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  

118 Comments

  • Reply Ashish Tyagi 21/05/2019 at 00:36

    Hello,
    I requested the tax class to be changed to 3 from 1 in February, but I am still receiving salary according to class 1. I checked with finanzamt and was told that changes were made in March. Do I need to inform the employer separately or finanzamt sends some information to the employer directly?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/05/2019 at 09:57

      Hey Ashish. The payslip should be adjusted already, but it doesn’t to ask your employer if they have received the update.

  • Reply Ozzy 16/05/2019 at 23:35

    Hi Bastian. My wife has approved family reunion Visa and she will join me. Currently, I am the 1. class and now I would like to change to 3. (and get 5. for my wife). I have a few questions regarding the filling of Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel, I hope it will be no problem for you to help me 🙂
    1.) Do I need to fill all fields on both pages? I am especially confused with questions from 32 to 42. Where can I exactly find all those numbers and should I leave empty for my wife since she didnt leave in Germany before?
    2.) Steuernummer… do I enter my existing steuernummer, or we as a couple will get new steuernummer and this field should leave empty?
    3.) 45, 46 and 47 I should leave empty, right?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 13:55

      Hey Ozzy. 1)Those fields are to fill in if you switch to IV/IV with Faktor. So not relevant for you.
      2) Your current Steuernummer.
      3) Leave emtpy. Those fields are for the Finanzamt.

  • Reply SR 16/05/2019 at 19:02

    Hi Bastien, Thank you so much for all the time & work on this blog- it is a life saver!
    We moved to Berlin in 2017 July and my husband was employed and I a freelancer- tax class 3 and 5 respectively.
    Since july 2018 he left his employment and also changed to a freelancer. At the moment I am making a more regular income then him.
    Do we need to switch the tax class for me being in 3 and him 5 since I make the higher income now? Is it ok to do now or should we have done it before Nov 2018 for it to apply when i do the taxes for last year? Please advice. Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 13:47

      Hey SR. You don’t need to do it no. Nothing of this is compulsory. And this won’t have any impact on your tax returns because this only controls the income tax rate on your payslip.

  • Reply Ravindranath 16/05/2019 at 10:57

    Hi Bastien,

    Recently I moved to Germany for my employment. I travel here with my Spouse and Kid. My Spouse will not work and going to join Volkshochschule and kid going to Kinder Creche. I will be in Tax Class 3, but will I get any benefits from my Spouse and Kid?

    Thanks You in Advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 13:43

      Hey Ravindranath. Yes.

  • Reply Julian 14/05/2019 at 22:22

    Hi,

    We are moving to Germany next month from Argentina. We live together with our spouse and we have a daughter, but we are NOT married (we have a certificate stating that we live together). She will not be working in 2019. Is marrying the only way to file our tax return jointly and be class III?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 13:34

      Hey Julian. You don’t have to be married, you can also be “registered partners”.

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