How to change tax class in Germany

Ah taxes… Don’t we just all love it?

Probably one of the most boring topics to deal with but also one of the most essential ones, especially in Germany. There are many factors impacting on your income tax rate; few of them are more important than your tax class.

In this post, we will go over what it all means and if you think it’s relevant to your situation, how to change your tax class in Germany.

How to change tax class in Germany

Tax classes in Germany: TL;DR

In nutshell; your tax class in Germany is more or less defined by your marital status. Depending on this, you will be put in different categories by the Finanzamt. This will help your employer apply the correct tax rate on your payslip, hence the name “Lohnsteuerklasse”. This impacts how much wage tax (“Lohnsteuerabzug”), solidarity contribution (“Solidaritätszuschlag”) and Church tax (“Kirchensteuer”) will be taken from your gross salary.

In other words, your net salary is directly related to your tax class in Germany.

As you might have already guessed it; this is only relevant to employees. Self-employed are paying income tax through other means.

Quick overview

There are 6 categories overall.

Tax classMarital status
Steuerklasse 1 You are single, widow(er), separated/divorced
Steuerklasse 2 You are a single parent
Steuerklasse 3 You are married with a higher income (than your partner in Steuerklasse 5)
Steuerklasse 4 You are married with both equivalent income
Steuerklasse 5 You are married with a lower income (than your partner in Steuerklasse 3)
Steuerklasse 6 The class used for additional jobs (Nebenjob or Zweitjob)

Attention married people: you can save money

As you can see, married people can belong to different classes and optimize differently. By default, the Finanzamt will put both partners in tax class 4, when you first register your marriage or marry in Germany. However, for a lot of households, this is often not the best solution. Why, you ask?

It’s quite simple really: the German tax system knows that the higher-earner is often bearing more of the costs in the household. The idea here is to allow for a tax rebate when one of the partners earns significantly less than the other. As a result, moving from tax class 4 to tax class 3/5 might increase the net salary for the higher earner.

When is it worth to change classes in that case?

The higher-earner in the household has to earn a good deal more for this to make sense. They should earn at least 60% of the total household income.

How to change tax classes in Germany

The process to change tax class in Germany is fairly simple:

  1. Get a hold of the form “Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel bei Ehegatten” (Request for tax class change for married people). You can fill it online on the official finance ministry website this way When you have filled both pages in, you can download it as a PDF. Alternatively, you can download an empty PDF file here.
  2. Print-it and sign it (both partners)
  3. Send it to your Finanzamt

Important notes

  • The tax class change will happen on the month following the request submission. So that’s when you can see a difference in your net salary.
  • As mentioned at the end of the second page in the document; if both partners are employees and you have been through a tax class change in Germany, it is mandatory to submit a tax statement (Steuererklärung; more info this way) after the end of the year (e.g: do one in 2019 for the year 2018, if you changed in 2018)
You or your Steuerberater will appreciate the change !

FAQ

How many times can i change tax classes in Germany ?

In most cases, this is only possible once a year. However, it is possible to do this more often in the following cases:

  • When your partner is not an employee anymore (becoming a freelancer, retirement, parental leave, unemployment).
  • When your partner is an employee again
  • When one of the partners passes away
  • In case of divorce or separation

What events can be cause of a tax class change?

Very logically, life events that were just previously listed can be cause for change of tax class in Germany; marriage, divorce, death of partner, unemployment, retirement, parental leave, becoming a freelancer.

Can the tax benefit apply retroactively if i change tax classes?

Provided you make the application before 30/11 of that year, you can benefit from that tax cut for the months prior too.

Is worth it for me and my partner to make a change?

You can use this very easy to use simulator. Enter both your gross salaries in it, together with your postal code. You will be able to see if it’s worth to make a tax class change in Germany, and who should be on tax class 3.

I just got divorced/separated, what do i do now to change class?

You would use this form to signify the Finanzamt that you are now separated from your partner. The adjustment will be then made automatically after they process this document.

My partner is living abroad, can i still change class?

In the case you are married or in a civil partnership and you partner still lives outside of Germany, you cannot change tax class. You’d be then treated as a single person.

For a tax class change to be possible, both partners need to be “unbeschränkt einkommensteuerpflichtig”, which means to be subject to an unrestricted income taxation. In practical terms, this is made possible only when the partner is also a German resident.

Hope this little guide helped. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if anything is unclear.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4  

238 Comments

  • Reply Roxana 21/01/2020 at 18:28

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you for your post! I have a question in regard to the filling of the form as I am receiving unemployment benefits from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit. Together with my husband, we want to change our tax class to 3/5 as we got married recently.
    My question is what should I fill in the section 32 of the form, where I have to state my income (Voraussichtlicher Jahresbruttoarbeitslohn aus dem ersten Dienstverhältnis?) Should I add the current amount I receive every month from the unemployment agency or to add in zero here?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/01/2020 at 17:30

      Hey Roxana. It clearly says “Jahresbruttoarbeitslohn”, which refers to salary, and not benefits. So maybe you put 0 or maybe, since it’s an estimate of your future income (“Voraussichtlicher”).

  • Reply Isabel 20/01/2020 at 19:45

    What a great website you have here! Thank you for this.
    I have a question, maybe you can help.
    I am married in this 3/5 classes. We are separating but still not divorced. Can we change the tax class if we still live together? Can we change to class 1 or 4?
    The point here is, the one in class 5 could easier get an apartment with a higher netto income…

    Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2020 at 10:00

      Hey Isabel. You need to be officially divorced first.

  • Reply David Kiziria 16/01/2020 at 14:28

    Hi,

    I got married on 26th December outside of Germany. I am going to register our marriage at the end of January. I am interested will I be able to get tax refund for 2019 as a person in tax class III (Married), because technically we got married in 2019.

    Best,
    David

  • Reply Nghia 10/01/2020 at 11:05

    Hi! I am married but we are not living together due to the nature of our jobs. We both are non-EU citizens and living in Germany. My husband earns more than 60% of the total household income. In that case, could we move from tax class 4 to tax class 3/5? Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 10:04

      Hey Nghia. I don’t think it’s necessary to have the same address to be on 3/5.

  • Reply Rusty 07/01/2020 at 13:34

    Hi, I was registered in marriage outside Germany in September 2019 and my partner is on Blue card dependent with me since then. Could I apply for tax rebate for the months in 2019 (sept, oct, nov, dec)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/01/2020 at 17:05

      Hey Rusty. No you are too late, you have applied for a tax change until the end of Nov 2019.

  • Reply Arup Biswas 02/01/2020 at 09:44

    Hi! I am working as a working student in a company. In the month of November, I took a mini-job and due to that my working student job tax class has been switched to class 6. Now, I have decided not to continue my mini-job. Will it automatically change my working student job tax class back to 1? Or, do I need to do anything else?

  • Reply Marina Detsch 04/12/2019 at 23:01

    Hi! I am a widow it’s been almost 2 years now and they haven’t put me back to class 1 (still on 3, which is for widowers less than a year). If I don’t say anything, is there a chance they’ll ask me back for the extra money I’m getting?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/12/2019 at 00:32

      Hey Marina. This is specific case. It’s best to ask a Steuerberater directly.

    1 2 3

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Data protection
    , Owner: (Registered business address: Germany), processes personal data only to the extent strictly necessary for the operation of this website. All details in the privacy policy.
    Data protection
    , Owner: (Registered business address: Germany), processes personal data only to the extent strictly necessary for the operation of this website. All details in the privacy policy.