Tax return in Germany for foreigners made easy – Steuererklärung

It’s that time of the year again: the time to do your tax return in Germany otherwise known as “Steuererklärung”.  Yes sir/m’am, you’ll be able to get money back, and sometimes up to a few thousand euros. We show you how in this step by step guide.

Tax return in Germany

The road to your tax refund in Germany :

Before your panic when thinking “I haven’t done my tax return this year!”,  let me assure you that you won’t have any problems with your Finanzamt if you forgot to file your tax statement. As an employee, you are taxed every month off your wage. If your salary is your only income, then it will be a piece of cake to get your tax refund. You have already paid your taxes, now your job is to obtain as much refund as you can! For freelancers, it’s of course another story as it is compulsory.

The average tax return in Germany is close to 1000€ nation-wide. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

So how can I do my tax return in Germany?

If you are confident enough to do it on your own, do as follow. Otherwise, jump to the next title.

First you have to make sure you get all the right papers. It is recommended to download the forms directly from the official website this way : here.
(Click on the right hand side on “Einkommensteuer mit allen Anlagen”)

If you are an employee , you need the following forms (e.g for 2016) :

  • ESt 1 V 2016 (The main form that details general info like your adress, iD nummer,etc)
  • Anlage N 2016 (The form to detail your income as an employee)
  • Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand 2016 (The form to detail your insurances)

If you are self-employed, you need the following forms (e.g for 2016) :

  • Est 1A 2016
  • Anlage S 2016 (Freelancers only)
  • Anlage G 2016 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage USt 2016 (if you pay V.A.T)
  • Anlage GeSt 1A 2016 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage EÜR (If turnover is more than 17 500€ a year)

On this website,  it is also possible to download an official tool called ELSTER (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) onto your computer. This tool enables you to proceed to your tax return in Germany via the internet, saving both you and your Finanzamt a lot of time. You need to sign-up for an account and you receive your password by post.

Honestly from there, i will gladly direct you to one of the best guides made in English around by our good friends of ToyTown Germany. It is very neat, clear and complete to do your tax return in Germany in English properly. I don’t see how i could give better information on how to fill in all those forms.

What now?

  1. Print the forms out.
  2. Sign them.
  3. Find a post office.
  4. Send them to your local Finanzamt.
  5. Done !

Wait for 1 or 2 months before you get any answer, and hopefully, a little ka-ching will appear on your bank account so you can afford this awesome guitar you spotted, or else, paying for your holidays to Croatia.

I don’t feel confident filling in my tax declaration in Germany alone, how can i get help?

If you are not so good with numbers or a bit scared of doing mistakes because of the German language, there are other ways to do your tax return in Germany.

Good value for the money: self-help online platforms

If this is too much to do, there are also online tools that make it super easy to get your tax declaration in Germany right for a maximum return. You might consider SteuerGo for example that i can really recommend for employees, especially if it’s your first time.

  • Your hand is really guided step-by-step with the tool in a clean interface.
  • Save progress at any time when you register for a free account.
  • It’s also fully in English (!) at every step of the process.
  • You can even call a hotline if you have questions.
  • It only costs 25€ which is perfect when you don’t earn enough to afford a Steuerberater.

They also let you know in real-time how much you are getting back so you know if it’s worth the one-time-fee. No need to pay anything before submitting to the Finanzamt (they also do that for you). You can give it a spin for free. 🙂

If you are a freelancer, you can turn to platforms like SmartSteuer which also supports profiles like Kleinunternehmer, Selbständige & Freiberufler (No English though). This means they will also help you with the additional forms (Einnahmenüberschussrechnung (EÜR), Umsatz- und Gewerbesteuererklärung).

Worth it if you have a more complex situation: a Steuerberater

You can also turn to professional tax advisers in Germany for this. A Steuerberater is a trained agent capable of preparing, processing and submitting your tax declaration in Germany. They are accountants usually experienced into finding particular rules that is relevant to your tax profile to optimize your return. Even if their fees are controlled by certain laws, you usually have to pay a few hundred euros for their services. This is why it’s only relevant if your situation is a bit more complex like earning relatively well, being married, having kids, owning a house and having different sources of income. It’s also quite normal for freelancers and self-employed persons to have one.

If you don’t know where to start your search for a Steuerberater, you can turn to platforms like Ageras. They search and find one for you based on your profile and needs. The service is free and the offers you receive non-binding.

Well said cat-friend, (deadline is 31st of May though) Source: Giphy.com

FAQ

What is the tax return deadline in Germany?

In theory, the deadline is to the 31st May of the following year for people that obliged by law to submit one, however, you can ask for an extension if you are short on time. Using a Steuerberater allows you to have even more time.

Important note: employees whose sole income are their salaries are not required by law to submit a tax return. This means that the deadline moves to 4 years in the future. For example, you can do your tax return for the year 2017 until the last day of 2021. Even more importantly:

As an employee, you can claim a tax return for up to 4 years prior the current year. Pretty handy if you forgot to do it those years to maximize return.

When will i get my money after submitting all the forms?

It takes between 8-12 weeks for the Finanzamt to process your files and obtain your tax refund in Germany on your account. It’s usually quicker when sending everything out electronically.

I started to work without a Steuer ID from the Finanzamt… (maximum tax rate)

and you have been charged the maximum income tax rate. You cannot claim this amount back i’m sorry.

Ps 1 : Don’t forget to sign all those forms, otherwise they won’t be processed by your dear Finanzamt !

Ps 2 : If you feel like you are running out of time, you can let know your Finanzamt before the 31st of May you need more time. They usually give you an extra 2 or 3 months to do your tax return in Germany.

257 Comments

  • Reply marissa 15/05/2017 at 17:31

    thank you for this invaluable advice. If I worked full time for only two months last year, is it worth it to file my taxes?
    Thank you so very much

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/05/2017 at 10:21

      Hi Marissa, yes it’s probably worth it but you can also wait for next year to file 2016 and 2017 at once, to optimize your work time on this. 🙂

  • Reply Alejandro 15/05/2017 at 15:52

    Hi

    I am preparing my 2015 and 2016 STEUERERKLÄRUNG. The thing is, in 2015, I was from January to October in 2015 a “free-lance”, in the same company I am currently working. I am an engineer and had a contract for professional services. For the rest of 2015 and the whole 2016, I got a full position paying the complete taxes. I figured to present 2 for 2015: one for each period and 1 for 2016. Is this the best approach? If got it correctly, I am currently late on that free-lance one of 2015 and will get fined. Is that so?

    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/05/2017 at 10:06

      Hi Alejandro. For 2015, You will need to submit a form for your employee work and a form for your freelance work yes. If you forgot to do your tax return, you might get some fine from the Finanzamt yes but better later than ever.

  • Reply Alex 15/05/2017 at 13:38

    Hi,

    Thanks for the article!

    I am a student here in Berlin and I work as an extra in some movies in different production company. Do you know if I could have my tax refund, as a student or the tax is already discounted as being a student?

    Thanks so much for your reply in advance!

    Alex

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/05/2017 at 10:02

      Hi Alex. Yes it can be worth it for students as well since there are a lot of costs you can deduct taxes from. Any costs related to your studies, if you bought a computer, a phone, transporation, etc etc.

      • Reply Alex 20/05/2017 at 11:44

        Sounds great.

        One question, should I file as an “income as self-employement” or “income as employee” ? I worked in different films as an extra (background actor/actress) and they all use different production companies. They always issue me an “Abrechnung” in every job and deducted “Lohnsteuer” from me before they deposit money to my account.

        Appreciate for your reply in advance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2017 at 14:50

          Hi Alex. The answer is in your question i guess; Are you registered as a self-employed or as normal employee?

  • Reply Sunny Rajendrasingh Vasu 14/05/2017 at 22:57

    hello,
    i worked in germany from jan 2017 to april 2017.Now i am moving out of germany so for this 4 months as i will be not in germany how can i claim my tax from country in 2018?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2017 at 10:06

      Hi Sunny. The process described above also applies for you. For 4 months though, it might not be worth the trouble.

  • Reply Christa 14/05/2017 at 17:59

    Hi there! Thx for the excellent help! I have an additional question for you, hopefully you cld help;
    I’ve been working here for 5 yrs. In 2014 I got married and got into Steurklasse 4 (before I was in class 1). I’ve never done a Steuererklärung, coz I thought it was optional. But I did do a “Einfachte Steuererklärung” for the last 2 yrs and we did get back a lot of money. My question is, do you think it wld be enough to do the same again or do I have to fill out a normal Steuererklärung? And if do not do it, will I get a fine? Im employed and my salary is my only income. Thx for your reply in advance. Cheers, Christa

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2017 at 10:09

      Hi Christa, the simplified tax declaration form is meant for employees, which doesn’t require as much information as for self-employed people, hence the term simplified. There is therefore no choice between a “normal” and a “simple” version for you, since your only income is your salary.

  • Reply Peter Z 13/05/2017 at 19:15

    Hi there,

    Thank you for the nice explanation, as my German knowledge is not so good in the tax-german side, can somebody let me know how much usually a steuerberater takes? Google gave me several numbers from 80€ till 2000€.
    I´m married and both me and my wife are working in Germany, and we earn brutto 35-40K €. Is it worth actually ?

    Any help appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2017 at 10:04

      Hi Peter. The cost to do your tax return is directly related to how much you earn. Is it worth it? It depends if you are employees, freelancers, how much deductibles you have, etc. Question is too broad.

  • Reply Kush Wadhwani 12/05/2017 at 21:42

    Hallo,
    Thanks for such an informative article. I have 2 questions.It would be really helpful if you could answer them.

    1) Do you know where or how can we attach supporting documents if we are doing steuererklärung using ElsterFormular. I want to attach my payslips for the months that I have worked in India before moving to Germany.
    2) If we are doing the steuererklärung using ElsterFormular and then we send all the data to finanzamt using “Steuerdaten an das finanzamt senden” option. Is it then necessary for us to take a print of the form, sign it , attach all the supporting documents and post it to finanzamt?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2017 at 09:58

      Hi Kush. When using the ELSTER software, you don’t need to send the paper forms in if you registered with the platform before-hand (with certificate and password). If not, then send an extra-copy. You can only use the software to submit the official forms.

  • Reply Aidan Mountain 12/05/2017 at 13:43

    Hi,

    I hoping that you can offer some advice on my situation. I was employed by an Irish firm on a 10 month fixed term contract in Oct 2015. This was then extended by a further 4 months. The whole time I was employed I paid my taxes in Ireland. I’ve stopped working for the company since Christmas 2016 but now they’ve gotten in contact to say I have to pay tax in Germany for 2015 and 2016.
    This doesn’t sound right, can they do this after my contract has ended? Surely they would need to pay any outstanding taxes owed, as I was an employee?

    Could you please shed some light in this

    Best regards

    Aidan

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2017 at 09:55

      Hi Aidan. This sounds strange indeed if all taxes were paid to Ireland and your contract was attached there. In any case, you shouldn’t have to pay the employer’s share of taxes.

  • Reply Anna H 11/05/2017 at 18:16

    Hi there I lived in Berlin for a few months where I worked freelance for a company there. Im wondering if its obligatory that I need to fill out my tax forms or is it something optional? I mean if i dont pay my taxes will I be jailed, fined or something? Any info would be greateful thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/05/2017 at 10:02

      Hi Anna. Yes, as mentioned in the post, it is a compulsory as a self-employed to turn in your tax declaration.

  • Reply Ivan 11/05/2017 at 15:44

    I would appreciate if you could answer the following for workers assigned from EU to Germany:
    1. Is there any kind of deadline for registration with the Tax Authorities upon arrival/start of work?
    2. Who is responsible for making the monthly tax and social security payments, employer or employee (i.e. who makes the actual payment)? What is the deadline for the payment?
    3. Do you have to submit a monthly tax return and, if so, what is the deadline?
    4. Are assigned workers always obliged to submit the annual tax return?

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/05/2017 at 10:05

      Hi Ivan, please define “Assigned workers”. In Germany, you need to register at the Finanzamt to get a tax ID. The employer is responsible for paying all social taxes, with no additional work from the employee.

  • Reply Antonio 11/05/2017 at 10:48

    Congratulations for the post.

    I have a question: I began working in Germany in november 2016, I will file my 2016 tax report in Spain (where I was working till I moved out) do I need to file also a tax report in Germany?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/05/2017 at 10:07

      Hi Antonio, yes you might have to fill in the forms for a Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen.

  • Reply Joe 09/05/2017 at 18:36

    Hi there,

    Excellent post. Thank you for the detailed information.

    I have one question, I moved to Berlin from Canada in August. I am a European citizen because of my background and now a citizen of Berlin (registered in the city and I have a Steuernummer). I have worked a couple odd end jobs but I have not had a consistent job since I have moved to Berlin. How should I go about my tax return if I have only worked a couple jobs?

    Thanks a bunch and I look forward to hearing from you.
    Best,

    Joe

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/05/2017 at 10:05

      Hi Joe, if you were registered and had a Steuernummer for those jobs, you should proceed normally. You should ask for a Steuerbescheinigung for those jobs if you haven’t received them already, to have the right numbers to put in.

      • Reply Joe 10/05/2017 at 16:31

        Unfortunately I did not have my Steuernummer at the time :/ … how do I go about that?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/05/2017 at 10:17

          Hi Joe, then it’s probably not worth the trouble and as an employee, there are no obligations to do your tax return.

  • Reply cristovao 08/05/2017 at 11:45

    Hello,

    Thanks for the article, its very clear and helpfull.
    Anyway ive a question, last year ive worked in leipzig for few months, but at moment im not register in germany and i wonder to each and where Finanzamt should i send my application?
    Other thing that makes me wonder, is the fact that also last year before coming to germany ive worked in bulgaria, that interfer at some stage with my german tax application?
    thanks for the information and have a great day
    regards from protugal

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2017 at 15:42

      Hello Cristo, this is particular situation and i can’t really give a proper answer, just an opinion. I also don’t know if you are self-employed or not. If you were an employee, it’s probably not worth it because by not registering, you were taxed at maximum rate, and you can’t get any of that money back. You also gave up on other tax advantages.

  • Reply Nagendra Govindappa 08/05/2017 at 10:52

    hello, I applied my it return for the year 2016 in may 2017. and I am heading back to india in june 2017. so can i file the IT return for the year jan 2017 to may-2017, from india itself?
    also, while filing my 1st IT return i gave my indian bank details, is ti okay, can i get the refund back to my indian bank account?
    please comment for my doubts.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2017 at 15:37

      Hi Nagendra. While it’s not a problem for EU bank accounts outside of Germany (because it works with the same SEPA standards), you need to make sure your indian bank account can provide international details for the Finanzamt. Fees might occur for you though. (Source, not 100% trustworthy)

  • Reply Eleanor 07/05/2017 at 20:51

    Hello!

    I am using this website to do my tax return – http://www.steuergo.de – as a friend recommended it to me.

    However, I cannot find my steuernummer.

    My questions:
    1) Do you know where I can find this / where I have to go to get this? I can’t see anything on my payslips from my employer!

    2) I currently live in Neukolln, but my anmeldung is registered to a different address (also in Neukolln) and I had to go to a tax office in Schoneberg to get my tax code to give to my employer when I first started my job…will it be a problem that I live at a different address to the one I am registered at when I come to do my tax return / that the Schoneberg office gave me my first tax code?

    Your blog is great and really helpful!

    Many thanks, Eleanor

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2017 at 10:21

      Hi Eleanor, you Steuernummer should be on any letters you got from the Finanzamt. You should address your tax declaration to the Finanzamt where you are registered. If you changed adress since last time you made a tax return, it will be updated for you after the next one.

      • Reply Eleanor 08/05/2017 at 21:21

        Hi Bastien,

        Thanks for the reply.

        This is my first tax return as I have only lived in Germany since September 2016 – does this change things? (i sent the message yesterday at 10:21)

        Thanks again, Eleanor

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/05/2017 at 10:21

          Then in this case, you will send your tax declaration without any Steuernummer, and you will be attributed one by your Finanzamt.

  • Reply Danny Siman 06/05/2017 at 16:35

    Hello,

    Sorry if this question is self explanatory, but I’m wondering if its possible to apply for a tax refund for a prior year, after you’ve applied for a refund for the current year?
    Scenario – I moved from Canada to Berlin in 2015, having worked both in Canada and Berlin in the same year. There is still some weird tax stuff going on in Canada, and the books aren’t closed yet for 2015.
    In 2016 I worked only in Berlin, and had no income in Canada, so the refund application should be pretty straight forward.
    My questions are:
    It sounds like there needs to be a submission of tax documents for transition years, so German tax office would need to know what taxes I paid in Canada in 2015?
    If I apply for a 2016 refund now, do you know if I can apply for a 2015 refund later (for example after everything is sorted out in Canada and I want to submit it with my 2017 refund)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2017 at 10:24

      Hi Danny. As mentionned in the post; as an employee, you can do your tax return for years up to 4 years prior. So yes, you can do your tax return for 2015 next year if you want to. Also, you should check if there is any Doppelsteuerabkommen process for Canada.

  • Reply Linda Chui 05/05/2017 at 16:18

    Hi there! I am working as a freelancer as business consultant. I am wondering the bookkeeping that I must do and prove my earnings which should show income and expenses as a simple P/L, I understood the original receipts needed to be kept, how about are the reports/records that Finanzamt would ask me to show in case of auditing, is it ok if I am not using an bookkeeping software?as it normally charges.Also I guess I have to use the German accounting code when I do my (simple) bookkeeping?Or just a normal spreadsheet would do.Do I have to create the cash book i.e bank transactions to show the in and out for my income and expenses. Do I have to have a separate account for my freelancer income/expenses, or it is not required, as I am expecting really small amount of transactions for the first year, however I can’t say whether it will be over euro 17,500 so for bookkeeping I must use VAT too I guess. Many thanks.

  • Reply Emanuele 03/05/2017 at 19:53

    Hello from France 🙂
    The article is very interesting and detailed. I have a little question about my personal situation you might have an answer for, hopefully.
    I’m Emanuele, I worked in Germany as a dancer for over 3 years. My 2016 year in Germany has been a little weird, since I’ve worked there just until the 5th of May, when I ended my contract with the Staatstheater, to start working in Sweden until the beginning of November. I went back to Germany where I was unemployed until the 31st of December and moved to France. How can I actually proceed with my declaration of 2016 in Germany? I already turned in my taxes in Sweden for the 6 months I’ve been working there.
    I made my declaration for the previous 2 years by myself with a good friend who helped me with the language, but this case seems to be a little too complicated. Do you have any suggestion?
    Thanks in advance,
    Emanuele.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/05/2017 at 10:25

      Bonjour Emanuele. Since you were German resident that year, you still need to declare your income from Sweden to your Finanzamt. To avoid a double taxation, most countries have a “Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen” process in place with Germany. This is what your probably need to do. More info there.

  • Reply Maria 03/05/2017 at 14:31

    Hi Bastien!

    Thanks for all the information. i find it very interesting. I have a question: If I am an employee with home office and I pay from my own money a coworking space (to do my job). Can I get that money back from the taxes?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/05/2017 at 10:22

      Hi Maria. Absolutely! If the coworking space is your main work location, you can put off the costs in taxes. (Source 1 & Source 2).

  • Reply Shobhit Omara 03/05/2017 at 11:16

    Hello,
    Thank you so much for the neat and nice explanation!
    If I give donation from my savings, of a value almost equal to the entire year 2016 income earned! My question is: would that donation be deducted in the tax return when I file for the year after, given that I have just made donation in April 2017! Is there any maximum limit for donation amount?
    Kind regards

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/05/2017 at 10:18

      Hi Shobhit. Donations can be put off in taxes for your tax return up to 20% of your total income for that year. (In “Sonderausgaben” part in the declaration.).

  • Reply Lutgart seawell 02/05/2017 at 21:21

    Hello,
    We are and American family who used to live in Germany, working for the American government so we did not pay any German taxes on our income.
    We bought a house in Germany in 2011 but moved back to the US in 2014. We have rented the huose out since then. The previous years, we had our taxes calculated y a Steuerberater in Germany, but can no longer afford the €1000+ she charged us.
    So I will try my hand at this myself. Last year, we owed the Finanzamt €136
    Can I just use our last year’s tax return as an example?
    I would appreciate your advice. Many thanks from Utah, USA
    Lutgart Seawell

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/05/2017 at 10:17

      Hi Lutgart. I suppose that if your situation hasn’t changed since the previous year, you can input your numbers for last year taking your last tax return as an example and it could work out. However, please note that there might be specific arrangements since you are an US citizen and i can’t be aware of all of it.

  • Reply Yash shah 02/05/2017 at 15:01

    Hallo

    I am a student in magdeburg . I filled up form in January 2017 for tax return but I have not received till 2 nd May 2017. So, when I will get it back? should i wait for tax`?

    Thanks
    Yash Shah

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/05/2017 at 16:00

      Hi Yash. Just be a bit more patient. It shouldn’t be too long. In doubt, you can always reach to your Finanzamt.

  • Reply Manu 02/05/2017 at 13:28

    Hello,

    I am from India and I was a student for past 3 years. I borrowed study loan from an Indian bank for my studies. Now I got a job and repaying my study loan. Can I claim income tax on this which I will be sending to a bank in India ? If yes , is there any deadline for this ?

    Regards,
    Manu

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/05/2017 at 16:02

      Hi Manu. I suppose it is possible because it impacts on your finances but if you are not sure how to proceed, you may want to turn to a Steuerberater.

  • Reply Kush Wadhwani 01/05/2017 at 14:55

    Hello,
    Thanks for the article. It was really helpfull. I have a query with respect to my Einkommensteuererklärung. I worked in India from January 2016 to August 2016 and then I moved to Germany in September 2016. I am using ELSTER Formular my Einkommensteuererklärung. Could you please let me know where in ELSTER Formular do I have to declare the income that I earned in India from Jauray 2016 to August 2016.
    Thanks in advance for your time and help!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/05/2017 at 09:39

      Hi Kush. For most of these cases (income from another country before moving to Germany), you will need to mention it on your declaration. However, it may depend on countries, you may want to check if there are no bilateral agreements between India and Germany on the matter.

  • Reply Erik 01/05/2017 at 10:30

    Hi!
    I am going to start working in Germany as an Croatian citizen. My starting salary will be 1600 euros. I wonder:
    1. How much will be the tax?
    2. When can I expect the money back?
    3. What category will I be at as his is 19.200 euros of income per year?

    Thank you very much!!!
    Erik

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/05/2017 at 09:44

      Hi Erik. i cannot answer to these questions as it works on a case per case basis, depending on your situation, if you have children, married, etc. You can calculate the difference between brutto and netto with this tool however.

  • Reply J 30/04/2017 at 17:38

    Hi there,

    Thanks for the article, it’s super useful!
    I moved to Berlin, registered w Burgeramt and started a full-time job mid 2016. I hear for those moving mid-year it makes the declaration even more valuable, since you effectively pay taxes for the full year.
    I was referred to a tax consultant, who reckoned the cost to be EUR 200. That seemed a little too high, given my declaration is basically a few figures (no expenses reported or else).
    Is this a reasonable fee? Would the same task be achieved easily w Elster or a tool alike?

    Cheers,
    J

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/05/2017 at 10:28

      Hi Jegors, a tool like Elster or the ones suggested in the post are very good to help you do everything correctly for the Finanzamt. A tax consultant is also valuable because they help you find tips and optimize your declaration for your situation. You pay for valuable advice. If you don’t need this advice, it might not be worth it then.

  • Reply Justas Balciunas 29/04/2017 at 22:16

    Hi,
    I wanted to ask if I can claim tax return for my studies / tuition postponement for studying in Germany few years back? I now live and work in London.

    Are there any requirements for it?
    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/05/2017 at 10:32

      Hi Justas, that is a good question. If you still have your details and tax IDs at hand, i don’t see why not, but you’d have to ask to a Steuerberater to be sure.

  • Reply Alexandru Calin 28/04/2017 at 19:27

    Hi,

    I came across this text while reading about how taxes work in Germany:

    [Long german text edited by SiB Editor]

    I am currently taxed in Tax Class VI, because I do not have the steurliche Nummber(because I do not have an address). But can I apply for this Bescheinigung der Steuerklasse I? I can not understand german very well. Would you please have a look over the text above? Many thanks.

    Alex

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/04/2017 at 10:16

      Hi Alexandru, you need to register at the Bürgeramt first to be able to change Steuerklasse. Without a registered adress, the Finanzamt will tax you with a maximum rate.

  • Reply Samuel 26/04/2017 at 14:13

    Hello,
    I am about to start a job as a freelancer, but it should be relatively regular work, i.e. paid monthly. How do I go about paying tax. I do not want to get to the end of the year and suddenly have to pay a huge lump sum.

    Kind regards
    Samuel

  • Reply mauricio 26/04/2017 at 13:13

    I worked in 2015 for 8 months in the Czech republic then I moved to work to Germany inmediately for the remaining year. How should I fill the tax return for this year? I use SteuerGo but I am confused how to report this.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/04/2017 at 14:59

      Hi Mauricio. You will probably need to declare that income too. If you are unsure how to proceed, you can also reach to their customer support too.

  • Reply Daniela Ramos 24/04/2017 at 14:50

    Hello!

    I came across with this website because after sending out my tax declaration form for 2016, I received a letter back stating I have to pay back around 7€.
    The problem is that I misplaced the letter and I don’t know how to solve this issue.

    So how can I find out about the payment details?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/04/2017 at 16:53

      Hi Daniela. Just call your Finanzamt to ask for them or if you have received letters from your Finanzamt in the past; its bank details should be displayed in the bottom margin.

  • Reply Federica Sorbi 23/04/2017 at 22:50

    Hello,
    I live in Italy were I work and pay taxes.
    I’ve lived in Germany and received a German salary from 01.09.2014 to 31.08.2015 as an employe. Taxes have been detracted from my salary from German government.
    Moreover I’ve included the Germany income in the Italian tax declaration of both years 2014 and 2015.
    Why I’ve received some letter from the German government asking me to fill in tax declaration? Can I avoid to do it?
    Many many many thanks
    Federica

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/04/2017 at 09:30

      Hi Federica, i cannot answer to your question specifically as one would need more details on your situation before hand. If you have received a letter, then it’s probably wise to do it. You could earn a few hundred euros back.

    • Reply Marco 10/05/2017 at 22:10

      Hi Federica, I have only one question regarding your staying in Germany, were you also registered to the AIRE ?
      I am also planning to fill up the modules for the tax refund but I am NOT registered to the AIRE
      Thanks

  • Reply k 22/04/2017 at 13:16

    Hey! So i was working here for a while, then got fired and was in ALG1. Then that stopped and I got a mini job (but no Harz4). I am about to do my taxes this week. Do I need to include the mini job? (It’s only for 10 hours a month and I believe it is not taxable).
    Also, since I was receiving unemployment benefit, does it still make sense for me to actually do the taxes?
    Another question – one of my previous jobs refuses to speak to me and never gave me the end of the year calculation paper – can I still include that job someohow? (payslips etc?)

    Thanks a million!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/04/2017 at 09:27

      Hello K. Your employer has to give you your Steuerbescheinigung by law, as you need it for your Steuererklärung. You would need to declare all your incomes sources. You can still try to do it but depending on the expenses you can put off, there might a lower chance for you for a good return, but i am no expert, this is just an opinion.

  • Reply Muthana Jubouri 21/04/2017 at 17:49

    Hi, I have worked for 6 months in 2015 and paid taxes and I will start working again in June 2017, during the time between them I was studying in Germany and paying tuition fees. my question is can I file a tax return for 2016 even though I did not work during the year so maybe I can get credit for this year when I start working? Thank you in advance I really appreciate your help?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/04/2017 at 11:13

      Hello Muthana. Even though you didn’t work last year, you can put many expenses as a student off in taxes, which could lead to an interesting refund for you. It’s worth a go.

  • Reply Giorgia 19/04/2017 at 11:27

    Hi, I lived in Germany till October 2016 (Afmeldung done in that month) and worked there from February 2016 to mid September 2016, I then moved to The Netherlands and started working there (Oct 2016).. I did my Dutch tax return, and now I have to do the German one, should I mention something about this situation? Can’t find any option to do so..

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/04/2017 at 12:26

      Hi Giorgia. You need to check if there are any bilateral agreements between the Netherlands and Germany concerning those issues. It should help you decide what to do. You might not need to mention your Dutch income on your German tax return.

  • Reply Bo 18/04/2017 at 12:07

    Hi,

    Thank you for the great article maybe it was going to be way easier for me if i first searched in google on how to do this instead of trying to do it with just an advice from a colleague (who is also a foreigner). I have the following situation: I have already send my tax declaration (or at least i think i did) using the Elster formular software, however i’m not sure if i have successfully submited it since it’s 1 month and still no answer. I had a visual confirmation of some kind as far as i remember – coming from the software itself after clicking on the send button. I’m also logging in in my elster online portal and it says that i haven’t submitted anything yet which is somehow distrubing. I’m wondering what would happen if i submit another tax declaration using https://www.steuergo.de/en/and if it would be a problem if my previously send declaration was actually received? Also if i try going to the finanzamt and maybe ask them to check if i have already submitted my tax declaration what documents i must take with me? Are they even going to be able to provide that information to me? Any idea?

    Regards.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/04/2017 at 09:47

      Hi Bo. If you used the ELSTER software to submit your tax declaration and reopen the form, there be should be a message mentioning that the particular form was sent to your Finanzamt (with date and time) and a big “Nicht mehr editierbar” on there too. When in doubt, you can call your Finanzamt. Good luck.

      • Reply Bo 19/04/2017 at 13:00

        Thank you!

  • Reply Tony 03/04/2017 at 21:34

    Hi,
    this the 3rd day I’m trying to sort out mainly one thing,
    I just want to get the maximum amount possible, so was wondering if those internet companies doing the tax returns for You, do they include things like distance from work to home and the tickets cost and so on. Cause if not, I guess if I include them, I can get back more money, but in other case, maybe these companies maximises such things and I can get more.
    In my case, I worked last year 4 months, earned 8944 euros payed 996 taxes, so I guess I should be able to get back some, since I didn’t work the full year

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2017 at 10:09

      Hello Tony. These things can be taken into account with those self-help platforms yes.

    • Reply Simon 11/04/2017 at 21:49

      Hi,
      Can someone please tell me what to write in Verwendungszweck? I understand that it means something like reasons for payment or bank transfer, since I want to have my tax refund, should I just write : tax refund?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2017 at 10:08

        Hi Simon, Verwendungszweck means “intended use” or “purpose”.

  • Reply Tom 03/04/2017 at 19:00

    Thanks a lot, really helpful guide. I worked as both a Kleinunternehmer and a normal Arbeitnehmer in 2016, so I was wondering if I had to fill in both Anlage S and Anlage N.

    You already cleared this up in your answer to Michael above, so thats great too.

    Thanks again!

  • Reply Michael McJilton 02/04/2017 at 12:03

    Hi,

    I am attempting to do my taxes for the first time and have a questions concerning my employment status and what forms I should fill out. I am a full time employee at a German firm, I am also a freelance artist who makes and have several bills from work related to this profession I have a persional tax id number). Does this mean I should fill out the forms for both employee and freelancer? Any help would be great.

    M

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2017 at 15:47

      Hi Michael. Yes that’s correct, you need to fill in Anlage N & Anlage S or G, depending on your situation.

      • Reply Heidi Kärkkäinen 10/04/2017 at 14:15

        Hi! What about if you are a full-time employee but also make little money as a freelance translator BUT am not billing the company I am doing the freelance work? I have a contract with them (a Swedish company) and then I should pay the taxes from the work to the country I am in. Is the situation same, in German terms that is freelancing and I should also declare all my salaries next year with both forms, for full-time employee and freelancer, and with the same steuer-id? Thank you for this amazingly helpful site and thanks a lot in advance.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/04/2017 at 10:47

          Hi Heidi. You should declare all income sources to the Finanzamt, so if you are registered as a freelancer in Germany too, you will need to use both forms indeed. One of for your income as an employee, the other for the income as a freelancer.

  • Reply Zeo 31/03/2017 at 15:22

    Hi! I recently traveled to Germany but being in a rush when I left I couldn’t find my tax refund tickets, therefore I couldn’t get my money back. Is there a possibility to still get this refund while being in America? Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2017 at 15:50

      Hi Zeo. Yes, it is possible. You will just need to indicate your new adress. Make sure that your Finanzamt allows international transfers though. Maybe that part could be tricky.

  • Reply Paula 29/03/2017 at 12:49

    Hi,
    I used to work in Germany and got fired in December 2015. In April 2016 I have got my Termination Indemnity while still unemployed (not getting any social unemployment benefit). In January this year I left Germany and I wanted to know if I need to file for 2016 taxes, even though I was unemployed and the only income I got was the termination indemnity.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2017 at 15:25

      Hi Paula. This is a good question but since it’s a severance package, it’s an unusual situation. My opinion is that you would still need to fill in a tax return but you might want to check with a professional in doubt.

  • Reply S 28/03/2017 at 21:01

    “I started to work without a Steuer ID from the Finanzamt” Can somebody confirm this? My company assured me of the opposite…

  • Reply Sarah 22/03/2017 at 18:13

    Thanks so much for writing this! It has been so helpful

  • Reply Christine 22/03/2017 at 16:02

    Unfortunately the link you gave for the English translation is outdated – the sections do not correspond to the 2016 form! Any ideas where there might be an English translation that is up to date?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/03/2017 at 09:03

      Hi Christine. Yes the forms have evolved a little bit but you can still figure out most of the sections with this guide without too much trouble, as only a few have changed places. I don’t know where to find something as complete and for all profiles. Let me know if you find one.

  • Reply Ranjan 22/03/2017 at 14:15

    I have moved to Germany in june 2016 as an employee, i want to claim for taxe return since i got married in november 2016. please let me know whether i can claim for tax return for paying housing loan in india

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/03/2017 at 16:02

      Hi Ranjan. I would advise you to get in touch with a Steuerberater to sort out your particular situation.

  • Reply Gilberto Almeida 21/03/2017 at 10:57

    Hello!

    I moved from Brazil to Germany in June/2016. I worked in Brazil in the first half of 2016. and already declared my tax returns in Brazil already. Should I declare my brazilian income again here in Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2017 at 13:53

      Hi Gilberto. Check if there are any agreements between Brazil and Germany but in my opinion you don’t need to do that since you were already paid your taxes in Brazil and stopped working there afterwards.

      • Reply Gilberto Almeida 21/03/2017 at 15:16

        Ok, thank you for help and all the info available here! I will research this. Whenever I find something, I will put here to help other people that may find the same problem!

        Regards!

      • Reply Gilberto Almeida 21/03/2017 at 15:29

        Didn’t take long. Brazil had an agreement with Germany until 2005. So yes, brazilians must declare earnings even if already declared in Brazil. >:-((

      • Reply Laura 22/03/2017 at 13:12

        Hi,

        I worked for half of 2015 in Australia before moving to Berlin and working the second half of the year. I had to declare my Australian income for that period in my German Tax return.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/03/2017 at 16:02

          Hi Laura, thanks for that precision. Very much appreciated.

  • Reply MovingAround 19/03/2017 at 19:21

    Howdy,
    first of really great info on this page. As I am having a special situation I would like to ask a question here.
    I was sent from Austria to Germany- Berlin last year as an employee of Austrian Company and as it was meant to be just for 6 months I did not register for Steuer ID and also my paycheck was directly paid on my Austrian Bank Account.
    After 6 months I decided that I stay here (Yee Berlin rocks!). Then I got my Steuer ID and everything else to live here.
    Now I plan to do “Steuererklarung” and my question is: When submitting Tax declaration for a half year living and working in Germany do I have to include that I have actually received other incomes for the first half year (Austrian Salary)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/03/2017 at 09:47

      Hi there. In my opinion, you don’t need to do that. You paid income tax in Austria when earning your money there. You earned nothing in Germany during that period too. I don’t think that’s relevant for the Finanzamt.

  • Reply Terek Li 14/03/2017 at 17:38

    Hi, I am a Canadian student doing internship here in Germany. I believe I am getting the minimum tax (about 5 euro a month). I have worked in Germany for 4 months in 2016, do I need to do my tax refund?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/03/2017 at 09:20

      Hi Terek. As a student/employee, you don’t need to do your tax return but you can if you want to try to get some money back.

  • Reply PRISCILLA MARTINS 13/03/2017 at 15:35

    Hi, I am living in Germany since April 2016, I have only one income so I wanna try to do it alone, ifs too complicated would pay for the steuer berater. I definitely wanna choose the cheapest way to do it. My friend told me that Elster program is free only for computer with windows, as I have a mac, I would have to pay for it, something like 25 euros, do you know if its true? how much would the steuer berater charge?as average..

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/03/2017 at 09:55

      Hello Priscilla. ELSTER is free for all OSs. You can download it for Mac here. If it’s too complicated for you, you can try the self-help platforms that are much cheaper than going with a Steuerberater.

  • Reply Rahul 13/03/2017 at 10:13

    Hello,

    I moved out of Germany in the end of October 2016 and was a salaried Employee in Stuttgart till the Dec 31st 2016. Is it possible for me to file for the taxes by myself and as I am out of the country right now( I do have my german bank account still active), Would i have to send all the supporting documents by post or can i just upload it online?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/03/2017 at 12:34

      Hi Rahul. Yes it is possible to fill in from abroad, simply state your current address. All the other information is linked to your Steuernummer that you used during your employment, so it won’t be a problem. As an employee, it is really recommended to send it all electronically.

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