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 7 categories overall.

Tax classMarital status
Steuerklasse 0You are not a German resident.
Steuerklasse 1You are single, widow(er), separated/divorced
Steuerklasse 2You are a single parent
Steuerklasse 3You are married with a higher income (than your partner in Steuerklasse 5)
Steuerklasse 4You are married with both equivalent income
Steuerklasse 5You are married with a lower income (than your partner in Steuerklasse 3)
Steuerklasse 6The 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 tax class?

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. However, an exception to this rule is possible if you and your partner fulfill the following requirements (source):

  • You have EU or Swiss citizenship.
  • Your partner has residence in another EU country (+ Switzerland).
  • At least 90% of the total income is subject to German income tax. The same applies if the income not subject to German income tax does not exceed 18 336€ in a calendar year.

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

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4  

421 Comments

  • Reply ASJG 28/11/2020 at 22:31

    Hi Bastien,

    I am working in Munich on a EU Blue Card and my wife (who also lives in Munich) holds a Language Visa. She hasn’t received her Family Reunion Visa yet. Would it be possible for me to change my tax class to class 3?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2020 at 10:39

      Hey there. If she is considered a German resident, yes.

  • Reply Roby 27/11/2020 at 20:09

    I am in the process of seperation. At the moment i have stuerklasse iii and my partner v. With the current salary I could estimate the net amount I would be paying to my family. But, how to I estimate after divorce what would be my payments and what I would have for my self. Can someone show some pointers?

    Thanks in advanc

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2020 at 10:35

      Hey Rob. Use the Netto-Brutto calculator, and by using your Gross salary and the right tax class. You can make a quick simulation.

  • Reply Roger 25/11/2020 at 09:47

    Hello Bastien.
    I arrived this month to work for a german company. I am single so I understood that I would have class 1. However, my company is telling me to change my residence from spain to germany to have class 1, if not, they say that they must put me in class 6…. I only have one salary and a contract until the end of this year and I am not in a fixed house. I don’t really understand why they would need to put me in class 6. Could you please clarify?
    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2020 at 11:22

      Hey Roger. This is correct: you can only be in class 1 as German resident. However, class 6 is indeed confusing since it’S for people with several jobs in Germany… It should be 0 instead. (Source to send to your HR department)

      • Reply Roger 26/11/2020 at 09:03

        Hi, indeed, I also saw the class 0 in some links…. this tax thing is very conplicate.
        Other links that I read were saying that for newcomers the company should put class 6 until the employee is not ‘in the german system’ but that it is not necessary if the employee stays less than 3 months… in my case I dont know what would be the way to follow

  • Reply LM 23/11/2020 at 13:44

    Hi, Great article.
    My wife works for a Berlin based Germany company earining around €100,000(gross) per year and pays taxed based on being single – we got married in the last year. Since then I have also moved to Berlin and am registered here (we are both British) and I continue to work for a UK company. I earn circa £70,000 and pay tax on that in the UK.
    Can she change to a married tax code (3) and benefit?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/11/2020 at 10:06

      Hey LM. If you are both German residents now, you can switch classes yes. It doesn’t matter where you income comes from.

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