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 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  

363 Comments

  • Reply Nina 15/09/2020 at 12:32

    Hello! I just got married in the beginning of this month. Both me and my partner are Brazilians and live in Berlin. He works, but I am unemployed atm. His tax class wa just changed to #3. My question is: I was told he was getting retroactive taxes from the whole year this year, but it doesn’t make sense to me, since we got married just this month – even tho we’ve been together for 7 years. Is this information actually correct?

  • Reply Talya Alperowitz 13/09/2020 at 20:24

    Hi! I can’t access the form of “I just got divorced/separated, what do i do now to change class” Could you pls send me a link to it? Thanks a lot, this article is super helpful

  • Reply Kubi 10/09/2020 at 11:04

    I am an African and just finished my university studies. I have a daughter here and have inform my employer yet I still see on my paying slip ” kinder= 0″ where can I change this please

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/09/2020 at 13:35

      Hey Kubi. This may take a while.

  • Reply Will 09/09/2020 at 16:57

    Hey, If I registered my marriage this year 2020, and we (my wife and I) were automatically changed to tax class 4 does that count as the 1 change for teh year?

    My partner does not work, so she doesnt bring in any income therefore we should be on tax class 3 and 5. If I apply this year in 2020 am I technically applying for my second change? Or does the marriage automatic not count?

    Thanks for the article 😉 super useful!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/09/2020 at 14:33

      Hey Will. You can request for a change only once if there is no new life events happening. You havent requested anything so far, so you are good.

  • Reply Jess 09/09/2020 at 12:31

    Hi! I would like to ask if im qualified to change my steuerklasse from class 1 to 3. Im from Philippines, i’ve been working here in Germany for 2 years and i was able to bring my husband here this month. Atm he doesnt have a job yet. Am i qualified to change my Class even though my husband doesnt have a job yet?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/09/2020 at 12:58

      Hey Jess. Current employment status bears no influence on the potential benefits of switching classes. Everyone can switch. Instead, consider if your current income difference is worth the switch.

  • Reply Dhaval Thummar 08/09/2020 at 12:54

    Hello,

    I’m married in India and I have permanent settlement permit in Germany. My wife is also indian national but she has residence permit in Hungary while she is student there.

    How can I change my tax class from I to III?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2020 at 14:03

      Hey Dhaval, have you read this?. If my understanding is correct, you probably can’t do that.

  • Reply Rudra 04/09/2020 at 14:36

    Hello, I’m married having 2yrs old daughter and my wife doesn’t works.
    – So which Tax class I fall under?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2020 at 13:19

      Hey Rudra. Depends, you could either be on a 4/4 or a 3/5 arrangement at the moment.

  • Reply Rabia K T 02/09/2020 at 16:02

    Hello! I would like to declare a tax class clange by sending the form here: https://www.formulare-bfinv.de/ffw/form/display.do?%24context=FF4FD7DA60A94F1AB1C4 .

    I just started to work and my husband is unemployed atm. I have no idea in which tax classes we are in now. We received our Personal Identification numbers as soon as we moved in Berlin but never worked here. My husband was a student and i was dependant to him. Now I started to work and would like to be in class 3 but when i check the form i see that i should mention my husband’s tax class. How can i know his tax class? He has never worked here in Germany. I am really confused about how to fill that form.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/09/2020 at 10:16

      Hey Rabia. You can ask your HR people about your current class. It will also be displayed on your payslips. If you have never asked for a tax class change and your marriage is recognized in Germany, then you are most likely 4/4 atm.

  • Reply Lucian 27/08/2020 at 19:27

    Someone once told me that the taxes you pay per year are actually the same for 3/5 and 4/4 and so the classes are somehow just temporary. Meaning that when you do the Steuererklarung, the total of taxes you and your spouse paid for the year before is the same, regardless of whether you are classes 3/5 or 4/4. Is that correct?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/09/2020 at 09:51

      Hey Lucian. I’m not sure what you mean by this… Maybe they meant that it impacts your net salary only?

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