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Forms for tax returns and applications for German tax authorities

In business and administration, the form (or form ) is a piece of writing that contains a template of a declaration tailored to the general characteristics of a legal act , which must be substantiated by inserting individual agreements .


The word means “belonging to the legal formulas” ( Latin formularius ), derived from “form, shape” ( Latin forma ). Apparently it appeared for the first time in 1530 as a loan word as "eyn kurtz formular" (a short form). For a long time it was used as a term for the registry book, notary book or other lists.


Forms determine the daily life of all economic agents ( households , companies , authorities ) and simplify and speed by standardizing the legal and commercial transactions . The proverb "From the cradle to the grave - forms" applies, which should make it clear that everyday life is dominated by bureaucracy . Forms are mainly used in standardized bulk transactions . If there is a compulsory form , this can be ordered by law ( e.g. when applying for a reminder notice in accordance with Section 703c ZPO ) or provided for by contract (mainly in banking and insurance ).


At the end of the 7th century, the first book of forms was published under the title Marculfi Formulas . The forma (Latin) contained therein consisted of templates for documents in which only names, dates and location information had to be inserted. The form book was used in the Franconian Empire and influenced later, comparable collections.

Pre-printed legal forms from the early 19th century were discovered by legal historians, which greatly simplified and prefabricated indictments and other legal briefs contained. It is believed that Charles Babbage , a mathematician and inventor, came up with the form around 1850. He also already recognized the value of printed, standardized forms for recording examination results.

With today's advanced technology, it is now standard to be able to use forms on the move. Forms in electronic form on a smartphone or tablet provide quick access and can thus make everyday work easier.


Forms are used internally in companies ( reporting systems (bank) ) and authorities in order to be able to perform certain work tasks in a standardized manner. External forms for customers ( order , order , direct debit , transfer , real-time transfer , payment order , health certificate ) or applicants to authorities ( building application , reporting obligation , tax return ) also aim to receive certain minimum details and minimum information in order to avoid queries.

Form and content

As a rule, forms provide short text fields (for example “Last Name”, “First Name”, “Address”) and single (for example “married: yes / no”) or multiple choice fields .

Forms simplify the collection of mass data , ensure completeness and protect against ambiguities that result from free choice of words or e.g. B. an informal application can occur. That is why forms are often used by authorities to externalize the data entry process and make it legally more precise.

Forms can also be found in HTML , Word or PDF files, EDIFACT , in programming languages or application programs .

Due to the continuous establishment of the electronic signature, more and more electronic forms are replacing their printed versions. The particular advantage is that processes / administrative procedures can be handled completely web-based. There is no binding to opening times or transport routes. In addition, the data can be efficiently transferred to specialist processes, which means that costs can be reduced and processing accelerated. Modern forms have a tag structure that aids for the blind and visually impaired access. With the help of screen readers and braille displays , this group of people can navigate independently through the documents.

Legal issues

The legal term form occurs in many laws, but is assumed to be known there. Forms and forms are part of the general terms and conditions because they contain contractual conditions pre-formulated by users . According to Section 305 (1) of the German Civil Code ( BGB ), general terms and conditions are all pre-formulated contractual conditions for a large number of contracts that one contracting party (user) provides to the other contracting party when concluding a contract. Pre-printed or pre-formulated passages have not been negotiated in detail between the contracting parties. This also applies to dependent additions to forms that require completion, if empty spaces have to be filled in using given alternatives or a pre-formulated suggestion is added that is in the foreground due to the design of the form and superimposes the other options. A form clause that contains empty spaces, the completion of which is intended and necessary in individual cases, does not usually represent an unreasonable disadvantage for the customer. However, if something is forgotten when completing the form (e.g. a missing check mark), the missing check option does not become part of the contract .

Electronic form

The Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection can introduce electronic forms by ordinance with the consent of the Federal Council ( Section 130c ZPO), whereby the forms must be made available for use on a communication platform to be specified on the Internet (e.g. web forms ). In tax law, according to Section 87a (3 ) AO, the written form can also be replaced by an electronic form . A written form ordered by law for applications, declarations or notifications to the tax authorities can be replaced by the electronic form . An electronic document with a qualified electronic signature is sufficient for the electronic form . When signing, a person may only use a pseudonym if they can prove their identity to the tax authorities. The written form can also be replaced either by the direct submission of the declaration in a normal electronic form, which is made available by the authority in an input device or via publicly accessible networks or by sending an electronic document to the authority with the dispatch type according to § 5 para 5 De-Mail Act .

Official forms

In order to expand and continuously improve the exchange of data between public administration , citizens and companies, the form management system (FMS) of the Federal Finance Administration was created, where online services and interactive forms of the Federal Finance Administration are made available. This includes forms from the Federal Ministry of Finance and its higher federal authorities as well as forms from the Federal Customs Administration . Users include citizens (e.g. income tax return : ELSTER ), companies (e.g. corporation tax return ) and the administration itself (e.g. application for aid ). In addition, the FMS offers an overview of frequently used forms, a separate form catalog with tax forms and a form search.


Economic functions

A big advantage of the form is that it saves a significant amount of paperwork. Fewer errors occur and therefore fewer corrections are necessary. Ultimately, there is also less training time due to the repetition. Electronic forms also offer some other advantages over paper forms, such as cost reduction , as there are no production costs for printing or higher availability.

Organizational functions

The content is arranged in a clear order so that important information cannot be forgotten. In addition, accelerated work processes are guaranteed. Concise questions result in concise answers.

Service-oriented functions

Another benefit is to simplify contact between citizens and administration in this way.

See also


  • Rayan Abdullah, Karsten Henze: Forms - from the cradle to the grave. Corporate design forms . Stiebner, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-8307-1339-5 (collection of examples)
  • A. Erhardt Ewert: Form service in the area belonging to the district . (= KWI project reports; 3). Municipal Science Institute, University of Potsdam 2007 ( full text )
  • Borries Schwesinger: Designing forms. The manual for everyone who wants to make life easier . Schmidt, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-87439-708-7
  • Benedikt Burkard: List, form, screen mask. A little history of the form. In: The archive - magazine for communication history, issue 1/2010, pp. 6-13

Web links

Commons : Forms  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Form  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Köbler , Etymological Legal Dictionary , 1995, p. 133
  2. ^ Savigny Foundation (ed.), Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History , Volume I, 1880, p. 132
  3. ^ Charles Babbage: On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. P. 114 , accessed March 8, 2015 .
  4. BGH, judgment of March 2, 1994, Az .: XII ZR 175/92 = WM 1994, 1136
  5. ^ BGH, judgment of December 3, 1991, Az .: XI ZR 77/91 = NJW 1992, 503
  6. ^ BGH, judgment of February 7, 1996, Az .: IV ZR 16/95 = NJW 1996, 1208
  7. BGH, judgment of December 3, 1991, Az .: XI ZR 77/91 = NJW 1992, 503
  8. BGH, judgment of June 20, 2013, Az .: VII ZR 82/12 = NJW 2013, 2583
  9. Electronic forms and their advantages. (PDF) soft Xpansion, accessed on March 8, 2015 .
  10. ^ Erwin Riedmüller, Forms - the most important means of communication between citizens and administration , Vienna 1993