Tax return in Germany for foreigners made easy – Steuererklärung

It’s that time of the year again: the time to do your tax return in Germany otherwise known as “Steuererklärung”.  Yes sir/m’am, you’ll be able to get money back, and sometimes up to a few thousand euros. We show you how in this step by step guide.

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 you won’t have any problems with your Finanzamt if you forgot to file your tax statement. As an employee, you are taxed every month off your wage. If your salary is your only income, 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.

The average tax return in Germany is close to 1000€ nation-wide. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

Should i be doing one?

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

Income sources

  • Additional income (not from salary) superior to 410€.
  • Salary replacement income (like unemployment benefits) superior to 410€.
  • 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 do it, as there are chances you get money back too.

So how can I do my tax return in Germany?

If you are confident enough to do it on your own, do as follow. Otherwise, jump to the next title.

First you have to make sure you get all the right papers. It is recommended to download the forms directly from the official website this way : here.
(Click on the right hand side on “Einkommensteuer mit allen Anlagen”)

If you are an employee , you need the following forms (e.g for 2018) :

  • ESt 1 V 2018 (The main form that details general info like your adress, iD nummer,etc)
  • Anlage N 2018 (The form to detail your income as an employee)
  • Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand 2018 (The form to detail your insurances)

If you are self-employed, you need the following forms (e.g for 2018) :

  • Est 1A 2018
  • Anlage S 2018 (Freelancers only)
  • Anlage G 2018 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage USt 2018 (if you pay V.A.T)
  • Anlage GeSt 1A 2018 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage EÜR (If turnover is more than 17 500€ a year)

On this website,  it is also possible to download an official tool called ELSTER (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) onto your computer. This tool enables you to proceed to your tax return in Germany via the internet, 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.

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.

What now?

  1. Print the forms out.
  2. Sign them.
  3. Find a post office.
  4. Send them to your local Finanzamt.
  5. Done !

Wait for 1 or 2 months before you get any answer, and hopefully, a little ka-ching will appear on your bank account so you can afford this awesome guitar you spotted, or else, paying for your holidays to Croatia.

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. You might consider SteuerGo for example that i can really recommend for employee and freelancers alike, especially if it’s your first time.

  • Your hand is really guided step-by-step with the tool in a clean interface.
  • Save progress at any time when you register for a free account.
  • It’s also fully in English (!) at every step of the process.
  • You can even call a hotline if you have questions.
  • For self-employed people, it also lets you do
    additional forms like (Einnahmenüberschussrechnung (EÜR), Umsatz- und Gewerbesteuererklärung).
  • It only costs 25€ which is perfect when you don’t earn enough to afford a Steuerberater.

They also let you know in real-time how much you are getting back so you know if it’s worth the one-time-fee. No need to pay anything before submitting to the Finanzamt (they also do that for you). You can give it a spin for free. 🙂

SteuerGo does not support one thing for employees though: 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: Giphy.com

FAQ

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 obliged 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 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.

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 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 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 for the year and months 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.

Ps 1 : Don’t forget to sign all those forms, otherwise they won’t be processed by your dear Finanzamt !

Ps 2 : If you feel like you are running out of time, you can let know your Finanzamt 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.

969 Comments

  • Reply rina 11/03/2017 at 22:35

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

    and you have been charged the maximum income tax rate. You cannot claim this amount back i’m sorry.”

    I got a bit scared seeing this, what would it mean? I’m not sure anymore if I started to work without it. It was my very first job and it was in a German company and now I live abroad, I only remember getting the Rentenversicherung number per post. If I started to work in a German company, have I been automatically assigned a Steuer ID? Unfortunately I can’t contact my old company’s accountant to check that.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/03/2017 at 09:12

      Hi Rina. No need to get scared. As you an employee, there aren’t any risks of you owing the money to the Finanzamt or something. It just prevents you from recovering the amount you were taxed too muched on(higher tax rate than people with a Steuer ID). It doesn’t mean you can’t do a tax return and it doesn’t mean you won’t get anything back. Rentenversicherung number is something else entirely.

  • Reply Donna 09/03/2017 at 17:50

    Awesome explanation. So I recently figured out I have to do my returns. I’ve been employed so nothing complicated from my side. Except I have some german correspondence from my health insurance about stuff they didn’t file to the taxes. As a result, plus to double check, I would like to fill in my online forms together with a tax return specialist. Does anybody have any tips? I was given a great person that assisted for 99,- per year, but she moved back to UK and has no time. Any tips are welcome.
    Or would anyone suggest to sign up to a lohnsteuerverein?
    Lost in woods, any steer on direction is appreciated.

    Thanks
    Donna

  • Reply Vijay 09/03/2017 at 10:27

    This page is of great help ! Thank You !

    I have 1 query in the process and it would help immensely if you can guide me with it.

    What is the difference between ” Joint Assessment” and “Individual assessment for spouses”?
    I am married and my wife has been unemployed during the whole tax year.
    What type of assessment should I select in this case?.Please advice.

    Thanks,
    Vijay

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/03/2017 at 11:46

      Hi Vijay. If your marriage is official in Germany too, it’s preferable to have a joint tax return because your wife’s low income will decrease the taxes you will pay, and possibly increase the return.

  • Reply Steve 05/03/2017 at 13:19

    Hi, great article so thank you very much. I signed up with smartsteuer but found their customer service (possibility to ask for clarification on questions) very poor. I’m fulltime employed living in Germany since several years. I got married abroad in June 2016 and registered myself as married in Germany in July. My wife moved to Germany a month later. I was advised to enter the date of marriage in my tax declaration as the date recognised by Germany. Do you know if this is the date of marriage abroad or the date of my status change in Germany?

    As I am supposedly entitled to claim tax back for the whole year if I married in the first half, this is quite important 🙂

    Hope you can help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/03/2017 at 16:10

      Hi Steve. Thanks for your feedback. As a rule, only enter stuff that you can prove later to the Finanzamt. There is a high chance that it will not take into account anything before it was made official in Germany.

  • Reply Mandi 02/03/2017 at 12:01

    Hello,
    Congrats for the very helpful page.
    I have been told that if I can prove that if I can prove that I moved in Berlin because of a job that I got in company here and that I still have residence in another country, I can include even my rent expenses in the tax refund.
    Do you know if this is true?
    Best

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/03/2017 at 12:12

      Hi Mandi. This steuerberater is stating that it could be part of your relocating expenses, which are tax deductible. Maybe worth it to look into it.

  • Reply Rakesh Lal 28/02/2017 at 13:01

    Hi,
    I am a Citizen of India and worked as an employee in Germany from 1996 until 2012 and moved to India after my retirement. I am not a German resident any more and have no residence in Germany. I am now a resident of India since Sept 2012.
    I have some shares from a German Company and getting regular dividend. The company is deducting 25% tax and also Solidaritaetssuchlag before remitting the payment. I also had an insurance policy with a German Insurance company and this policy got matured and they deducted the tax of 25% on the capital gain.
    Can I claim this refund? for how many years can I claim and what is the process?
    Would appreciate your clarification.
    Thanks & regards
    Rakesh Lal

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2017 at 18:44

      Hello Rakesh. This is a little too complex for my knowledge, especially since it’s about non-work related income. I suggest that you work this out with a Steuerberater directly.

  • Reply Helen 28/02/2017 at 12:46

    Thank you for all this useful information. It’s really helpful and very generous of you.

    My situation is that I am a Freiberuflerin, a US citizen (so I need to file US federal and state taxes), and I acquired an apartment in 2016. I used a Steuerberater for 2015 who was terrible and I’m thinking of tackling my Steuererklärung this year on my own.

    I’ve used elstar online, but I wanted to ask if there is an online program worth purchasing that would better handle the complexities of my situation – Freiberuflerin + Vermieter (momentarily). Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2017 at 18:49

      Hi Helen. I don’t think i know any program that can handle what you should declare on the US side. For the German side, SmartSteuer is quite good at handling Freiberufler situations with other sources of income. User interface is quite good, it’s everyday German, it comes with tips, and you can call a hotline in case you are not sure. (Quick note on ELSTER for people reading this comment: it’s an official software so it can handle any situation possible, it’s just not super user friendly.)

  • Reply Peter 26/02/2017 at 22:51

    Hi, I am a freelance English teacher, I have just moved to Berlin. I teach English online and my main client is based in China and they pay me in US Dollars. Firstly, would I need to pay VAT if I earn over 18000 euros? Secondly, how would the exchange rate be calculated? Thank you for your help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/02/2017 at 09:40

      Hi Peter, i would suggest you look into the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” (Small entrepreneur regulation) to see if it applies to your case. I can’t answer this question with so little info. This page might be a good place to start. Exchange rate is calculated at the time of money transfer/exchange. The Finanzamt only cares about the amount of euros you receive on your bank account at that point in time.

  • Reply EC 25/02/2017 at 16:47

    Thank you so much for all this information!

    I moved to Germany from Canada as an employee for a company in July 2016. I have worked here for 5.5 months and am therefore not considered a resident for the tax year (I think). Before moving here in Canada, I was a student and a freelancer with a small income.

    On my German tax forms is there a way to claim more tax back if you were only a resident less than 6 months? Do I have to declare my Canadian freelancing income on my German tax forms despite being a non-resident of Germany at the time?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/02/2017 at 09:32

      Hi Eric. It all depends if you had a German Tax ID (Steuernummer) while working here or if you were still paid and under contract with the canadian company. If you had one, then you are eligible to a tax return. If you are doing it, there is probably no need to declare your freelancer income but that’s just an opinion as there might be bilateral agreements between Canada & Germany for that.

      • Reply EC 04/03/2017 at 13:25

        Thank you for your help. This page is pure gold.

  • Reply Dom 21/02/2017 at 17:04

    Great website! Thanks for the helpful tips! Do you know if I can claim the cost of my Steuerberater from last year on my tax declaration this year?
    I was working as a freelancer from September 2015 until March 2016 and earned minimal income (only 3000 euros). I went to a Steuerberater last March who charged me 600 euros to complete 2 tax returns as a freelancer.. one for 2015 (Sept – Dec) and the other for 2016 (Jan – March). Luckily I didn’t have to pay any tax, but the bill for the Steuerberater was one fifth of my income!
    Since March 2016 until now I have been working full time as an employee paying monthly taxes.
    In Australia, we are entitled to claim back our Tax accountant costs as a tax deduction while submitting the tax declaration. Do you know if I can do the same here in Germany? If so, how?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/02/2017 at 10:05

      Hello Dom. Yes, your Steuerberater can be accounted for as a service provider (Betriebskosten). The bills can be put off in taxes.

  • Reply Matteo 15/02/2017 at 21:53

    Hello! Great website, very helpful! I appreciate!
    Before I ask my question, I`d better elaborate my situation. I am a PhD student in Charite, but I do not receive a regular salary, I get a scholarship (stipendium). When I first started (2015), I went to Finanzamt and got my SteuerID. At that time, I was told I do not need to pay any tax, because i receive only a scholarship. Now I am continuing my PhD, and I am still getting my scholarship (it is a bit higher than the beginning) for two years.

    Today I got a mail from my Health Insurance company about my “Steuererklärung” which did confuse me. I was thinking that I do not have anything to do with taxes, as I am a student with scholarship who does not pay regular tax. In the mail that my insurance sent me, there are some amounts under the name “Versicherungsbeiträge”. I would be very thankful, if you can give some info or tips regarding my situation.

    Many thanks!
    Matteo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/02/2017 at 09:39

      Hi Matteo. You are right: your scholarship is a tax-free income. As for the letter; it’s simply not possible for me to give you any tips because i’d need to see the full letter to answer. I’d suggest that your bring this to work with you so a German speaking person can help you understand it. Sorry i can’t help you further.

  • Reply Hilde 15/02/2017 at 20:43

    Hi! I cannot find the answer to the following: I’ve moved to Germany with my husband, who is working here. I’ve kept my work in Norway, working part time from home office. Taxes have been paid to Norway – and I’m quite sure that I shall not pay any taxes to Germany. But the question is: Am I obliged to deliver a Steuererklärung to German authorities?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/02/2017 at 09:33

      Hello Hilde. Only self-employed people registered in Germany have an obligation to do it, so i don’t think it applies to you. However, make sure to check there is no bilateral agreement between Norway & Germany for this.

  • Reply Faz 14/02/2017 at 18:54

    Hello,

    Thank you for the instructions. I just have one query:

    i am a full-time Masters student in Germany and for the past 1 year I have been working as Student Assistant (MiniJob) at my University. I am in Steuerklasse 1. I am not sure what that means but I have to pay Rentenversicherung and Pflichtversicherung. Can I get a refund?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/02/2017 at 09:39

      Hi Faz. Full time students can do their tax return too yes. Expenses like text books, computers you bought for your studies can help you get a better tax return.

  • Reply André 09/02/2017 at 01:35

    Hi there,

    I have one question regarding the tax refund for more than one year at the same time. It happens that i have been working in Berlin for the last few years and i even have my 2014, and 2015 steuerbeschinigung (i guess this is the name, ufff) provided by the firma where i work.

    I was wondering if there is any chance to submit a request for the refund of those previous years. If so, in this particular situation should i reach a specialist in those matters, or the website you shared allows me to do it?

    Thank you very much Bastian. Your website plus the support you give in the comment section is simply great, cheers 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/02/2017 at 10:05

      Hi André. I’m glad all the info helps. As an employee, you can claim up to 4 years prior the current year. For example, you can do your tax return for the year 2015 until the last day of 2019. You can use the platforms i linked to for year 2014 & 2015 as well yes. Just make sure to pick the form for the right year. 🙂

  • Reply Fede 08/02/2017 at 22:04

    Hey, thanks for the information!

    I have a question maybe you can give me some hints to clear this out.

    I have worked in Switzerland for 3 months last year and opened a bank account in Germany (N26) that didn’t require German Anmeldung. I paid taxes in Switzerland, of course, and everything went OK.

    Now the company transferred me to Berlin with a new contract in our Berlin office. I did the Anmeldung here and now I will be paying taxes in Germany.

    My question mainly is regarding my current bank account and the money I have there. Is it possible German authorities will tax me for that? Or I will pay taxes only from the moment I moved to Germany or started my contract here.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2017 at 22:49

      Hello Federico. Your income was already taxed once in Switzerland so there is no reason to pay for that once again. You will pay taxes on the income you generate in Germany with your new contract. I suggest your keep your swiss tax statements close in the very unlikely case the Finanzamt comes after you.

  • Reply Paplo sanneh 08/02/2017 at 17:58

    I have a question, I work from January to the end of December 2016 on full time job.. o want to know if am eligible to get tax refund after working for the whole year in Germany.

    Best regards
    Paplo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2017 at 18:54

      Hi Paplo. The answer in one word: yes. In two words: yes absolutely.

  • Reply Nicole 21/01/2017 at 14:36

    Hello im a singaporean student doing Duales Studium n i would like to ask if i can get full refund of my textbooks fee back? I paid 44EUR for the textbks so does that mean they return the whole 44 EUR or juz the Mwst?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/01/2017 at 15:22

      Hello Nicole. If you have applied for Tax ID, expenses will help you reduce your taxes and if applicable, get some of the amount back. It’s not related to Mwst.

  • Reply Ria 16/01/2017 at 16:25

    Hi, thanks a lot for these info! I have a few doubts. I was working as a freelancer in Germany for a period of 6 months (Jan – June 2016). I returned back to my country in September 2016, and right now I am not in Germany. While I was a freelancer, I have paid the VAT every month using Elsteronline portal, but there are a few bills and receipts I have (like a laptop bill or camera bill which I bought for my work) for which I have deducted the product’s VAT from the VAT and paid only the remaining amount for the respective months. I was told that I have to submit these bills or receipts while I file the year end taxes. I do not expect any tax returns but I have to file my taxes and bills. Can you please advise how to do that using elster or any other website?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/01/2017 at 09:37

      Hi Ria. I am no expert but it is possible to adjust the total amount of VAT owed/due for the year when filing your tax statement with the “Ust 2A” Anlage i believe.

  • Reply Nele 15/01/2017 at 19:07

    Hi!
    All this tax stuff is confusing, maybe you can help me.
    I was registered as a resident in Berlin from end of May till end of August 2016. I worked here for the summer (with a completely normal regular contract).
    In September I went back to my home country (EU) to continue my university studies and that’s where I am till this day. So do I have to file the tax return papers/can I get a tax return if I no longer live in Germany (am no longer registered here)?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/01/2017 at 12:22

      Hi Nele. You should check if there are any agreements between your home country and Germany on this. (More info here). If you were registered and paid taxes, you should be able to get it back but i’m not sure if the Finanzamt can process a unregistered foreign address. Maybe this article can help.

  • Reply Anthony 11/01/2017 at 16:20

    Hello,
    It is nice to find some informations in english!
    I am in Germany for six months (october to march), and according to the bilateral fiscal agreements between France and Germany (a document called “Doppelbesteurungsabkommen”), I must pay the tax on my whole income in France, and only in France.
    Unfortunately, the tax on the income is automatically taken from the salary in Germany, and I do not find a way to obtain a refund. One colleague has advised me to complete a “steuererklärung” (which has led me to this website), but it seems it would only update my tax, under the assumption that my income is taxed in Germany, which is not the case.
    What must I do? Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 09:40

      Hi Anthony, there is probably some document you can fill in for your case. It’s maybe better to get in touch with a Steuerberater at this point. This gets a bit too technical.

    • Reply Francesco 21/12/2017 at 15:06

      Hello Bastien,

      Thanks a lot for all the useful info. Do you by any chance have now more info on this. I have similar situation, worked half year in Germany and now moved to another EU country. Since I am no longer registered in Germany, can I sent my tax return form with my new address?

      Thanks

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/12/2017 at 17:08

        Hi Francesco, yes. If you are in Europe, the SEPA details are making this even easier.

  • Reply Sarah 11/01/2017 at 16:06

    I am a little late filing my 2015 German tax return but am confused. I am a full time student, and worked a part time student job from May 2015 to Mid-September 2015. Then on October 1 I moved to Austria for the second year of my Masters. I have kept my job in germany, working part time remotely. But my company said I only need to file a return for the period I lived in Germany (so excluding October, November, December). they are still deducting pension from my salary but not German tax since I’m in Austria now. My old work contract expired when I left and I signed a new one to cover my time n Austria. So to file my return, do I just do it for the months I was living and working in germany? Thank you for any advice you can provide – I am very confused!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 09:38

      Hi Sarah. this is my opinion only and a not a qualified advice (I’m no Steuerberater): Just follow where the taxes went for each contract period, whenever it went to Germany, this is when you can claim it back.

      • Reply Sarah 13/01/2017 at 11:07

        Thank you!

  • Reply Srinivas Prakash 11/01/2017 at 10:22

    Which tax can be claimed by students, the following are the tax names which have been deducted from my salary:
    1) Lohnsteuer aus monatlichen Bezügen
    2) Pflegeversicherung
    3) PV-Kinderlosenzuschlag lfd
    4) Rentenversicherung
    5) Arbeitslosenversicherung

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 10:02

      Hi Srinivas. Whether you are a student or not doesn’t change what taxes apply to you or not. However, more expenses can be deducted like any books, material or software you bought for Uni, course fees or even rent expenses (up to a point) can help to reduce your income tax and get more money back.

  • Reply Pedro 10/01/2017 at 23:20

    Hi,

    I’m a Portuguese citizen living in Berlin.

    I think my questions are quite easy. I can’t afford a fee from a Steuerberater. I hope someone could help me on this matter.

    I’m a full-time employee​ paying my monthly taxes but now I have the opportunity to work also as freelancer/working from home.

    I’m not registered as freelancer.

    As freelancer, I got the opportunity to do some works from this website/platform: https://www.upwork.com/

    Upwork requires all non-U.S. persons must provide their W-8BEN tax information. I filled this document confirming that I’m not a U.S. citizen/person.

    Upwork informs the following information: https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211061278-EU-Value-Added-Tax-VAT-

    Here is my major doubt: Do I need to register myself as freelancer working from this platform? Do I need to report income from here?

    Please, let me know if someone can advise me on this matter.

    Greetings
    Pedro

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 09:34

      Hi Pedro. Yes, you should probably register as you need to have this income taxed in Germany, as any other income you might have.

  • Reply sathish Kumar 10/01/2017 at 13:41

    Hi,
    I am a student. I had worked as Holiday worker at Daimler for from 15 oct 2015 until 7 th Nov 2015. Tax class 6 was taken as default by Daimler and I ended up paying 600 euros as Lohnsteur. which I thought would be refunded once claim for it. I started working as intern in airbus from 15th Nov 2015. when I claimed for tax return I did not get anything back. They just sent me a letter with no refund. Is it possible to go again this year and discuss about what happened last year ???

    Best Regards,
    Sathish

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/01/2017 at 16:07

      Hi Sathish. It is always possible to ask for your Finanzamt to re-examine your case if you disagree with the outcome. However, you can do that only within 4 weeks after receiving your first Steuerbescheid. More info this way (in German). Good luck with this.

  • Reply David 04/01/2017 at 21:54

    Hi, thank you for the information. I am a student herein Germany and going to complete my education soon. I have been working as a student in a (19 hours per week) job since August, 2011. My average salary is around 1000 euros per month. Please let me know if I am eligible for tax refund, and if yes, how much refund money could I expect. Thanks again!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/01/2017 at 10:02

      Hi David. Glad it could help. You are eligible yes, and as a student, there are a number of expenses you can put off in taxes. It won’t a massive refund compared to full-time employees but still interesting to do your tax return. How much exactly i can’t tell you.

  • Reply Paulo 28/12/2016 at 19:46

    Hello since there are a lot of EU expats working in Germany (with spouses and children in their home countries) I would like a small advice which can be helpful for a lot of people:

    I am Portuguese, live and work (as an employee) in Germany (since 2014)
    I have a small income from Portugal (PT). I pay income tax in PT for it but it will affects the progressive German income tax rate.
    My wife and children live in PT. My wife works in PT

    Main non common deductions:
    I will deduct Double Household (trips to PT and accommodation in DE)
    I will deduct Private school for children

    I will file the tax return as married since my wife’s salary in PT is much lower than mine.

    Is there any paid software with a “clever” questionnaire prepared for my specific case or should I go directly through ELSTERonline? I am trying to get some info about Taxman, SteuerSparErklärung and Smartsteuer.

    BTW my previous tax return has been submitted by a very well known/expensive multinational company and looks I could find a couple of errors (law misinterpretations). I want to do it by myself. I am still learning German, don’t have any education in law but I am an Engineer, and it makes the difference :). I went to the Income Tax Act (Einkommensteuergesetz – EStG) and was able to rebut a couple of wrong assumptions from my tax adviser (company).

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/01/2017 at 10:03

      Hi Paulo. Have you checked SteuerGo? Their questionnaire is in English, which might help to get things right.

      • Reply Paulo Neto 06/01/2017 at 10:40

        Thank you Bastien.
        I am going to give it a try and also thank you for your work in this blog.
        Cheers.

        • Reply Florian Paceana 20/02/2017 at 13:19

          Dear Paulo, I have teh same status like you. Maybe we can work togheter to find out more information and to be able to complete one correct Declaration of Income. Please let me know if you are interested. Have a great day!

  • Reply Ilona 27/12/2016 at 21:30

    Hi, I have a question.
    From September 2015 to 2016 I did my MBA in Germany. Therefore I was a student and non-employed. I transferred the cost of MBA from home. Starting February 2017 I am officially employed. My question is how can I claim back on tax deduction my education. Should i do it for 2016, however I was not employed and incurred only expenses. Or can I wait for the end of 2017?
    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/12/2016 at 17:01

      Hi Ilona. Check this again but i remember by Steuerberater saying that you can claim those expenses back up to 4 years after you are done with your studies. Doing it in 2017 should be fine.

  • Reply Juan 23/12/2016 at 12:10

    Hi.
    I started working in germany last year 2015 in may. I started with tax class 1. Few months later when my wife arrived we changed to tax class V-III.
    I have not done my first tax declaration since then and we are finishing 2016. How should I do the tax refund claim, am I still allowed? I never got letters from Finanzamt.
    Do I need to present 2 declarations, 1 for me 1 for my wife? Or is there a combined one. She has just worked 3 months in a midi job. The rest of the time she has been unemployed learning german.

    Thank you very much for your guidance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/12/2016 at 11:57

      Hello Juan. You can send in your tax declarations for 2015 and 2016 by filling in the relevant forms for each year separately. For each year, you can declare your situation together with your wife. If she hasn’t earned so much, it will allow you to pay less taxes (or get more back, depending on your situation). Look for the part of the form that mentions your Ehepartner. If you are unsure how to fill-in the forms, you can use platforms SteuerGo which helps you step-by-step in English to fill it in. Like an online Steuerberater, but cheaper. 🙂

  • Reply Kunal 21/12/2016 at 01:31

    Hi,

    I moved to germany in september 2016 and my tax class was 6. I registered online and it was updated to 1 in December in the Eister process. But in my December salary slip it is still showing 6.
    Please suggest if it is possible to get the refund back and how.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/12/2016 at 10:19

      Hi Kunal. It it possible that the update will apply only from January on, as i don’t think they account for single days in their calculation. In 2016, you will have been class 6, and from 2017; class 1.

  • Reply CIndy 01/12/2016 at 14:55

    Hi I am new in Berlin. I have registered at the Bürgeramt. How do i get my tax number? Also I have worked one month already and I have been charged a high rate of tax. How do i claim it back? I am leaving my job because they wont pay me overtime hours that the regard as being mandatory. Will this effect me claiming back the tax?
    Sorry it is a bit of a complicated situation.
    Thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/12/2016 at 18:35

      Hi Cindy, regarding your first question, you can go to the dedicated page here. You can claim this back in 2017 when doing your Steuererklärung for 2016, provided you make sure all is in order with the Finanzamt with your tax ID.

  • Reply veronica broggio 30/11/2016 at 00:15

    Hi!
    I haven t registered at the burgeramt yet so I got the higher rate of Tax on my first pay slip, today.
    Can I claim a refund for the extra money I paid?
    Thx

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2016 at 09:41

      Hi Veronica. You will be able to claim it back in 2017 when doing your german tax statement for 2016.

      • Reply veronica broggio 30/11/2016 at 09:45

        Even though it s my fault since I haven t done the anmeldung yet?thanks!

  • Reply Ahsan Ameen 13/11/2016 at 13:34

    Hey, I am student here in Germany? What do I get tax refund on? Do I get tax refund on food and clothing?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/11/2016 at 10:30

      Hi Ahsan. I cannot reply in details to this question as i don’t know if you have a job, if you are married, have kids, your insurances, etc. It all depends on your situation. However, you cannot get tax refund on food and clothing. Tuition fees can however be deducted in taxes.

  • Reply Klaus Kahn 07/11/2016 at 17:04

    Hi,
    I started living in Germany since Aug 2014. My fist job, which is as a student worker (60h/month) at company “A” was for 6 months from Apr 2015 to Sept 2015. Then I started working again as a student worker (60h/m) at University ‘B” from Nov 2015 till July 2016. From Aug 2016, I started working fulltime at University “B”. My question is do I have to file a tax return on my own for 2015? Would I get a refund for those period till Dec 2015?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/11/2016 at 17:56

      Absolutely Klaus. Also don’t forget that any university fees can be put into your tax statement.

  • Reply Faraz 30/10/2016 at 02:07

    I got my tax return this year but I lost the letter which I got from Finanzmt. Can I download it from any website or post? Thank You

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/10/2016 at 10:12

      Hello Faraz. I guess you will need to request a copy of that letter to the Finanzamt. They will probably send it to you by post.

  • Reply Syna 29/10/2016 at 00:42

    I have a different address on my steuerbescheinigung than my registered address at rathaus. Will this affect my tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/10/2016 at 12:02

      Hi Syna, you change adress you should notify both the Bürgeramt & the Finanzamt (Ummeldung). If you have done those 2 things, you can send your tax return. If not, make sure all Amter have the right address before sending it in.

  • Reply E.T 05/10/2016 at 18:25

    Heyhey! Thanks for the post!
    Im planning to buy a new iPhone. I got a Blue Card from Germany and working in Berlin for 4 months as a mobile software engineer in a company. So, can I get a reimbursement for the phone which is kind of necessary for my work? Or maybe just tax refund of it?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/10/2016 at 09:30

      If we are still speaking about the German system, you can do by installments over 5 years. Source.

  • Reply morven clements 12/09/2016 at 18:54

    Hello, I’m an employee. I started work in Germany in oct.2015. On all pay checks (oct/nov/dec) I paid roughly around 40% tax. However the earnings for that period are below the taxable amount in Germany. So I should be able to claim that back rite? I registered for Elster, so I can fill everything out online, or do I still have to print stuff off?

    many thanks for all the good tips!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/09/2016 at 10:41

      Hi Morven. You won’t be able to claim all of it back but since you started a new job in 2015, you will certainly get a few hundred euros back for sure. Be sure to add all costs you had last year, that you can put off in taxes. When you register for Elster, you need an extra-step to be able NOT to send a paper copy as well. This is a certificate which requires you have a special password sent to you by post. You will find more details on the website.

  • Reply Sean 02/08/2016 at 22:33

    Hi, I am paid from the UK but pay taxes in Germany. Since I received my prepayment tax statement at the start of the year, the GBP has weakened considerably. This means that I pay a much larger amount of tax in GBP than I should be. Will the exchange rate be considered in a tax return in January? And recalculated accordingly? Which exchange rate will they use?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 03/08/2016 at 11:12

      I am afraid this a bit out of my league and you might have to go to a specialist for a proper answer. I don’t even know where you should pay income tax to start with. Since your employer is the UK, how does it pay the taxes to Germany?

  • Reply Ryan 15/07/2016 at 16:00

    I recently started working here and have been placed into Tax Class 6 – 41% roughly. Now I’m not registered but when I do register I’ve been told that I can claim back that difference between my appropriate tax class 1 and the one I was charge at (Class 6) and I wouldn’t have to wait til it’s time to lodge your tax again, is this true and could you shed any light/point me in the right direction for this as it works out to be a fair bit of money I’ve missed out on.

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 20/07/2016 at 10:44

      This means that you receive money from multiple employers. Is that true? You should be class 1 if you are single and with only one employer. More info here and about the switch process here.

  • Reply Marc 13/07/2016 at 16:07

    Hi there! I’ve checked how much tax return I’d get and it seems I would need to pay around 100e MORE for 4 years I’m working in Germany! Can this be true? I’m working since 2012 and didn’t do any tax clearing so far. Only for 2015 I would get around 100e, but then for 2012,2013 & 2014 I’d need to pay more.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 14/07/2016 at 21:49

      Are you maybe talking about Steuerberater fees? If so then it would be no surprise to pay that amount for 4 years together. The Steuerberater can tell you in advance roughly how much you’d get back in your first meeting. You can then decide if it’s worth it or not. You can also use online solutions like the one mentioned in the article. They usually tell you how much you’d get back before paying anything.

  • Reply Michael 01/07/2016 at 15:39

    Hi all, I have used the online-tool http://www.smartsteuer.de for my tax declaration. It’s easy.

  • Reply Nar 28/05/2016 at 20:49

    I went to the Finanzamt to ask for a deadline extension of May 31 but the employee told me that there is no need for extension and I have 4 years to submit the Steuererklärung, is that correct?

    BTW, I’m submitting Anlage N and Anlage KAP only

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 29/05/2016 at 10:25

      Are you a freelancer or employee ?

      • Reply Nar 29/05/2016 at 12:33

        Employed but I might fill “Anlage KAP” to get the interest rate for gain from capital to the same percent of my income tax, it does not make much sense to apply Anlage KAP anyway

  • Reply Mohamed Salah 27/05/2016 at 18:25

    Thanks a lot for the post.

    i have a question. i submitted today the tax statement but i found out that i missed to add a couple of items.

    is there a way that i can submit an amendment or withdraw the application?

    Thanks a lot in advance

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 28/05/2016 at 11:13

      Yes, it is possible to correct your statement at any time, especially if you have not received the Steuerbescheid from your Finanzamt yet. If you have done it electronically via ELSTER, simply send the corrected forms again to replace your previous statement. Else, you can simply send a letter to your Finanzamt to let them know what should be updated, and if applicable with the additional documents. Source

  • Reply Lidija 24/05/2016 at 17:09

    Thanks a lot, this is incredibly useful. Is May 31 the deadline for Steuererklaerung?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 24/05/2016 at 18:11

      Yes it is, but you can ask an additional delay at the Finanzamt if you need.

  • Reply Marko 23/05/2016 at 16:35

    Hello, I have a question.
    How much important is, when you are giving the tax refund papers, to tell from which exact month I am employed in German company?
    Because I just forgot to tell the lady that I am working from 1. Juni 2015. and not the whole year.
    Is that a problem and should i go back and clarify that??

    Thank you.

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 23/05/2016 at 20:06

      They will look at your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung for 2015 and calculate your tax return based on that. They won’t look at dates.

  • Reply Anthony Bieber 19/05/2016 at 18:49

    Hey just a heads up the links to the 3 necessary files are broken. Just redirects to the files page. Would you be able to provide the new links? Thank You 😀

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 19/05/2016 at 23:02

      It’s been updated now. The linksare only valid for one session, that’s why you saw an error. This way.

  • Reply Melu 18/05/2016 at 18:20

    Hi, Can anyone rcommend a tax advisor here in Berlin who is familiar with how American income etc. is taxed in Germany? We just moved here a few months ago and are currently living mostly off of our savings that we have in the U.S. Consequently we will need help with how this impacts paying German taxes etc. Any names or tips are very much appreciated, thanks in advance.

  • Reply Pernilla Hansson 18/05/2016 at 13:35

    Really nice page, thanks! I have two questions though..
    – How does one mark that you are a full time student, and therefore should get all taxes paid back? (I had two jobs 20h in total per week, at the same time as I studied, and one put me in klasse 6, which I now want back)
    – How do I do to declare taxes for previous years?

    • Reply settle_in_Berlin 18/05/2016 at 15:27

      There is´a field that asks your “Beruf”. Maybe add it there ? I’m sorry i was never a student in Germany so i wouldn’t know. Maybe this link helps too? If you want to declare taxes for previous years, simply download the forms for the previous years and fill them in. It works up to 4 years prior.

  • Reply Pie 13/05/2016 at 00:53

    Great step-by-step instructions, thanks! The links don’t work, but since you also mention the name of the docs, it doesn’t really matter!
    Cheers!

  • Reply Matt 16/01/2015 at 15:43

    Good piece of advice !

    A couple advices from my side:
    – You can get your tax up to 4 years back,
    – The prices of tax advisory in Munich (for basic tax declaration) vary from 36 € up to 170 €
    – Depends how much your earn. Here you can calculate the the price for yourself: http://getdoido.com/tax_declaration

    If you want to know more how to do the tax declaration by yourself then check my last blog post where I described step-by-step how to make a tax declaration by yourself in Germany 🙂
    http://blog.getdoido.com/2015/01/get-your-tax-money-back-a-step-by-step-guide/

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