero has no GDPDU API. In the practice, the German tax authorities will want to access electronically, in the case of a tax audit, all financial data of your company. Therefore, the data must be necessarily submitted in the GDPDU standard to the tax auditors, a data format which the tax authorities in Germany use to evaluate all financial data.
In the case of a tax audit, all documents of the company must be made available to the tax office. Although Xero offers the possibility for incoming and outgoing invoices to be stored to each record of the bookkeeping, you can not currently download all records of the year, quarter, or month at a time, but you would have to export each individual document painstakingly out of Xero. We have already discussed this with Xero. If and when a solution to this problem would come, nobody knows.
Xero does not provide interfaces to German accounting software. The sole import of account balance numbers into DATEV or other German systems would not be sufficient for the preparation of financial statements. With the account balance numbers from Xero it would be possible to create the advance turnover tax notification (VAT) and the ZM (recapitulative statement for deliveries and services in the EU) and then to transmit the data via ELSTER to the tax authorities, but to all other purposes Xero bookkeeping will be more likely to fail.
Xero has no direct online access to German banks at present. The data of German banks has to be imported via CSV files in Xero. There are difficulties, too, when Xero cooperates with other financial systems, like Receipt Bank, Transferwise, Paymill, GoCardless, etc., since currently only some of them are connected via interfaces to each other.
The invoicing in Xero could become in future also problematic. It is to be expected that the tax office – and all other authorities – in Germany would enforce for invoices and other digital documents from 2018 on a special file standard (ZUGFeRD). It remains to be seen whether Xero would also adopt this standard or not.
The solution: Xero in combination with a German financial accounting software
For our clients who work with XERO, we make the Xero bookkeeping and parallel to it the German bookkeeping at the same time. To save time and cost, we proceed as follows:
Some of our clients prefer to do the bookkeeping in Xero on their own. As we cannot use the Xero data for the German bookkeeping because it is not reliable, we take the original bank and petty cash transactions of the client and conduct the bookkeeping in our system as presented above. We then still need to examine all financial documents, always in a digital form.
At present, Xero alone is not to be used as an accounting system in Germany. Auxiliary constructions with the bookkeeping in Xero and evaluations and transmissions of account balance numbers etc. are not a viable option. Only an accounting in accordance to the German accounting standards can meet the requirements of acceptance by the tax authorities in Germany.
MBA for Finance and Financial Services (UK), Steuerfachwirt (GER)