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.

 

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

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4  

35 Comments

  • Reply Wes 13/01/2019 at 13:03

    Hey Bastien,
    Do you have a quick opinon on the following one: my wife has recently started working in Germany but, despite registering of her marital status (providing necessary certificate at registration), has been put into Steuerklasse 1, apparently because I have not registered yet. We both are citizens of another EU country and I’m a freelancer, paying taxes back home but able to work pretty much from anywhere. Currently I’d like to keep it that way, as the tax rates are more favorable here than in Germany :), and intend moving back an forth, spending considerable time with my wife for sure.
    So the question is: shall I register myself in Germany for my wife to apply for Steuerklasse 3 (her job is well-paid), or the marriage registration is sufficient and she can apply for the change of tax class already?
    Many thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2019 at 22:53

      Hey Wes. That’s an excellent question. You may want to check with an expert again but i believe you both need to be resident for a tax class change. Source.

  • Reply Milla 09/01/2019 at 13:25

    Hi Bastien and thank you for your mega useful website, it saved my life so many time in this last year!
    Here the question, I have been working for 8 months now and my Steuer class was the 1 one.
    I only have one job and I am not married but I did a couple of jobs in Nov. and Dec. with a Kurzfristige Beschäftigung contract and now the boss of my main job wrote me that my Steuer class has become the 6th. How can I fix this? Is it possible it is just an error?

    Thank you if you manage to reply to this little question,

    MIlla

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/01/2019 at 13:34

      Hey Milla. That’s strange. Your main job should be class 1, class 6 being the one for additional jobs, like Mini-Jobs. It is quite possibly an error. I would try to clear this out with your employer first, and then with the Finanzamt with that doesn’t work.

  • Reply Ali 29/12/2018 at 22:06

    Hi Bastien, I appreciate your effort writing this complex article.
    My wife has recently started process to get spous visa. It will take her one year to join me here in Germany. I am supporting her financially for her education and living in my home country (non-EU).
    Is it possible if I can register my marriage and change my tax class to 3. Also can i also declare my financial support to my wife?
    Thanks in advacne!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/01/2019 at 15:52

      Hey Ali. I have no official source to back this up but in general from what i have read on forums and comments, it is apparently quite difficult (if not impossible) to prove that your wife would basically starve/die, if you were not supporting her financially. I would put your energy somewhere else for now and wait until your wife is here, when it will be easier to benefit from tax cuts.

  • Reply Patrick 28/12/2018 at 16:01

    Hi Bastien,
    Quick question regarding the Steuerklassen calculator.
    I’ll be working in Berlin from 2019 and so will my wife. Both of our gross yearly incomes will be exactly the same. It should make more sense for us to stay in 4th tax bracket but according to the calculator, Steuerklasse 3/5 would result with a pretty cool tax return (same as 5/3), whereas 4/4 would get us a 0€ refund. Why is that?
    Also, could you please explain what is Steuerklasse 4/4 mit Faktor (1)?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Patrick 11/01/2019 at 09:07

      Hello,

      I’d really appreciate your commentary on this.
      Thanks in advance.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/01/2019 at 16:15

        Hey Patrick. Hard to say on such little details. Maybe it’s best to get in touch with a tax consultant on this one?

        • Reply Patrick 14/01/2019 at 08:57

          Hi,

          Will do, thanks!

  • Reply Luca Sergi 28/12/2018 at 10:43

    Hello there, i am new here barely 4 months working in Germany and just got my lohnsteurbescheinigung für 2018 and it says im in class 4. The thing is i am the only one working in the family of two as my wife doesnt have yet a job for now. Am i in class 3/5 or 4/4 mit faktor? Bit really confuse as in Italy i dont have a problem from this. I hope you could enlighten me. thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/12/2018 at 20:47

      Hey Luca. If you think you have been placed in the wrong class, you can apply and change it, since your wife has no income. You are now in tax class 4 it seems.

  • Reply Bala 27/12/2018 at 18:35

    Hallo Greg,

    I am a EU Blue card holder.with tax class III (my family is on a dependent visa with me here in Munich for the last 2 years). If they stay out of Germany for more than 6 months, i suppose their visa gets cancelled.
    In that case, should i change my tax class to I?
    If i need to change it, when should i do it? From the month their dependent visa gets cancelled or from the month they left Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/12/2018 at 21:12

      Hey Bala. I would guess from the moment they leave Germany…

  • Reply MANOJ KUMAR MOHAPATRO 23/12/2018 at 09:56

    Hi ,

    Currently i am in Tax category 1, My wife received her family reunion visa recently, I have heard from one of my colleagues that if they will enter Germany on the same year and do the city registration the tax category will change for the whole year. Although they will enter the country on the same year i cannot do the city registration because of Christmas holidays. In this case am I applicable for the tax class change ??

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/12/2018 at 20:53

      Hey Manok. Well, if we follow that logic, i suppose the answer is no.

  • Reply Ioannis 21/12/2018 at 16:56

    Thank you very much for the article. It was very helpful. I am an employee and my husband was until the end of 2017 a freelancer. He was only an employee the full 2018.
    I made over 60% of our income in 2018.
    So we would benefit from the tax class change enormously.(3/5)

    If he has not closed tax wise his freelancing past year, can we declare joint income for 2018 and apply for the tax class change for 2018?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/12/2018 at 22:25

      Hey Ioannis. Don’t really get it: his taxes for 2017 as a freelancer should have been submitted at the end of may 2018, unless you applied for an extension via a Steuerberater until 31st of December… And both events are not really linked anyway. You can decide to do a joint declaration for 2018 and apply for a tax change too. That tax change will come into effect after submitting an application though.

      • Reply Ioannis 24/12/2018 at 07:37

        Hi Bastien. Thank you for your reply.

        His 2017 year has not been closed. He applied for an extension for his 2017 year and he can postpone it for another 6 months.

        1. Year 2018: Can I apply for a tax class change retroactively from Tax Class 1 to tax class 3(. He will apply from tax class 1 to tax class 5)) ? ( even though he has not closed his financial year 2017?)

        2.Can we make separate declarations with choosing tax class 3/5? Or do we have to make a joint one to take advantage of the tax class 3/5?

        Thank you in advance and have a great holiday season!

        Kind Regards,

        Ioannis

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/12/2018 at 21:05

          1. It seems that it would only be possible for an application before 30/11 of that year. So too late for 2018 and 2017. Source.
          2. You still have the choice to both depending on what’s best optimized. You will still see the impact on your monthly pay slip either way after the application.

  • Reply Abhishek 13/12/2018 at 07:22

    I will be moving to Berlin in 2019 and have received an offer of employment. I have a permanent contract for highly skilled employment and my compensation is 70000.
    My wife is not working and will accompany me on dependent visa. Could you please assist me on the tax class in Berlin and my net salary based on that. It will help me in taking an informed decision.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/12/2018 at 09:32

      Hey Abhishek. Congrats on the job. If you want to find out how your net salary will look like, you can use the small simulator i linked to in the end of the post.

  • Reply Amanda 06/12/2018 at 10:31

    I have recently quit my job, and will found my own company at the beginning of next year. Currently my husband and I are both class 4. Does it make sense to switch now to 3/5 as I have no income (except unemployment), and will have a very low income once I start the company in 2019?

    Also can I switch to 3/5 after I do the Gewerbe-Anmeldung? or only before I submit?
    Thanks in advance for the help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/12/2018 at 21:25

      Hey Amanda. Hard to answer without knowing how much you both earns. You can use the simulator i linked to at the end of the post to get an idea if it’s worth it or not. You can change tax class when you want, provided it makes sense.

  • Reply Bikash 29/11/2018 at 09:46

    Hi ,

    have few queries on tax class .

    1) Could you please let me know the address where I need send the “Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel bei Ehegatten”
    2)My wife is recently out of station and may need sometime to return, So in that case does scan copy of signature will do the job .

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2018 at 09:39

      Hey Bikash. you need to send the form to your Finanzamt. How you obtain the signature onto that document is completely up to you.

  • Reply Alen Cerimagic 22/11/2018 at 11:38

    Hi,
    for my first salary I did not provide my tax informations. I have just arrived and register so I did not provide tax informations to my company on the time. My question is, by default in which category I belong?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/11/2018 at 15:05

      Hey Alen. Can’t possibly say without knowing your marital status.

  • Reply Kamal 31/10/2018 at 22:02

    How to send to Finanzamt? By post or email or go directly nearest finanzamt without appointment?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/11/2018 at 11:08

      Hey Kamal. Best per post or you can also drop the documents off there directly.

  • Reply Venkat 13/10/2018 at 21:20

    Hi There,

    I am living in US but an Indian citizen, I got an offer from German employer based at Berlin and my gross is 70.000 Euros per annum. Could you please let me know what is the tax slab for me, finding this info is very hard, searching of living expenses and understanding net salary.

    Also I want to understand couple of more things,
    1) what is the best visa – Work Visa or Blue card?
    2) After availing the Visa if I decide to postpone my plan to join my employer/ employer withdraws the offer, Can I still use this visa with any other employer?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/10/2018 at 11:16

      Hey Venkat. I have written a post about income tax this way, salary in Berlin this way. 1) Can’t reply. Depends on your plans and your profile. 2) No. employment visa is tied to one employer/one job offer.

  • Reply Greg Beazley 24/09/2018 at 16:07

    This has been by far the most helpful article I managed to find online about this topic. Also the links to the calculator were really helpful too. Thank you!

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