VAT/UTAP offices to combine forces

In mid-December, the Utilities Tax Avoidance Program office and the Value Added Tax office will co-locate to a new space on the third floor of  Building 2915 on Panzer Kaserne. Because of the move, both offices will be closed Dec. 11-12, and customers are advised to plan ahead.

The new, combined office will open Dec. 13 at 9 a.m. with an open house.

VAT services will be located in Room 326, with UTAP services in Room 328.

Consumers can save up to 19 percent by using a VAT form when shopping in many German stores. They can also save hundreds of dollars off their utility bills each year with UTAP. “The VAT and UTAP programs can save a lot of money. You can use a VAT form for hotels, train tickets, car rentals … even cosmetic surgery — if the doctor will take the VAT form,” said Cushatt. In Germany, the standard VAT rate is 19 percent for most purchases and services. A reduced rate of 7 percent is imposed on basic food staples and hotels. When it comes to utilities, household consumers are levied 19 percent VAT on electricity and gas, 7 percent on water, and at the end of the year, pay an additional energy tax based on usage. “With UTAP, not only do you save the VAT on electricity, gas and water, at the end of the year, you don’t have to pay the energy tax. This could be up to an additional 30 percent, depending on how many kilowatts of electricity you use,” Cushatt said.

Even better, the UTAP staff deals directly with the utility companies on the customer’s behalf and will assist with translations, said Cushatt. The key, Cushatt said, is to know how to use both programs. She outlined a few basic rules.

Using VAT forms

• Vendors are not obligated to take VAT forms.

• Purchases made with a VAT form can only be for the buyer’s personal use.

• Using a VAT form for anything a landlord is responsible for is not authorized. Examples include landscaping, heating system repairs and replacing tile floors.

• Always get a quote for services where the price could fluctuate, such as car repairs, before the vendor begins work.

• TKS is the only telephone/Internet service provider that can accept VAT. Tax relief is not available for other phone/Internet providers because these services involve contracts over extended periods of service.

• After-the-fact actions do not qualify for tax relief. This means a purchase and VAT relief transaction with the vendor must generally occur on the same day. There is an exception, however, for people who are on temporary duty or in a temporary lodging allowance status.

• Because a vendor accepted a VAT form does not mean that the tax-free purchase complied with legal requirements. If you have any doubts, check first with the VAT office.

Purchases over €2,500

For purchases over €2,500, customers must provide a cost estimate from the vendor to the tax relief office before making the purchase. VAT rules require the vendor to make out the cost estimate with “CMWRF” as the purchaser and that the purchase be made with a cashier’s check.

When considering a large purchase, Cushatt recommends that a consumer:

• Ask the merchant if they take VAT forms and make sure they will take a cashier’s check.

• Get a quote.

• Get a cashier’s check from a bank or credit union, and bring it and the quote to the VAT office for processing.

UTAP guidelines

• The required documents must be completed before coming into the office.

• Hand-written documents will not be accepted. The staff is unable to fill out the forms for customers.

• When a UTAP customer moves to a new home or makes a permanent change of station move, the customer must close out his or her utilities with the UTAP office by providing a completed close-out utility form with the final meter readings.

As of Dec. 13, the UTAP office will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The VAT office will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 6 p.m. on Friday. UTAP applications, start and stop forms, VAT rules, handouts in English and German, a sample cost estimate and an extensive list of merchants who take VAT forms are available online at  

AAFES offers solution to lithium battery ban

In response to the U.S. Postal Service ban on international shipments of electronics with lithium batteries, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service now has a way for overseas shoppers to get those devices in time for the holidays. Approximately 80 products (cameras, tablets, watches and other electronics) can be ordered online and picked up at Exchanges in Afghanistan, Europe, Guam, Japan, Korea and Kuwait, according to AAFES officials. Exchange shoppers can go to, select a product with a “Lithium Ship to Store” logo, and choose the country and Exchange where they would like the item to be delivered. The shopper will be contacted via email when the order arrives. Orders may be picked up at the customer service desk with a valid ID and a copy of the email/order number confirmation.

Federal employee news

• Federal Benefits Open Season runs through midnight Dec. 10. Employees have the opportunity to make decisions about benefits under the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

More information regarding Open Season is available at:

• The Office of Personnel Management has announced the Federal Employees Health Benefits premium rates for 2013. The rates are posted at:

Online civilian retirement applications now available

Army-serviced civilian employees within one year of voluntary retirement can now fill out their retirement applications online using the eRetirement web application located in the Employee Benefits Information System. For more information, visit the Army Benefits Center-Civilian’s website at

Body armor makes Time’s best inventions list

An improved outer tactical vest, or IOTV, designed specifically for women was named one of Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions of the Year 2012.” The new armor was designed to offer better protection and to prevent bruised hip bones that women experienced when wearing IOTVs meant to fit smaller men. The armor was a collaborative effort between the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center and Program Executive Office Soldier. To see the entire list of inventions, go to