Contract Research and Service Projects
Contract research is generally understood to be scientific research commissioned by (frequently commercial, but also public) funders in the form of a research assignment or a research cooperation. The goal of the research assignment here is prescribed by the client/funder, and the results of the research as well as any rights to publication, protection, copyright, usage, and exploitation are exclusively, or at least partially, reserved for the client. A relationship of service and return service is characteristic. The research assignment is subject to sales tax and full cost accounting. This also applies to service projects.
Charitable gifts and true subsidies must be differentiated from contract research. These are tax-free, because they are granted unattached to any specific service and because they are considered to be predominantly in the interest of the public sector - e.g. for structure policy, economic, or generic political reasons (examples are: coordinated programs of the DFG, standard DFG projects, projects based on donations from various federal funders). In notable contrast, the retention of exploitation rights for the benefit of the donor or the right of the donor to approve publication of the results will lead to a taxable exchange of services. In this context, it is irrelevant whether the research activity represents basic or application-oriented research.
Please take special note that not only contracts from private financiers are subject to taxation. For example, subcontracts in EU or federal projects (contracts on an expenditure basis) are also taxable. This taxability along with the obligatory full cost accounting can occur in the case of research or service contracts from state governments. Therefore, before making such offers, please always ask the appropriate point of contact within the university administration.
In this context, please read the entry Tax Liability with Contract Research as well as the instructions covering every aspect of calculating contract research and service projects at full cost, which is mandatory starting July 1st 2011.