Tax return in Germany for foreigners made easy – Steuererklärung

Interactions with the finance authorities is almost always something we want to avoid. However, doing your tax return in Germany can not only be super easy, but also prove to be quite profitable. That’s right: you could probably expect to get a few hundred to a few thousand euros!

That was “how much”, but if the “how” is the part that worries you the most, let me assure you that Germany has come a long way the past few years. If paper forms are still around, tax payers have now a wide array of options to process their cases. Expats have been blessed with many others to do their tax return in Germany in English too.

So dive in with me into this broad introduction

Even if it’s not your first year here, the average tax return in Germany is close to 1000€ nation-wide. Now that’s motivation! 🙂

Tax return in Germany

The road to your tax refund in Germany :

Before your panic when thinking “I haven’t done my tax return this year!”,  let me assure you that there is good chance you won’t have any problems with your Finanzamt if you forgot to file a tax return. You might not obligated.

If your salary is your only income and you are single, then it will be a piece of cake to get your tax refund. You have already paid your taxes, now your job is to obtain as much refund as you can! For freelancers, it’s of course another story as it is compulsory.

Should i be doing one?

It is compulsory for self-employed people. For employees, it is only compulsory if they are in one of the following situations:

Income sources

  • Additional income (not from salary) higher than 410€ in total.
  • Salary replacement income (like unemployment benefits) higher than 410€ in total.
  • More than one employer in the year.
  • More than 2 salaries (like a full-time job and a minijob).

Family situation

However, even if you don’t have to do it, you may as well, as there are chances you get money back too.

So how can I do my tax return in Germany?

Doing it on your own

You can skip to this part if you need help.

If you feel confident enough to do it on your own, you first have to make sure you get all the right forms. It is recommended to download the forms directly from the official website this way. Click on the right hand side on “Einkommensteuer mit allen Anlagen”, a list with all the forms will appear.

You can also do everything electronically. On this website,  it is also possible to download the official tool called ELSTER (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) onto your computer. This tool enables you to proceed to your tax return in Germany in digital form, saving both you and your Finanzamt a lot of time. You need to sign-up for an account and you receive your password by post, which might take a week or two.

The ministry for finance has even set 2022 as the date after which no paper forms can be submitted in the future. Only digital forms then.

Here are the most commons forms for tax return in Germany

If you are an employee , you need the following forms (e.g for 2019) :

  • ESt 1 V 2019 (The main form that details general info like your adress, iD nummer,etc)
  • Anlage N 2019 (The form to detail your income as an employee)
  • Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand 2019 (The form to detail your insurances)

If you are self-employed, you need the following forms (e.g for 2019) :

  • Est 1A 2019
  • Anlage S 2019 (Freelancers only)
  • Anlage G 2019 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage USt 2019 (if you pay V.A.T)
  • Anlage GeSt 1A 2019 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage EÜR (If turnover is more than 17 500€ a year)

Other common forms include:

  • Anlage Sonderausgaben: to document special expenses you want to put off in taxes. This would include pension contributions, education costs, donations and a lot more.
  • Anlage Außergewöhnliche Belastung: to document “extraordinary” expenses in case of traumatic events, health issues or handicap.
  • Anlage Haushaltsnahe Aufwendungen: to document home related services expenses such as your cleaning professional or renovations.
  • Anlage Kind: to document expenses related to your children.
  • Anlage Unterhalt: to document financial support provided to other members of your household (eg: spouse, relatives with no income).
  • Anlage V: to document rental income.
  • Anlage AUS: to document income from outside Germany (except salary)
  • Anlage N-AUS: to document salary income from outside Germany.
  • Anlage AV: to document a Riester-supported pension scheme.
  • Anlage VL: if you received or want to receive vermögenswirksame Leistungen.
  • Anlage SO: in case you sold property that is not your primary residence, less than 10 years after purchase or pay alimony.
  • Anlage KAP: to document income from financial assets.
  • Anlage R: in case you are a retiree and want to submit a tax return in Germany.
  • Anlage L: to document income from farming or forestry.
  • Anlage U: to document alimony paid to ex-partners or spouses.

Honestly from there, i will gladly direct you to one of the best guides made in English around by our good friends of ToyTown Germany. It is very neat, clear and complete to do your tax return in Germany in English properly. I don’t see how i could give better information on how to fill in all those forms.

A figurative representation of how hard it seems sometimes 🙂

I don’t feel confident filling in my tax declaration in Germany alone, how can i get help?

If you are not so good with numbers or a bit scared of doing mistakes because of the German language, there are other ways to do your tax return in Germany.

Good value for the money: self-help online platforms

If this is too much to do, there are also online tools that make it super easy to get your tax declaration in Germany right for a maximum return. New platforms have appeared the past few years to help expats do their taxes 100% in English. They offer the following:

  • You can do your tax return in Germany in English.
  • Your hand is really guided step-by-step with the tool in a clean interface.
  • Check in real time how high your return will be.
  • Save progress at any time when you register for a free account, only pay when you submit.
  • Submit everything to the Finanzamt online directly.
  • Call a English-speaking hotline if you have questions.

In that space, i would recommend 2 providers:

TaxFix (35€ per submission): Pick this if your situation is relatively simple: employee or student, no income from abroad, no income from rental, etc. The interface is particularly clean and aimed at high processing speed but they don’t support all profiles yet.

SteuerGo (30€ per submission): Pick this if your situation is a little more complex: self-employed, married with kids, income abroad, pensions, income from property etc. For self-employed people, it also lets you do additional forms like (Einnahmenüberschussrechnung (EÜR), Umsatz- und Gewerbesteuererklärung). Interface is a little noisier but it supports almost all profiles.

SteuerGo & TaxFix do not support one case: if you have had a foreign employer that year. In this case, you can turn to platforms like SmartSteuer which also supports that (No English though).

Worth it if you have a more complex situation: a Steuerberater

You can also turn to professional tax advisers in Germany for this. A Steuerberater is a trained agent capable of preparing, processing and submitting your tax declaration in Germany. They are accountants usually experienced into finding particular rules that is relevant to your tax profile to optimize your return. Even if their fees are controlled by certain laws, you usually have to pay a few hundred euros for their services. This is why it’s only relevant if your situation is a bit more complex like earning relatively well, being married, having kids, owning a house and having different sources of income. It’s also quite normal for freelancers and self-employed persons to have one.

If you don’t know where to start your search for a Steuerberater, you can turn to platforms like Ageras. They search and find one for you based on your profile and needs. The service is free and the offers you receive non-binding.

Well said cat-friend, (deadline is 31st of July though) Source:

I am ready to submit my tax return, what now?

If you have decided to go with paper, send all forms together to your Finanzamt, without forgetting to sign them. If you have signed-up with Elster already, it’s all a matter of a click. With self-help platforms, you will need to pay a fee in order to submit it to the Finanzamt.

After this is done, you will probably wait for 1 or 2 months before you get any answer, and hopefully, a little ka-ching will appear on your bank account. You can afford this awesome ebike you spotted, or else, paying for your next trip back home.

Alternatively, the Finanzamt might ask you to provide proof for certain things you stated in the forms, or provide additional documents. In this case, expect even more processing times. Make sure to submit a response in time! Here again, if you need more time to gather those documents, you can simply ask for a little more time.


What is the tax return deadline in Germany?

In theory, the deadline is to the 31st of July of the following year (for people that obligated by law to submit one). However, you can ask for an extension if you are short on time. Using a Steuerberater allows you to have even more time, as they have until February of the year after to do it (eg: a submission in Feb 2020 for the year 2018). Be aware that there is a penalty of 25€ per late month.

Important note: employees whose sole income are their salaries are not required by law to submit a tax return. This means that the deadline moves to 4 years in the future. For example, you can do your tax return in Germany for the year 2018 until the last day of 2022. Even more importantly:

As an employee, you can claim a tax return for up to 4 years prior the current year. Pretty handy if you forgot to do it those years to maximize return.

I am running out of time, can i extend the deadline?

If you feel like you are running out of time, you can let your Finanzamt know before the 31st of July you need more time. They usually give you an extra 2 or 3 months to do your tax return in Germany. If you are working with a Steuerberater directly, they can even do until the year after!

Which tax deductions can i make use of?

If, like me, you love to play the optimization game, you are surely interested to know which expenses can be put off in taxes. I have made an overview of possible tax deductibles for Germany on this post, for employees, freelancers and students.

Self-help platforms usually support most of them and help you make use of them.

When will i get my money after submitting all the forms?

It takes between 8-12 weeks for the Finanzamt to process your files and obtain your tax refund in Germany on your account. It’s usually quicker when sending everything out electronically. A poll made by a tax payer’s association uncovered the following waiting times to hear from the Finanzamt:

  • 18 % have to wait about 6 weeks
  • 32 % 6 to 12 weeks
  • 32 % up to half a year
  • 18 % longer than half a year

What should i do if i am unhappy about the results, or if some things were misinterpreted?

If you think the Finanzamt made a mistake to process your case, it is possible to protest and open a case (Einspruch) to explain your situation, within one month after receiving the Steuerbescheid.

I started to work without a Steuer ID from the Finanzamt… (maximum tax rate)

When this happens, your wage is being taxed at the maximum rate possible. It is possible to get the difference between that rate and the normal rate back when doing your tax return the following year.

I don’t have a Steuernummer yet, what do i put in the field for that in the forms?

If it’s your first year in Germany, it’s very well possible that you don’t have a Steuernummer yet (although you should have a Steuer ID already. Yes, they are not the same confusingly enough. More on that here.) In this case, just leave this field empty, and the Finanzamt will assign you a Steuernummer after your tax declaration.

Do i need to provide proof for anything i put off in taxes when doing my tax declaration in Germany?

It used to be the case that the Finanzamt would request the tax payer to prove any and all expense stated in the tax declaration. As you can imagine, that was just lot of paper to process. These days, the Finanzamt will request proof on a case by case basis only, in case they have a doubt or if the amount is rather large.

Beware however that you should still be able to prove those expenses even after the tax return has been processed. It is recommended to keep all relevant receipts for 10 years, especially for freelancers.

I have received income from abroad the past year; how should i go about this to avoid double-taxation?

The Finanzamt requires of all German residents to declare any and all income sources, even if they are coming from abroad and have nothing to do with your life here. If that income was already taxed from that country, you might avoid double-taxation if it has agreed to a tax treaty with Germany. If so, you can do that by filling the Anlage AUS – Ausländische Einkünfte for your declaration. More info about that here.

I have left the country already, can I try to do a tax return and will the Finanzamt transfer the money to my foreign bank account?

Absolutely, you can do a tax return in Germany for the year you left the country. The Finanzamt will transfer you the money in your foreign account if you give them all the necessary information, and a specific request to do so. You will very likely support the costs of the transfer on your own.

I hope this overview helped you to get started on the topic. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. All comments are read. Answers in the comments do no constitute professional advice and should not be treated as such. When comments can’t be answered, i usually recommend other solutions or resources. 🙂

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


  • Reply Maarten 13/10/2020 at 13:37

    Dear Bastien-settle in Berlin-. Great website. Vielen dank.
    Question: I left Germany in 2018. I received a letter from Munich Finanzambt that I have to do my 2019 tax declaration, official letter! How can I explain them I had no income gained in Germany in 2019 nor did I officially live there. I officially left Munich in August 2018.
    Many thanks for any guidance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/10/2020 at 15:20

      Hey Maarten, did you officially unregister when your left the country?

      • Reply Maarten Smeets 15/10/2020 at 19:57

        Servus Bastien, thanks for your prompt reply. I did officially sign out at the burgerambt. Not knowing I have to sign out from Finanzambt….
        How to proceed?

        Vielen dank

  • Reply Anu 10/10/2020 at 11:54

    Hallo There,

    Thank you for clarifying income tax returns filing and the importance of doing the same.
    I have filed for income tax returns for the year 2018 and recieved in returns only the extra tax amount deducted by Finanzamt.
    However, expenses related commuting to office, relocation to Germany,bank account maintainance and internet bills weren’t cosnidered for the refunds calculations. I wasn’t satisfied with the tax refund and sent a letter to Finanzamt to reconsider the missed expenses for the tax refunds.

    In reply to my letter, Finanzamt has sent an Einspruch letter. Could you please help me with the procedure of replying to Einspruch?
    That is, I would like to know, if I need to point to any specific rules of the refunds calculations from German income tax returns? if so, could you please point me to relocation and the

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/10/2020 at 10:30

      Hey Anu. All of this goes beyond my expertise and should be left to a Steueberater.

  • Reply M L 26/09/2020 at 18:25

    Firstly, I’m not a german national. I worked in Germany from July 2018 to March 2019 (afterwards I deregistered from Germany). I just received an “Erinnerung” from the german Tax Authorities to complete taxes in ELSTER – which to me seems quite scary and everything in the webpage is in German. I worked in Germany during my studies and received grants from the government in my home country (where I paid tax) until graduation in July 2019 as well as dividends. Further, I started working full time in July 2019.
    Do you have any good advice for me? Do I really need to declare? I’m afraid that I will need to pay taxes even after I deregistered due to my income after starting full-time which will inflate the “foreign” income for the full year.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/09/2020 at 09:19

      Hey Marie. Since you had more than one income source during your time in Germany, it seems likely that you had to do it in my opinion. If you were not a German resident anymore before you started your new job outside of Germany, you were not liable for taxation in Germany anymore. In doubt, i’d get in touch with a Steuerberater so they can give you a detailed informed consultation.

      • Reply Maarten 14/10/2020 at 19:47

        Servus dear Marie and Bastien,

        I am in a similar situation. I left Germany august 2018. Now I receive an “Erinnerung ” to do my tax for of 2019. Note, after August 2018 I did not work nor reside in Germany.

        How come I am reminded to fill in the tax, how to let them know I am not obligated to pay tax in Germany as I did not work nor live there.

        Should I ignore the erinnerung ?

        Vielen dank

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/10/2020 at 09:56

          Hey Maarten. As replied to you in another comment; Did you unregister with the authorities when leaving the country?

  • Reply G S 07/09/2020 at 20:12

    Hi! My partner’s company asks some document from me that shows how much money I made in 2019.
    Salary slip is not enough as it doesn’t show other source of income. Do you know what document can I get from tax office for this?
    I have not done any tax return in Germany yet. Thank you for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2020 at 14:00

      Hey there. Yeah typically, a way to show that is to give a copy of your Steuerbescheid for the year prior. But for this, you need to do a tax declaration first. If you need this fast and your situation is rather simple, you could use one of the self-help platforms listed above. When submitting, you get a copy of what you sent to the Finanzamt, but there is no official stamp on it…

  • Reply MR Bumble 07/09/2020 at 09:37

    Hi I started working in in Germany in 2018. I never made any tax return. I had my main job and a side job on a mini-job (450 EUR) basis. Can I still make tax return calculation? Will I pay any penalties because of 2 sources of income ?? any advice of how to proceed?

    By the way – very helpful info. Thank a lot

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2020 at 13:37

      Hey there. You still can and should do a tax declaration for both 2018 and 2019. You will most likely pay a late fee and a fine for doing it too late. There is probably no way to avoid that but you could also ask a tax advisor if there are ways to avoid penalties.

      • Reply Mr Bumble 19/09/2020 at 22:39

        Sorry for responding so late I am very thankful for this answer. It is almost sorted. take care….

  • Reply Laraib Khan 03/09/2020 at 22:33

    Hi there,

    The article was quite helpful.

    I applied for the tax return and received the letter from the Finanzamt a couple of days ago. It says that I will get no tax return. I started paying taxes from November 2019 onwards the moment I became a full-time employee in a company. I had my tax class changed to III from November 19th too. Do you know why I did not receive any tax return for those last 1.5 months? I applied as an individual married person for the tax return, as my husband was not working in 2019.

    Looking forward to your reply! Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2020 at 13:17

      Hey Laraib. It’s quite impossible for me to tell without knowing a lot more about your situation and how you filled in the forms, what expenses you claimed and so on. Sorry.

  • Reply David 30/08/2020 at 08:00

    Hi. I have a small business and I use my vehicle for both business and private use. What are the rules regarding submitting the amount of business and private usage and fuel used etc? Also is there such a thing as a 1% rule I can opt for, which if I am correct avoids the need to keep a record of my business and personal usage and if so, how do I go about registering my preference?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/09/2020 at 10:00

      Hey David. Yes, there is this 1% rule you can use (Source). From what i understand, using the other method is a big mess and in my opinion, not worth the hassle. As a rule, you can do it if you can prove you use your vehicle for business purpose for at least 50% of the time. You’d need to record each business trip via a so-called “Fahrtenbuch” very diligently and then report this for your tax return too. Source.

  • Reply Himani 18/08/2020 at 22:02


    Thank you very much for an informative blog on taxation in Germany. Quite useful for students who do not have a huge amount paided as taxes compared to the amount paid to tax advisors.
    I had a question, in 2017 I had started a student job (<700EUR/month) at my university (werkstudent) and since the start date was 19th of the month for that particular month I had to pay taxes. It was about 30EURs though not a big amount compared to full time employment but I wish to get those. Any idea if that is possible?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/08/2020 at 10:08

      Hey Himani. I’d rather think the other way around: are there any expenses that you could deduct from taxes for that. Have you seen this?

  • Reply Khanna 30/07/2020 at 20:48

    Hello. Thanks for the informative blog.
    I was on deputation in Germany for 7 months. My home country + Germany salary was paid after tax deduction. Should i declare my rest 5 months home country salary as a Foreign income while filing return ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/08/2020 at 22:04

      Hey Khanna. This answer does not constitute expert advice, but i would tend to say yes.

  • Reply sneha saha 27/07/2020 at 22:13


    I am an Indian, and I moved to Germany in Oct 2018 and started working. Before that from 2016 to 2018 I was doing masters in Sweden. For my masters, I took student loan for the tuition fee. So is it possible to declare tax on the loan I took between 2016 -2018? I am paying it back from 2018 – till now.
    Let me know if I can claim for tax refund, which year and in which segment I need to declare the cost.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/08/2020 at 22:13

      Hey Sneha. I don’t know sorry.

  • Reply Bikramjit Sharma 24/07/2020 at 09:35

    Hi..Thanks for the very informative blog. I have a query. My tax class was changed from 1 to 3 in May 2019. So according to that, I should have gotten some more salary from May, 2019 onward. I I started getting it from November, 2019, I asked the tax office and they told that when I would applying for tax return of 2019, I would get the leftover salary. Do you know if any special form needs to be filled up for getting this leftover salary or it is automatically taken care by the tax office?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/07/2020 at 21:39

      Hey Bikramjit. That should be done automatically yes.

    • Reply J,S 01/08/2020 at 10:30

      my wife and I use class4 and we normaly did our tax together, But we have now separated not living together anymore and we both did our tax return separate/ My question is that is it possible to get the return back separately as well because none of us has not yet receive anything.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/08/2020 at 21:53

        Hey Js. Yes.

  • Reply Max 09/07/2020 at 19:01

    I have a capital loss from investing activities in 2018 and a capital gain in 2019.
    Can I bring forward the loss from 2018 to compensate the capital gain in 2019 ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2020 at 09:41

      Hey Max. That would work for businesses but not for private persons in my humble knowledge. You may ask a Steuerberater for professional advice.

  • Reply Pedro N 08/07/2020 at 12:07

    Thanks for sharing the very helpfull information!

    Quick question. If I fill in my 2019 tax declaration, my current address (outside Germany), will that be valid for the Finanzamt ? Also in case they want to reach me (tax assesment documents) ? Or should I have an address in Germany for submitting tax declarations ? Many thanks

  • Reply John Smith 03/07/2020 at 12:03


    If it’s the case that I worked between two years, so lets stay from July of 2019 to March of 2020, do I apply twice for tax refund, once in 2020 for the taxes during 2019 and then again in 2021 for the taxes in 2020?

    Thank you for your informative post!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 10:14

      Hey John. Yes.

  • Reply Mathieu 02/07/2020 at 12:25

    Thank you very much for this article, which is really helpful!
    I may have a question for my tax declaration of 2019.
    I started a Doktorand (PhD student) position last November 2019, and for the 2 months, I get some tax return.
    In addition to this, for this position, I paid quite a lot of money for the certification of my grades and graduates and also for a TOEFL exam, the total is around 1000 €. But they don’t take that into account… Maybe because I didn’t pay enough tax for 2019 so I can not get any refund on it, which seems logical.
    Should I wait next year and do the declaration of 2019 and 2020 at the same time?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2020 at 10:13

      Hey Mathieu. Who is “they”? Language tests and classes can be tax deductible.

  • Reply Natalie 23/06/2020 at 21:12

    Hi there,

    Thanks a lot for this great article 🙂
    I just started my full time job in Nov 2019 after my master studies.
    from 2017-2019 Oct, I have around 10k verlustvortrag and I never submit any of them.
    My question is: Can I submit all of the tax declaration from 2017-2020 at once in 2021 in order to claim more verlustvortrag during my studies? As in 2019, I did not pay a lot of income tax.

    Thanks a lot!!


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/06/2020 at 10:10

      Hey Natalie. I’m not sure what you mean with “during my studies” but you can still process years 2017 to 2020 in 2021, yes.

  • Reply Palash Koshta 22/06/2020 at 08:01

    Hi there!

    Thank you for putting all this information at one place. This is really helpful to many people like me out there. I think my situation is common but I still find myself confused.

    I had worked in Germany from “20 Jan 2019” to “04 May 2019” for which my employer provided me ‘Ausdruck der elektronischen Lohnsteuerbescheinigung für 2019’ in April 2020. I precalculated my estimated refund amount and it came out to be around few hundred Euros.

    I have moved to India permanently now. I had my IBAN in Commerzbank till August 2019 only, meaning it’s permanently closed at present.

    I do not have my IBAN active anymore, so would I be able to get my refund amount on someone else’s IBAN account in Germany. I have my friends living in Munich who have their IBANs active, so can I put their IBAN account number for the return process in order to get my refund in their bank account. Is this provision allowed in Germany?

    I belong to tax class 1, so would you recommend me to consult a tax consultant of Germany or would I be able to manage this on my own (since I expect a refund being in tax class-1)?

    Thank you in advance for your guidance and help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2020 at 09:54

      Hey Palash, Glad it could help. If you can find an arrangement with your friend, then that is a perfectly good solution, they don’t check who owns the bank account.

      • Reply Palash Koshta 22/06/2020 at 19:48

        Thanks a ton for your prompt reply. You are doing a great job. 🙂

        • Reply Umair ashraf 03/08/2020 at 02:00

          Hi , today i received steuerbescheid for 2018 with verspatungs zuchlag of about 300 euros. I filed the tax return july 2020for 2018. In 2018 my wife rcvd elterngeld around 3000 euro total. I filed tax return for both of us. Is there any way for einspruch to remove verspatungszuchlag? Please help

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/08/2020 at 10:59

            Hey Umair. I’m going to assume that the fine was justified since you were supposed to do a Steuererklärung. You can always appeal the decision but a positive outcome doesn’t look likely if my assumption is right.

  • Reply GR 21/06/2020 at 19:18

    Hi! Thank you for an informative article. It helped me in the past to submit tax return declaration+I used SmartSteuer and it worked well for 3 years, I even got some money back. I have full-time job and I am registered as a freelancer but my freelancer’s income is very low. I subbmitted my last declaration in May and last week I got my “bescheid fur 2019” and it asks me to pay extra einkommensteur, solidaritatszuschlag and kirchensteuer but I can’ understand why. It just says “verbleibende Steuer”. I just wonder what could be the reasons?

    I have a huge fail with kirchensteuer because when I moved to Germany I thought that writing ‘x’ in the forms in Burgeramt is enough, I didn’t know and didn’t check that I need to actually leave Church in Germany. And somehow this tax was not taken from my salary until 2019 summer when I moved to the new place and new finanzamt noticed that I am baptized in my home country or something and applied the tax. Fair enough, let’s say I understand the extra church tax that I am asked to pay – but what about the other two?

    thank you so much!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2020 at 09:58

      Hey Gr. You’d need to get in touch with a steuerberater if you want guidance on how to optimize your tax return. All those 3 items are due in full, there is no way around. Solidarität Zuschlag is an old tax to support former DDR regions’ economies, it’s going away next year i believe.

  • Reply Briana 15/06/2020 at 23:28

    Hey thank you so much for all your help on this topic! I’m american and moved to Berlin June 2019. I made my income in Germany just from freelance but earlier that year I was an employer in a company in America. Since my taxes are taken out of those paychecks are there some forms to mention this so i’m not taxed on that income again in Germany? Also, would smartsteuer be able to help me with my situation or should I just use ELSTER? If I were to use smartsteuer would they have all the forms I need ( Anlage S, Anlage AUS, and Anlage EÜR) and send it to the Finanzamt for me?

    Thanks again for all you time and advice!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/06/2020 at 09:39

      Hey Briana. I think Smartsteuer supports those forms yes. Have you seen this post about avoiding double taxation?

  • Reply Shinthurha 15/06/2020 at 15:41

    Hi, Thanks for your support. If I travel to home in abroad every year once, can I claim a Tax refund for the travel expenses (like a Leave Travel Allowance)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/06/2020 at 09:36

      Hey Shinthurha. If it were a business-led trip, then it would be deductible.

  • Reply S.N 15/06/2020 at 12:05

    Thanks for the nice guide and putting together those information. In my tax return for 2019, I claimed for our gardening and cleaning costs as “Handwerkerleistungen”. But the officer ignored my request and didn’t even request for any document; just ignored it! According to the invoice that I received from my landlord for additional costs of 2018, I filled “Anlage Haushaltsnahe Aufwendungen” form and file the costs as “Gartenpflege; Treppenhausreinigung”. Could you please help me how I can file an appeal against the tax notice and request for considering the “Handwerkerleistungen”? Thank you in advance.

  • Reply John 13/06/2020 at 10:48

    Hi! Thank you for putting all this information together. My situation is probably quite common but I can’t seem to find a clear answer.

    I moved and started working in Germany from October 1, 2016. I worked in Ireland until September 30, 2016.

    My fist question is, will my employment until September 30, 2016 be considered as a foreign employment for tax year 2016/2017? I understand from this article that SteuerGo doesn’t support foreign employment, but SmartSteuer does. Do you know what is the complexity in terms of documents to submit for the foreign employment? I’m wondering everyone moving to Germany has to do it for their first year.

    The final question is, can I just not submit my tax return application for 2016/2017 to avoid complexity and submit it for the subsequent years where I worked in Germany the whole year?

    Thank you again for this helpful article.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/06/2020 at 09:29

      Hey John. The Finanzamt can ask you for proof after submission, but it’s not very likely. As for your second question: if you situation allows it, yes you may not need to submit one. Check on the post again for more details on that. You may lose some money in the process though.

  • Reply Munish Dhiman 09/06/2020 at 19:29

    Hi There,

    I am a strange situation, could you please guide?
    I submitted an income tax return for 2019 in this year 6th April 2020 through ELSTER. However, I have not yet got any response from the TAX office. I am a bit worried if the form is incorrect or weather they have processed it or not etc. its been 2 months now.

    Is it possible to cancel the form I submitted via ELSTER and file one more time with smart steuer ?

    Thanks in Advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2020 at 13:21

      Hey Munish. It can take a while to process, sometimes up to 2/3 months. I would not worry just yet, you can easily wait until end of June. You may submit again if you think some things were incorrect but i think you’d need to notify the Finanzamt first.

      • Reply Munish Dhiman 12/06/2020 at 18:04

        Thanks a lot. I will wait for some more time.

  • Reply Andy 28/05/2020 at 22:00

    Very elaborative article!! I have a question, I started my masters in 2018 and then started working as a werkstudent only in 2019. So do I still need to file tax return for both 2018 and 2019 as I was paying tuition fees for education? Also can I make use of tuition fees to get tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2020 at 10:18

      Hey Andy. You don’t need to but you can. Yes, tuition fees are deductible.

  • Reply Chetan Chinchanikar 28/05/2020 at 00:09

    I filed my tax return for FY 2018 and 2019. The amount was credited but i dont know whether tax return for both the years were completed andwant to check that out as the amount credited is very less. I did not receive the tax return bill till now. Could you help me in way forward with this situation? Also what is the german name for tax return bill?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2020 at 10:16

      Hey Chetan. If you want to check on how your return is going, you can simply call your Finanzamt. I think the world you are looking for is “Steuerbescheid”.

  • Reply Serena 25/05/2020 at 14:10

    Hi, I have moved to Germany last summer for work so I have been a full-time employee since July. I have got all the docs from my office in case I need to do the tax return but in many cases of these online tax return pages the fact that one part of last year I lived abroad seems to be a problem. Is this a common problem? s
    Since everyone I know told me to do the tax return thing since I moved from abroad for work and with all the expenses I had related to the moving, buying work equipment, even monthly money support for my family (they live back in my homeland) ecc and less to absolutely do it since I would for sure get some tax return.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/05/2020 at 09:46

      Hey Serena. I’m not sure what the issue is? Is this about declaring foreign income for last year?

  • Reply Gokhan 25/05/2020 at 10:20


    I have started working for a Germany company without having TAX ID since I could not relocate yet due to coronavirus. In this case, as far as I know (please correct me if wrong) my TAX Class will be CLASS 6 which is the higher amount deducted from my salary. My tax class will be Class I when I get there and have TAX ID. Can I get these extra tax amounts when I apply for Tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/05/2020 at 09:43

      Hey Gokhan. yes, that is correct.

  • Reply Amit kumar 23/05/2020 at 18:13

    Hello Team, I need to fill online tax refund for Germany. I worked for 09 months in Germany for year 2018. Can you please suggest. Thank you Amit kumar

  • Reply Roxanne Motaghian 21/05/2020 at 23:19

    Hi there I hope you can help.
    I successfully submitted my first tax return last year but on my tax return confirmation I was given a new steurnummer. When filing my 2nd tax return should I use the new or original steurnummer on my forms?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/05/2020 at 09:36

      Hey Roxanne. The new one.

  • Reply nav 21/05/2020 at 00:20


    I have few question I hope I get an answer here:

    How should one answer to the following question in the tax form? “nachhaltige geschäftsbeziehungen zu finanzinstituten im ausland”

    If one has a credit card from a bank in Luxembourg and transferwise borderless account with debit card or a N26 american account? Are they considered as a geschäftsbeziehungen


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/05/2020 at 13:41

      Hey Nav. Might be best to ask a Steueberater but in my opinion: you are just the client using a service. I don’t think it qualifies as a business relationship.

  • Reply Gagan Singh 20/05/2020 at 23:49

    Hi, I have a small question i havent filled my tax since last 5 years that means 2015 onwards( Already filled for 2013 -14). I just checked and it says that i can voluntrary fill it for past 4 years that means starting 2016. Then what will happen to 2015? do i just leave it ? or fill it anyways and someone will understand that i forgot and want to will it for last 5 years altogether(BTW in 2015 i got married so tax return is huge). Any comments would be much appreciated.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/05/2020 at 13:39

      Hey Gagan. I can’t really answer on so little details. I’d reach out to your Finanzamt directly, if i were you.

  • Reply Marko 18/05/2020 at 17:33

    Hi, I came to Germany in Sept last year. My yearly income last year was less then 18k (since I only got 4 salaries). I’m married but my wife is not living in EU and I paid taxes being in the 1st tax class. Does the rule of “non taxable income up to 18,816 € per year for couples” apply to my situation?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2020 at 09:58

      Hey Marko. As far as Germany is concerned, your marriage is not registered and not valid for tax reasons. Being in tax class 1 is a good indicator that you are considered a single person by the tax authorities.

  • Reply Jacopo 13/05/2020 at 20:27

    Hello. thanks for putting toghether those informations, you are much likely making lot of people happy.
    question: if i was both a freelancer and employed, will i need to fill up all the forms of both lists above or you can merge them somehow?
    do you know if SteuerGo allows you to make,finish and upload declaration via internet or you’ll need to re-upload it on my-elster?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2020 at 09:46

      Hey Jacopo. You just submit all the different forms in one go, you don’t merge them. SteuerGo is also communicating those finished forms to your Finanzamt electronically, no need to use Elster after that.

  • Reply Dee 07/05/2020 at 08:58

    Do you have any information on whether unemployed people can and should apply for a tax return? I was employed in 2017 and 2018 and received arbeitslosengeld in 2018 — already did my returns for this. But in 2019 i was unemployed all the way till Fall and then I left Berlin. For 2019, is there a point in applying for a tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2020 at 15:55

      Hey Dee, as pointed out here, yes, you can but i don’t know if you should. It depends if you plan on coming back. In theory, you should yes because you were a German resident last year, liable for taxes.

  • Reply Sebastiano Panto 02/05/2020 at 10:23

    Hello, I’d have question regarding freelancers. Do you know how many years do I need to keep for example my phone, If authorities are willing to check what I declared on my taxes as work related expense? I heard there are different rules according to the amount of the expense (e.g. up to 800 I need to keep at least for 1 year etc…).


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2020 at 15:29

      Hey Sebastiano. I’m not sure what you mean. Are you talking about doing “Abschreibung” over multiple years for work-related devices, material goods?

  • Reply Matt 01/05/2020 at 10:20

    Hi. I am a UK resident looking to invest in the company of a friend in Germany. I will likely only invest 100 EUR so the amounts (and dividends) will be very small. It’s mainly to show support for a friends business but because the amounts are so small I don’t want the hassle of filing tax in another country.
    I’ve read the first 9k EUR earned in Germany is tax free so will income from dividends for a non-resident be included in that and will I still need to file a tax return to declare the income? In the UK I’ve learned income from foreign dividends of less than £300 don’t even need to be declared so was hoping for something similar in Germany.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2020 at 15:19

      Hey Matt. If you are a UK resident then it needs to be sorted out through UK rules and authorities, there is no action to take from you in Geermany.

  • Reply Pedro 27/04/2020 at 20:53

    Hello there. I´m registered as a Musician (frei berüflicher) on the Finanzamt in Magdeburg, but given the actual situation (COVID-19) I was forced to find a job that has nothing to do with music, in order to be able to pay my expenses. I already have a Steuernummer that I use to write my bills to my clients (in the music scene), but can I also write a bill for this new job with the same Steuernummer? On this new job, that will last until June, I got a Arbeitsvertrag für kurzfristig Beschäftigte. I’m about to get paid, and I don’t know what to do. Could somebody help? Thank you very much in advance!

    • Reply Pedro 27/04/2020 at 20:55

      I’m registered as Selbständiger I forgot to add.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2020 at 20:08

        Hey Pedro. If you have an Arbeitsvertag (correct me if i’m wrong), then it means you will have a salary, and you won’t be billing them for your work, right?

        • Reply Pedro 30/04/2020 at 20:31

          That is correct.

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2020 at 15:18

            Yeah so then there is nothing to worry about in my opinion. The finanzamt will notify you if you need a new Steuernummer for your new situation.

  • Reply G 26/04/2020 at 15:54

    Hello . Thanks for this important guidance . I’ve been in Germany for 1 year , and have been in three situations : employee , employee with freelance casual work (under 3k), employee with two jobs (both low paid). Does the community think I could file all this on a self -help tax return , or would you recommend a Steuerberater (this would be a large dent in my income )?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2020 at 20:06

      Hey G. You can use SteuerGo for that yes.

  • Reply Shqipdon 24/04/2020 at 18:21

    I’ve already sent the forms and received back a letter with the identification number (over 2 months now) but I’ve not received any transfer on my bank yet, can anyone help me how can I check for that or what should I do now?

  • Reply sarah 23/04/2020 at 11:20

    Hi. I moved to Germany from the UK in Sept last year. I kept my job in London and commute once a month to go back to work. I dont have a second home in the uk as I sleep at work (I’m a carer). I need to declare my UK income in Germany via a tax return. I can’t afford an accountant and every english language software i’ve looked up doesn’t support foreign income filing. So, i’m going down the ELSTER route.

    What I’m not sure is exactly what forms I need to fill in to file my tax return. My only income is my UK salary – i have no job in germany, no rental income/savings etc. Just a normal PAYE salary from the uk with all my tax, health insurance paid in the UK already and exported to Germany via S1 form. So what forms do I have to fill out in ELSTER? All the walkthroughs are based on someone working in germany who has extra foreign income. i can’t find any info if you have just one job which is abroad

    thanks in advance if any of you can help or indeed know if i even need to submit a tax reutrn, as i’m taxed automatically in the uk already.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/04/2020 at 21:41

      Hey Sarah. Your situation is fairly uncommon, i will give you that. I guess you would need to fill in the Anlage AUS, for your UK income, and the other compulsory forms, where you will then put 0, in the lines where they ask you for your German income. That’s the broad picture but bear in mind: i’m no Steuerberater. Otherwise, have you read this post already? It may contain some other answers.

  • Reply Isabelle 17/04/2020 at 15:20

    I am international student from Berlin and Ive been in Germany since 3 years. I have question about taxes. As a student I work as a freelancer in Orschestras, also outside of Germany.( 4 other countries)
    I am bit confused since I am going to earn more than 9000 euro this year.
    When I get a fee from “gig” its already minus tax? I have always get just a contract paper after concert and didn’t get any documents via post afterwards.
    Also when I am working in other counties its already minus county tax around 15 percent, is it any need to still declare it?
    As a student do I have to declare my concerts?
    All best

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/04/2020 at 21:06

      Hey Isabelle. I am going to assume you are registered in Germany as a freelancer. In this case, i will direct you to this post, which has information about taxation too. As a German resident, you need to declare any and all income, even if earned abroad.

  • Reply Srikanth 14/04/2020 at 11:31

    Hello ,
    I stayed in Germnay from 9th March 2019 to 30th aug 2019.And rest of the time of that year i stayed in india.So in this case am I eligible to file tax returns and for refund in germany for 2019?.

    Thank you

  • Reply Dave 13/04/2020 at 15:39

    Quick question. I arrived in germany Late November of 2018 and I was receiving support from job center from December 2018 – September 2019. I found a job on August of 2019. Will I be able to request a tax refund for the months of August – December 2019?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2020 at 13:55

      Hey Dave, you can still do a tax return even though you were out of a job most of last year yes.

  • Reply Okan Sert 05/04/2020 at 17:54

    I decide to leave Germany can I claim all the taxes and other contributions I paid back? i’m not only talking about the tax return but all the contributions I made because I am leaving the country and no longer want to be part of the contribution system. Is that possible?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/04/2020 at 20:20

      Hey Okan. you may find the answers you are looking for on this post.

  • Reply Dhawal Parmar 18/03/2020 at 20:12

    In 2019
    I worked from Jan to April in India
    In May I worked in Germany
    and again in June i moved to India and worked till december,
    Could you please let me know if i can file a return for May month in Germany, and can that be deposited directly in my Indian Bank Account.

  • Reply Zeen 17/03/2020 at 19:34

    I was a student and used to work in Berlin from nov 2018 to april 2019.
    but now i have finished my studies and back to my hometown in Malaysia.
    is there a way I can still do this tax return?

  • Reply Christina 05/03/2020 at 10:34

    I as looking for answer to my question in Internet, but unfortunately couldn’t find it. Maybe you can advise me something.
    I was living and working in Poland until April2019. I had a full time job, normal employee contract, and paid all taxes there. Than I moved to Germany and started to work here (May-December) and work here on full time as well. Do i have to make any declaration about income received in Poland for those 4 months?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/03/2020 at 21:18

      Hey Christina. If you moved here in May, it means you were more than 6 months a German resident and liable for your income in Germany. So yes, you should declare all and any income here and possibly resort to bilateral treaties to avoid double taxation, as explained in this post.

    • Reply Elisabeth 19/07/2020 at 20:20

      Hi! I hope you’re able to advise me too:

      I have a full time job in Germany since July 2018, but I also kept my other side job in another EU country (I work remotely on weekends).
      I am now filing my taxes for 2018 & 2019 in Germany – Can I use Wundertax or it is not enough for the additional paperwork required? I tried some online calculation sites and some say that I have to pay back ranging from 600-2000 euros depending on « how many days worked abroad » – but I work online & from Germany! What to do, is this normal?

      Many thanks!

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/07/2020 at 20:51

        Hey Elisabeth. I can’t comment on Wundertax’s features on a case by case basis. That’s too wild. Maybe best to give them a quick call? Otherwise, have you read this post about avoiding double taxation?

  • Reply A D 24/02/2020 at 17:21

    Hi there,

    Thank you for putting together this comprehensive article.

    I’m a freelancer in Germany. Because up until 2017 I didn’t make a profit, I only started to make quarterly advance payments in 2019 based on the profit I made in 2017. In 2018 however, I made more, hence covering my losses from the past years. In 2019 my earnings dropped again. I’m about to submit my 2018 tax declaration this week. I also sent a registered letter to the tax authorities asking to revoke the SEPA direct debit mandate. My question is – will I pay taxes for the 2018 profit in quarterly installments too or will they require the whole amount in one go? Thanks so much.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2020 at 21:47

      Hey AD. Are you talking about income tax now?

      • Reply A D 27/02/2020 at 09:51


        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/02/2020 at 21:33

          Hey AD. They will let you know in the letter what amount they expect and by which date(s). If you want to negotiate installments, i’m sure it can be arranged. Ask your Finanzamt.

          • Anca Dumitru 01/03/2020 at 11:05

            Will do. Thanks so much!

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