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  

280 Comments

  • Reply sudhir 01/04/2020 at 11:06

    HI,
    I moved to Germany last month and my wife is still in India. She will be joining me later this year.
    So do I need to get my tax category changed now and also can I change it again when my family is in Germany.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:54

      Hey Sudhir. No.

  • Reply Ana 30/03/2020 at 18:28

    Hi! Really great website and useful information. Thank you for this.
    I recently started to work in Germany (March 1st). It’s me having a job in Germany and my husband who is living with me but not working currently (housekeeper).
    When I received my first pay slip I ve noticed I was put on class 1 even if I specified to our HR that I am married, and my husband is unemployed. My net salary was considerable diminished due to this. Maybe you can advise me with whom I should take this up, my HR or Finanzamt? I consider to be HR mistake, but maybe I am wrong.

    Thank you in advance.

  • Reply Manish Kumar 30/03/2020 at 09:51

    I get registered at local KVR office with my wife and 2 year old kid. My wife is not working here. As I see my salary slip it is mentioned TAX CLASS 4, but it should be 3 due to which more tax has been deducted. Is there any way to change it to class 3. Please suggest. Thanks.

  • Reply amit kumar 26/03/2020 at 11:11

    Can I send the document via DHL to finanzamt? Do they accept courier? What all the documents they need apart from the filled in form? Somewhere I saw that I need to go personally to Finanzamt for changing the tax class. Is it ok if I send in the form via courier?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 21:01

      Hey Amit. You can send it in via Post.

  • Reply Efie 20/03/2020 at 12:59

    Hello,
    I am starting a job in Germany, Munich, this month. My husband and daughter still reside outside, but in an EU country, until the year ends.
    My husband is employed there. I was told that as long as my husband works in another European Union country and is taxed there, I can still claim the Tax III level in my Anmeldung. Is this valid? I receive varied information. They will ultimately move here before November next year.

  • Reply Esteban Bemol 18/03/2020 at 15:27

    Fantastic post, thank you very much!
    I have a quick question:
    Is a registered civil partnership equivalent to being married, in order to get 3/5?
    In a nutshell: I’m moving to Germany, but we are not married. Can we register our civil union in Germany and get 3/5?
    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/03/2020 at 21:52

      Hey Esteban. “Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft” are treated like marriages.

  • Reply Carrie Kent 05/03/2020 at 09:13

    Hi SiB. We live in Germany. My husband (who earns significantly more than me) works for a UK employer and under the Double Taxation treaty with the UK is not liable for tax on his income in Germany. At the moment I am in the same position. We have filed tax returns to date explaining this and had no problems. So far we have not had to declare a tax class because we haven’t been paying tax on our income here. I am getting a locally paid job in the near future (still being paid less than him). What class do I declare and how do I then file a tax return against that? I’m trying to think it through and it almost seems like I should declare myself as single, but that can’t be correct. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/03/2020 at 21:15

      Hey Carrie. That’s a great question and i think a wee bit too much out for the humble man i am. You’d better be asking a Steuerberater. I think you should still be under 3/5, since you are married and a German resident.

  • Reply Hattori 04/03/2020 at 13:09

    Hi, I am working in Germany from 11.2019 and I was in Tax Category III(I registered this category when I did “Anmeldung”), in February 2020 I got reduced salary and when I checked my Tax Category was changed from III to I. me and my spouse aren’t EU citizens and she isn’t living here in Germany. how can I change category back to III? is it possible?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2020 at 23:31

      Hey Hattori. Have you read this?

      • Reply Hattori 12/03/2020 at 11:42

        Thanks, So as I understood to solve the issue, I have to bring my wife here in Germany and register as resident. In this case is possible to change TAX Category.
        am I correct?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/03/2020 at 21:39

          Hey Hattori. Yes, that’s the idea.

  • Reply Gomez 01/03/2020 at 08:43

    Hi Bastien, thanks for the post, it is really helpful. I have arrived in Germany in the beginning of February 2020, I’m married and my wife is not working. We both did the town hall registration and I sent the class change form to our Finazamt trough the post about a week ago. I have received my first payslip and I understand that I still have class 4, but once it changes, when can I ask for a tax refund ? Only next year? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2020 at 23:23

      Hey Gomez. Yes.

  • Reply Sumon 28/02/2020 at 11:11

    Hi! I am working in Germany and hold Blue Card. Recently I got Permanent Residence Card. I was married on 7.01.2019 and my wife will come to Germany on 02.02.2020. Can I Change my tax class from 1 to 3 and Is it possible to return tax for the marriage?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2020 at 23:21

      HEy Sumon. Once your wife becomes a German resident, you will be able to apply for a tax class change yes. I don’t understsand the second question.

    • Reply Arhan Yaqub 13/03/2020 at 11:49

      for 2020, you will get the tax return according to tax class 3. For 2019, unfortunately you have to pay tax according to tax class 1.

  • Reply Bob 27/02/2020 at 10:27

    Hi! I am married but we are not living together due to the nature of our jobs. We both are non-EU citizens. I live in Frankfurt, Germany with my kid who is 5 years old and my husband lives, works in SG. My husband is regsitered here and having a depedant pass to visit us often. .Our tax class is 4 from Jan 2019? is this the right tax class or should I change it to Tax 1?

  • Reply Giacomo TassanDin 24/02/2020 at 18:56

    Hi, thank you for the very helpful information. I’ve just arrived to Frankfurt in January, and I noted that the tax class applied was 3/3 while my wife is not working. The marriage was submitted in the town hall while we both registered ourselves. I would like to use the ‘Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel bei Ehegatten’ in the link but noticed that in part C, it says ‘201x’ (like if were only applicable for up to 2019), so not sure if there would be an 2020 form ?

    Thank you very much for the help and support on this.

    Best,
    Giacomo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2020 at 21:23

      Hey Giacomo. I don’t see it like you? I can enter 2020 in the online version.

    • Reply Raph 17/03/2020 at 07:17

      Hello, i live in essen, i have 2 kids (11 years and 10 years ) with my partner and we are all living together in the same house, although i am not married to my partner. We are living together with my partners first child who is thirteen years. My partner works part time e.g( 450 a month ) an i work full time. Which tax class do i belong, at the moment i have tax class 1.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/03/2020 at 21:48

        Hey Raph. Only married partners and “Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaften” can be using the 3/5 tax classes.

  • Reply omid banaeian 24/02/2020 at 11:25

    hi,
    My wife is not in Germany now and I am a part time worker so if I get a minijob, which tax class will be applied to me ? thanks

  • Reply Manzoor 23/02/2020 at 19:55

    Hello, I just moved to Germany and got my second salary. But I was surprised to see in my pay slip that the tax class mentioned there is 6. Any Idea whose fault is it? I am just employed at one place and do not posses additional employment.

    I am single person leaving in Germany and my spouse and kid is in my home country.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2020 at 21:38

      Hey Manzoor. It’s maybe best to ask your HR department directly. It’s probably a mistake and if it is, you can get back the difference doing a tax return.

  • Reply Dharmica 18/02/2020 at 20:12

    Hi, my husband is employed in Germany since 2019 and I was unemployed. He filled out the Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel bei Ehegatten, chose the 3/5 combination and we both signed it and send that to the Finanzamt. This year I got a job and we are wondering do I have to go the Finanzamt with the same form or will I automatically be Klasse 5, since my husband is Klasse 3 and I don’t need to go to the Finanzamt ? We are still choosing the 3/5 Klasse.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2020 at 17:50

      Hey Dharmica. You don’t need to submit a new form to stay in the 3/5 configuration no.

  • Reply Janar 09/02/2020 at 21:22

    Hi! I got married in January 2020 and I want to change our tax class number, my wife did the tax declaration last year and I did not which means I don’t have a Steuernummer to fill in the point 1 in the tax class change document. What would be the best way to continue, do the tax declaration this year (last year except January and December I was on unemployment benefits) and get also a Steuernummer or let my wife fill the application.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2020 at 09:40

      Hey Janar. Why don’t you have a Steuernummer? Did you register in Germany yet? If you have ALG1, then you probably have one already.

  • Reply Ela 30/01/2020 at 14:02

    Hi! My husband just did the Anmeldung in the municipality of Munich. We are married for two years now however I was treated with tax 1 until yesturday. Now I am doing the Steuererklärung, is it possible that I get refunding for the fact of being married even before, let’s say during 2019 which was my first year earning incomes in Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/02/2020 at 21:18

      Hey Ela. As pointed in the post, it’s too late for 2019.

  • Reply Dung Huynh 29/01/2020 at 12:16

    Hi, thanks for your article. Could I ask if we can change the tax class for a period of time in the past only? Since I arrived to Germany to work from 8/2019 with my wife (my didn’t have job yet at that time), so our tax class should be 3/5. But I didn’t know much information about it that time -> my tax class for that period is 4. Could I changed it back to 3 at the moment (1/2020)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/01/2020 at 15:26

      Hey Dung. No it’s too late.

      • Reply Dung Huynh 29/01/2020 at 17:08

        Damn 🙁 my all payslips from 8/2019 were on tax class 4, does it mean I need to refund tax by the gap between class 3 & 4?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/02/2020 at 14:52

          Hey Dung. If anything,there would not be anything to refund at all. Class 4 is less advantageous. It’s probably good.

  • 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.

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