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  

394 Comments

  • Reply Albert Leo 09/04/2019 at 14:41

    Hello,
    I am an international student. I do 3 jobs
    Two are part time and steuerklasse 1 respectively. And the other is a minijob, but I don’t work up-to 450€ /month. Please how do I go about it? And am I safe with my tax classes of one each for the job. Reply asap

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:36

      Hey Leo. You can’t be wrong in tax classes and they are assigned to you by the Finanzamt. No need to worry.

  • Reply Chandu 04/04/2019 at 20:37

    Hi Dear Bastien,

    Good evening…

    I have a question regarding tax class: I am a non EU and currently I have a tax class 3 and my wife recently started with mini-job (which is around 415Euro/month) only 40hours per month.
    Is it neccesary to change my tax class? I heard that earning upto 450euro/month is tax free.
    Please let me know your opinion.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 22:12

      Hey Chandu. you are still the high-earner in this case, it seems, so tax 3 would be fitting in my opinion. Why would you change?

  • Reply Franco 30/03/2019 at 22:19

    Hi I m a full time employee of a German company, I took resident and got my tax Id. Have no other jobs nor income, should I submit my tax declaration or the employer already deducted what is due? I have no deductions to claim. Thx

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:35

      Hey Franco. You might want to have a look at this post. You have some deductions when you start a new job.

  • Reply Einstein 28/03/2019 at 16:11

    Hello Bastien,
    I came to Germany on mid of September last year. I and my wife registered in beugeramt on October . My wife is already working here. She is in steuerklass 1. (I am looking for a job.) When my wife contacted fiannzamt to change the steuerklass as she is now married, they informed that her steuerklass has already (October) been changed to 4. So she asked her company to change the steuerklass and now they have agreed and changed the steuerklass from 1 to 4 in her salary slip. Now my question is, since there is no difference between both steuerklass 1&4, is it possible to change her steuerklass now?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:20

      Hey Thomas. Read the post again to see when it’s possible to change it.

  • Reply RaMaNa 23/03/2019 at 00:47

    Hello Bastien,

    Your blog is really helpful. Congrats and keep going.
    I am a Non-European and I have been living in Germany since Jan 2018 and my wife (Not working) and kid joined me from Nov 2018 onward. My tax class was 1 from Jan to Oct and From Nov We changed the tax class (3 for me and 5 for my wife). Now the questions are
    1- I paid more tax being in class 1 and when filing tax return, will I be benefitted with Tax class 3 (which means refund of Net difference between class1 and class3) for months prior to November ?
    2-Any possibility to get kindergeld for 2018 during tax return or should I apply separately for getting this kindergeld ?

    .. Thanks
    Rams

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/03/2019 at 20:12

      Hey Ramana. 1-As mentioned in the post. If you changed before 30/11, you can claim that benefit yes. 2-Separately.

  • Reply Zahra J 22/03/2019 at 14:59

    Hi Bastien,

    I just finished my Masters in Germany and had been working a mini-job till now. I will be offered a full time PhD position for 4 months. My question is can I keep my minijob? And if so, will I be moved to Tax-level 6?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/03/2019 at 20:10

      Hey Zahra. I don’t know sorry.

  • Reply Ngo 21/03/2019 at 05:03

    Hi all,
    I am new with the tax classes in Germany. I recently offered a 75% position as a research assistant in a German university and will start the job from 1st April. I am living with my wife and my son. She has no current job in Germany. So I think I can enter the tax class III. I want to know if she and my son come back to Vietnam, do I need to change the tax class? Can I prove that I have to support them even though they do not live in Germany to keep the same tax class? Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2019 at 10:11

      Hey Ngo. Yes, if you’re wife and son are not German resident anymore, you will probably switch back. To achieve staying in the same class, you would ne to prove that your family lives under the poverty line without your support. It’s basically impossible because it’s very hard to the Finanzamt to check the facts.

  • Reply Ryan 20/03/2019 at 10:46

    Hi Bastien! I’d love your opinion or any advice. My partner and I are currently 4/4 for tax classes. I’m considering leaving my job to take on a role that is funded through a government scholarship (I don’t have a lot of specifics on that right now). It will be a big pay cut, but the income isn’t taxable. I’ll only be paying into insurance and pension. I’ve already changed tax classes once this year, but to me this sounds like I might not be considered an employee (i.e. an event which could qualify as a reason to change tax classes again). One question is, does this sound like a plausible event to switch classes again? And another is, do you know how taxation works when the Ehepartner with class 5 has no taxable income (of if that would even qualify for a 3/5 split)? I realize we’ll probably have to talk to an official or advisor eventually, but it would be great to find out as much as possible first. If specific incomes help with an answer, one income will be 50k brutto (taxable) and the other will be 24k brutto (non-taxable). Thank very much in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2019 at 10:01

      Hey Ryan. I have specified the events that allow a tax class change more than once in year in the post. I tried to do some research on your question but with no luck. 🙁

  • Reply Alex 18/03/2019 at 11:46

    Hi! Thank you for amazing post. Can you help me?
    I’m married and have a kid, but both of them live outside Germany.
    1) What tax class is right for me? (As I understand class I)
    2) Also if question to choose between children yes and no in my case, what should I choose?:
    Children:
     No (additional contribution under statutory nursing care insurance pursuant to art. 55 section 3, German Social Insurance Code (SGB) XI)
     Yes (Parenthood exists pursuant to art. 56 sections 1 and 3, German Social Insurance Code (SGB) I, please attach proof)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2019 at 09:31

      Hey Alex. 1) 1 is what will apply, as mentioned in the post. 2) This is a bit out of context. Hard to tell. Is this a tax related question or a health insurance one?

  • Reply Bennet 17/03/2019 at 17:31

    Hi! I guess I am very lucky to find a platform like this where I can find answers.
    So I’m a student and have been working since December in Germany. But in January, I decided to resign from the first job and started a new one in February. I was paid as a Class 1 worker for the month of January. However, my employer didn’t pay me all of my benefits for the end of January, so a few days ago (in March), I received the remaining benefits. But to my greatest surpise, I’ve been placed under the klasse 6. Which effectively means that I did 2 jobs at a particular point in time. Which isn’t the case. I resigned on January 29 at the old job and I started the new job on February 4th.
    How is this possible and how do I reverse this situation??
    I’ll great appreciate a response, especially as I am under some kind of pressure and confusion.
    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/03/2019 at 18:16

      Hey Bennet. Get in touch with your Finanzamt and explain the situation. They will possibly ask you to submit the form mentioned in this post.

  • Reply S 14/03/2019 at 17:34

    Thank you for this extremely informative post! Just a question: where did you get the info on the 60% of total household income coming from the other person being when it makes sense to choose tax classes 3&5 instead of 4&4? My spouse earns a bit over 70% of our total income, so I visited the tax office today to put us in the classes 3&5. The official there strongly advised me against 3&5 – she said yes, we would get a few hundred euros more per month, but she also said it is a likely risk in her opinion that we would have to pay some extra tax at the end of the year. Scared by this, I opted for 4&4 instead, but now at home I am a little annoyed over our tax amount increasing.. I wonder if this higher amount will be somehow balanced in our tax report? If not, kinda sucks to be paying thousands more just to avoid a possible tax due.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/03/2019 at 18:09

      Hey S. Well, it’s sort of hard to really answer that question. That would require a more detailed look into your situation, tax breaks, family, etc… Best to get in touch with a pro if in doubt. Good luck.

  • Reply Edmond 14/03/2019 at 16:32

    Hi Bastien,
    I have an issue with “Steuerklasse” and i wanted to ask about it.
    I am a student in germany and apart from studying I have been also working as a student job (80h per month) in a restaurant. Last dezember I worked for two days as “Aushilfe” in a factory and after that i never went again to work there, and the contract finished with this factory. As a student in here I have been so far Steuerklasse 1 but since January 2019 my steuerklasse changed to 6 (more than 1 job). The same has been for February as well, I am still Steuerklasse 6 eventhough I have only one job position and frankly the taxes are very high because I get taxed as if I have two jobs. For January I understand why i turned into steuerklasse 6 because I had two sources of income since dezember 2018 but i do not understand why also in February I am still taxed as if i work 2 jobs? Anything happened like this before? I was recommended to go to Finanzamt to ask about this. I wrote here because I need an opinion about this.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/03/2019 at 16:50

      Hey Edmond. It might be that they forgot to set your class back again. It’s better to get in touch with them yes.

  • Reply Tam 07/03/2019 at 15:53

    Hello Sebastien,

    Thank you so much for the informative post! I just arrived Germany with my family. We are appreciated a lot for your collection of information that indeed will help us.

    My contract is initially with tax class 1. Now as I have my wife here, I wanted to change to tax class 3. I got the form that you uploaded in the post to do so.
    I have a question please: Do I have to fill out another form/process other steps for the “Annual adjustment of wage tax”?

    Thank you again !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/03/2019 at 16:28

      Hey Tam. Nope.

  • Reply Appy 01/03/2019 at 16:51

    My spouse will not be working in Germany but will be staying with us for 2-3 months on a family reunion visa and subsequently as a dependent on EU Blue card holder(i.e.Myself). Does he still need to file taxes?

  • Reply Steve 01/03/2019 at 11:12

    Hi,

    I came to germany on May 2018 with my family (wife and daughter). I started working from 01.05.2018 to till date.
    Since my marriage certificate was not verified by the BürgerBüro, my tax class become 1. I have submitted request in Standesamt and they took 8 months to verify my marriage certificate.

    On Feb 2019, I have changed my Tax class to 3. I got married on 2016.
    Is it possible to get the tax amount which they have deducted for last year?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:15

      Hey Steve. You can only apply the tax rebate retroactively for the months prior of the current year.

    1 2 3 4 5 12

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.