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?

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 2017) :

  • ESt 1 V 2017 (The main form that details general info like your adress, iD nummer,etc)
  • Anlage N 2017 (The form to detail your income as an employee)
  • Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand 2017 (The form to detail your insurances)

If you are self-employed, you need the following forms (e.g for 2017) :

  • Est 1A 2017
  • Anlage S 2017 (Freelancers only)
  • Anlage G 2017 (Gewerbetreibende only)
  • Anlage USt 2017 (if you pay V.A.T)
  • Anlage GeSt 1A 2017 (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 employees, 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.
  • 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. 🙂

If you are a freelancer, you can turn to platforms like SmartSteuer which also supports profiles like Kleinunternehmer, Selbständige & Freiberufler (No English though). This means they will also help you with the additional forms (Einnahmenüberschussrechnung (EÜR), Umsatz- und Gewerbesteuererklärung).

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 May though) Source:


What is the tax return deadline in Germany?

In theory, the deadline is to the 31st May 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.

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 2017 until the last day of 2021. 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.

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 May you need more time. They usually give you an extra 2 or 3 months to do your tax return in Germany.


  • Reply Hamid Ali 21/09/2017 at 13:19

    Thank you for the post, as it was very informative. Nevertheless, I have few questions.
    I am in Germany since 4 years now. I was always in tax category 1. I never did tax declaration(I am assuming it is not a problem, based on what I have read and what some friends and colleagues told me). I got married in May 2017; my wife is a Belgian citizen. My tax category was changed to 3 and my wife’s to 5. However, she is working from home with a company based in UK(she lived in the UK for almost 12 years). She is earning in pounds(almost similar to my earnings) and paying all her taxes etc there.
    1) Is it important for me to do tax declaration now, as my tax category has changed?
    2) Is she rightfully in tax category 5, even though she isn’t earning in Germany? How is ‘Anlage N-Aus’ related to this?
    Thanks in advance for your help.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2017 at 10:08

      Hi Hamid. This is a special situation but it’s not more important than before to do your tax return, just potentially more rewarding. If your Finanzamt put your wife in 5, then there must reasons for that, like past tax statements, etc.

  • Reply Candelaria Saenz Valiente 20/09/2017 at 11:48

    Hello, I am argentinian and my husband is polish, we have a child and we recently moved to Berlin. We are both musicians, unemployed. We own an apartment in Warsaw that we rent out (we pay tax for it in Poland). I will earn money here playing some shows but my husband, for now, is earning money and paying taxes in Poland. He travels all the time, so even though we are all three registered in Berlin, he’s part-time. Should we sign up in the finanzamt as a family of freelancers? Will that mean that by law he’ll have to pay tax on the jobs he has in Poland and abroad? That would mean paying double tax! I read in one of the comments that if you are not living 6 months continuously in Germany you are only liable to pay tax for the jobs within Germany. But then, how would that affect my status as a non EU wife of a EU member who lives in Germany part-time? Hope this scenario doesn’t get steam out of your head as it does mine! Thank a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/09/2017 at 10:17

      Hi Candelaria. You will still need to declare your income from Poland to the Finanzamt but to avoid double taxation, you will need to follow the convention between Poland and Germany (Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen or DBA). More info there or try to Google that in Polish as well.

  • Reply Nageswara Rao Dasari 19/09/2017 at 16:47


    I had been working in Germany from Feb 2017 with tax class 1. My wife reached Germany this week and she did the residence registration yesterday, how much time will it take to reflect the change in tax class? I heard that it will be done automatically and I dont need to fill any application. Please share your thoughts.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/09/2017 at 08:39

      Hi Nag. Yes, this should happen automatically after a few weeks, but your marriage has to be recognized in Germany first i believe, if you want to take advantage of the tax classification for you two. Make sure this happens as well.

      • Reply Nageswara Rao Dasari 20/09/2017 at 12:07

        Our Marriage certificate is accepted while we did the residence registration, I hope that is enough as they updated the details in their system.

  • Reply Joda 19/09/2017 at 14:20

    Thanks for this helpful post. How do I know whether my spouse & I should submit our tax returns separately or together? Will SteuerGo guide us through that and do we both have to sign up separately?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/09/2017 at 08:29

      Hi Joda. If your marriage is recognized in Germany, then you can submit your tax return together, which SteuerGo will help you to do yes. You don’t need to sign-up separately.

  • Reply eko 19/09/2017 at 00:18

    I have been completing my steuererklärung since 2014 and I always got some euros back until this year, I have to pay more than 300€ to finanzamt. I’m an employee married with 1 child. How is that even possible that I have to do nachzahlung??

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/09/2017 at 12:27

      Hi Eko. This is such a broad question with so many variables that i can’t possibly answer in a comments’ section. If you think there has been a mistake, you can always make an “Anspruch” and clear that up again with the Finanzamt. Check if you really put all relevant expenses in and that you didn’t have extraordinary income as well. Good luck.

  • Reply Riddhi Bhanushali 16/09/2017 at 16:31


    Your article seems helpful to me. Thanks a lot for the help.
    I still have some doubts:

    At what time of the year can I apply for the tax-returns?
    I get my salary (Netto Amt.) in my account every month but I’m actually unaware that what the Brutto Amt. is? I have no idea about the Tax-Format in Germany.

    I have started working as a part-timer and this is my first job ever.
    How could I know my Brutto Wages and the Tax Rules ?

    I thank you for your help in advance !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/09/2017 at 09:24

      Hello Riddhi, as mentioned in the post, if you are a freelancer, deadline is end of may. If you are an employee, you have up to 4 years after the end of the year to apply for tax returns. Knowing your brutto wage won’t help you calculate how much you can get back. It’s more complicated than that.

  • Reply Adam 10/09/2017 at 15:19

    I am a Student in Germany, I did a 6-month voluntary internship and received a netto salary of 6463 Euro (a brutto salary before taxed is 8700 Euro). As written on, I can get back the taxes if I earn less than 8130 Euro a year. Can you guys tell me that is this information correct and if so, 8130 Euro a year is based on brutto or netto income?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/09/2017 at 19:55

      Hi Adam, there is difference between earnings and income. As a student, you can submit a tax statement to get some of it back yes.

  • Reply Mrinalini 07/09/2017 at 21:25

    Hey, I have a question:

    I am a student in Berlin, and I have recently joined a job. It tax would be cut by the company’s tax-handling office. and I will claim for that. But I also worked for 1 month somewhere else, through a student agency. And, I think, the agency earmarked their commission but didn’t cut the taxes. Since I haven’t paid tax for that 1 month. Can I still apply for tax return? I mean will there be any issue if I haven’t paid the tax for 1 month but the taxes for the rest of the months now would be paid?
    some people have been scaring me, like, “don’t file for tax return because of this reason. Otherwise they will cut money from your account instead of giving you”. REally?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2017 at 10:56

      Hey there. Being an employee in Germany means that your income tax is taken at the source on your payslip directly, as mentioned in the post, so you did automatically pay for that, if that’s really what you are talking about.

  • Reply Badger 06/09/2017 at 15:25

    Hi, I was registered as a Kleinunternehemer at the Finanzamt. I left Germany last year and I did a postal abmeldung to deregister my address at the Bürgeramt. Is this information passed on to the Finanzamt, or do I have to deregister with them as well?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2017 at 10:51

      I would unregister at the Finanzamt as well to avoid any issues.

  • Reply Altynay Ussembekova 28/08/2017 at 09:07

    Hello! I am student in Germany and received a paper from my health insurance in January, that I can refund some amount of taxes. Now it is August, and I forgot about the paper till now, is it still possible to get tax refund for the last year?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/08/2017 at 10:00

      Hi Altynay. Yes, it is possible.

  • Reply Silvia 23/08/2017 at 16:02

    Hi All! I worked in Germany from 01.01.2017 to 15.07.2017 when I resigned. I moved to another country within the EU and as far as I know, I will have to file my tax return in Germany this year (2017). I am currently self-employed and will be paid for the consultancy in January 2018. I need a new PC and was wondering if it will be tax deductible in Germany given (1) The invoice for the PC will not be in German (2) I am not living in Germany anymore – already did the abmeldung – and (3) I am not earning any money when buying the computer nor anytime after (until next year).
    In advance, many thanks for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/08/2017 at 10:22

      Hi Silvia, the fact that the invoice is not in German is not important but in my opinion, since you already unregistered yourself in Germany (both residence and as self-employed), i don’ think any costs after the un-registration will be valid to put off in taxes.

  • Reply Maizon 23/08/2017 at 07:15

    Hi all,
    I worked in Germany from February – October 2013 and leaving Germany on November 2013. I thought i have to wait for at least 2years before applying for my tax refund. So, is it possible for me to apply for the tax refund now (2017)?? Thanks all..

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/08/2017 at 14:44

      Hi Maiton. Yes, as mentioned in the email. You can do it now.

      • Reply Maizon 07/09/2017 at 07:12

        Hi Bastein,

        Thanks for your reply.. I tried to register on ELSTER for online tax claim, but couldn’t get through. Do you have any suggestion in order for me to proceed with the tax claim via online? Because its almost 4 years since I’m leaving Germany. I have to claim my tax soon as I can. Thanks very much for your helps!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2017 at 10:54

          Hi Maizon, in order to register for Elster, i think you need to adress in Germany as they send you your password by post. If that’s not possible, you can still use the self-help platforms to do everything online. You might have to send some forms per post but that’s all.

  • Reply Roberta 16/08/2017 at 23:20

    I recently moved to germany and got employed. I live here with my husband. I am the only one working and we are both registered at the Finantzamt. Not just that it is clear in their system that I am married and logic it will be that I belong to tax class 3 right? Now… why after reviving my first salary I came to realize I’ve been deducted 40% for taxes??? Where could be the mistake and how I get a tax refund? Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/08/2017 at 10:15

      Hello Roberta, it’s hard to for me to give any specific answer without knowing more details. You may come from a country where the difference between net and gross salary is not so high. Since the income tax is deducted on the pay check already, that difference in Germany can seem even greater. Also make sure that you marriage is recognized by the Finanzamt; if you haven’t taken any steps for that, you tax deduction due a non-earning partner will not work.

  • Reply Vihren 16/08/2017 at 14:54

    So I just filled my Tax form, and I have a problem. In the main form, there is the place where you can fill in your rent (top of second page) I am paying rent of about 300 euro monthly and this is important 3600 euro taken from my funds and makes a huge difference in the final calculation. However, there is the field called “Abziehbar” where I can write a percent between 1 and 59. I have no idea what that is and how do I find out how much of my rent is abziehbar and the difference in that percentage makes a huge difference in my taxes. Can you please explain that to me and how do I find this life-saving number?
    Also, when I fill the form, some fileds say that I need to submit “Nachweise und Belege” to the Finanzamt, and I don’t have any of those except maybe bank statements, but I guess they will have to live without them.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/08/2017 at 10:27

      Hi Vihren. It is a good question but i can’t reply without knowing more about you(Freelancer? Employed? Nebenbeschäftigung?). It is simply too vague. I suggest you talk to a Steuerberater or use the recommended platforms and their hotlines to clear any doubts.

  • Reply Martin 16/08/2017 at 12:50

    I received a Erinnerung from the Finanzamt but I haven´t earned absolutely nothing as a freelancer last year. Do i have to fill all the forms when you had no income? Or is there any other suitable way to tell the FA that I had no earnings? Like sending a letter for example?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/08/2017 at 10:11

      Hi Martin, as mentioned in the post, it is compulsory for freelancers to do a tax return, regardless of the recorded activity that year. You need to fill in the forms yes, it should fairly fast since there is nothing to enter.

  • Reply Nassim Ouzzine 15/08/2017 at 17:40

    Hello everyone,
    i came to Germany as a student one 18 months ago, and i was working in a part-time job while i was studying and i paid my taxes normally. now i’m starting an internship in Munich, and i want to know if the internships are also taxed ?
    Thank you in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/08/2017 at 18:34

      Hi Nassim, i believe that they are yes but if you are still enrolled as a student, your employer and you don’t pay Krankenkasse i believe.

  • Reply ANTONIO DI MONACO 10/08/2017 at 16:15

    Good afternoon. I’ve run a department in Berlin, which is rented with a 24-month contract. My residence is currently in Italy. I have a Stearnummer ( 231/461/01917 ) since I have worked and lived in Germany from 2003 to 2007. What do I need to present for the next year’s tax return? Is my Stearnummer still valid to present my statement?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/08/2017 at 11:32

      Hello Antonio. As mentioned in the article, you can only claim taxes back maximum 4 years after the end of that year. Last applicable year for you was 2011 for the year 2007.

  • Reply madelaine 10/08/2017 at 12:43

    hi everyone,

    I have a quick question about what my employment is for the tax return – last year I was employed at the university on a Lehrauftrag (lump sum at the end of semester rather than regular wissenschaftmitarbeiter) as well as having a short term Honorar (again anoher lump sum for a research project with a foundation). What is my tax status for this?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/08/2017 at 11:34

      Hi Madelaine, you should probably ask the HR people at the University for more help. You should check if the Honorar is not tax free, as it is sometimes with grants for research.

  • Reply Corey 08/08/2017 at 19:19

    Hey there,

    I worked in two jobs (one after the other, not at the same time) last year in Berlin. I am trying to get my tax refund through an agency but they say I need my lohnsteuer. I also cannot find my steuernummer anywhere? If I contacted my old employers, would they send my lohnsteuers to me? I’m no longer living in Berlin. Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/08/2017 at 10:24

      Hi Corey. This is part of the papers you have been sent by the Finanzamt or your employer, if you have lost them, i’m sure your employer can send them to you again. Also per email.

  • Reply Lana 05/08/2017 at 14:27


    i am an intern in Berlin, and i got 1800 brutto everymonth , they take from me 500 taxes. i finish my contract next month which was for 5 months. and i will go back home.
    what should i do to get back the taxes i pay.

    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2017 at 22:53

      Hi Lana. You will need to do your tax return in 2018 for the year 2017, like described in the article.

  • Reply Alex 03/08/2017 at 22:53

    Hello! I live in Spain and I will start working in a yacht with German flag, so my contract will be german. I don’t have German tax ID and they told me that I have to get one . My question is if it is possible to get it online or authorize someone else in Germany to do it for me so I don’t have to fly there.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2017 at 22:56

      Hi Alex. A pretty unique question. I’m afraid you will have to ask them directly as i’m not knowledgeable on remote work like this.

  • Reply Nuno 01/08/2017 at 20:51


    I have a very specific issue that maybe you can help me with.

    I have a working contract in Munich, however, I am on an assignment in the US from June to October. Because of this I moved out of my apartment in Munich and now, my address is set to my previous address in Portugal (where I am from).

    What happened is that I got moved from Tax class I to Tax class IV. I was told that I could get the difference back in the tax declaration. Do you know if this is true, and, if so, how to do it?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/08/2017 at 12:41

      Hi Nuno. Sorry, this is too specific, you will have to ask a Steuerberater.

  • Reply Joanna 30/07/2017 at 15:44


    I live and work full time in Qatar. I have a permanent address in Germany but i am only in Germany 2 weeks a year.
    I have a house in Germany which i am renting out and that is my only income within Germany.
    My acccountant filed my tax forms to tax office in Germany without stating i do not live or work in Germany.
    As I understand, as per German law, if you do not live in Germany 6 months or more continuously you are only liable to paying taxes on your income within Germany.
    Tax office taxed my earnings from abroad which I am sure is not right.
    Is it enough to resubmit the tax return form and say that i live and work in Germany – i have 4 weeks to appeal and I worry i will have to pay a big chunk from my tax free earnings into German tax office because my accountant did not clearly state that i am an expat living abroad.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/07/2017 at 10:04

      Hi Joanna. This is obviously a mistake. You can simply send an “Anspruch” letter to you Finanzamt with your tax-id references, explaining the situation and providing enough evidence to back your story. Your accountant could probably help you do that.

      • Reply Joanna 31/07/2017 at 18:36

        Thank you Bastien, that is really great news for me.

  • Reply SURESH PUJERI 26/07/2017 at 13:29

    Hello Team Please Do the Needful.

    I am Bit Confused about my Tax Return for the Year 2016,
    My Wife arrived in Germany July 2015 And We Made Anmeldung, After that in the month Of May 2016 She Went Back to India for Pregnancy.
    And She Came back in March 2017.
    So We need to make new Visa in India because she was there for more then 6 months & due to my Child Medical situations Doctor suggested not to travel.
    My Tax consultant had told that You will get around 2300 Euro Amount based on the Bills which I submitted.
    After few months I received only 137 Euro because they have not considered the Double Housing and other things Which I made.
    Please Suggest me What should I do to.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/07/2017 at 10:00

      Hi Suresh. Please talk to your tax consultant. You will never get better advice from a few lines of comments on this page. You can always decide to protest the result from the Finanzamt (Einspruch).

  • Reply Usama Ahmed 24/07/2017 at 22:36

    I am a full time employee since 2015, for the first time i filed for tax return of year 2016 and Finanzamt is asking me to send copies of my work contract. Is this a normal, because even my steuerberatar is surprised?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/07/2017 at 10:22

      Hi Usama. This is indeed surprising. I’m not knowledgeable there, i would trust your Steuerberater on this.

  • Reply Samir 24/07/2017 at 12:03


    Thank you very much for the information. Very helpful!

    I did some freelance works in 2016 and paid taxes of them with Steurberater(in Koln). With this earnings, i bought a car,laptop,phone bills etc deducted the taxes due to work use. During this period i have not earned anything else from freelancing (since 2016(2 jobs)). Now i am not freelancing anymore, moved to Frankfurt, but i keep paying steuerbareter for tax records (mostly spendings last 8-9). But still i have to pay time to time some payments to Finanzamt. Which i am tired of, because i am not freelancing anymore and I want to end it.

    My question is, can I declare to finanzamt that I stopped working as freelancer (i have a permanent job (main job(designer))? And what would be the consequences of this declaration? will I have to pay back all the tax deductions/refunds (car, laptop, bills) ?

    Thank you very very much

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/07/2017 at 16:15

      Hi Samir. What you describe is possible and since your freelancer status runs until you make that decision, all deductions stay valid as expenses happened when you were still a freelancer.

  • Reply Israel E 13/07/2017 at 20:48

    I’m an international student in Germany and i served as an intern from the end of November 2016 to April 2017 before i resumed with Summer semester and my gross income from January to April 2017 was about 7,660. My questions are: 1. I’m i eligible to do tax returns of 2016 and 2017 together? and be able to claim back my taxes since i have all payslips and receipts of study materials i bought and the tuition i paid during this period 2. which of the following taxes below i’m i eligible to claim back since all 6 taxes were deducted throughout the period i worked. 1)Lohnsteuer
    2) Soli-zuschlag
    3) Krankenvers
    4) Rentenvers
    5) Arbeitslosenvers
    6) Pflegevers.
    Lastly, can i still work during the next holiday if i’m offered a job within my holiday period and hope it won’t my eligibility for a tax refund. You advice would be highly appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/07/2017 at 19:18

      Hi Israel. You can do a tax return in 2018 for your time in Germany in 2016 and 2017. That’s not an issue. Concerning your other question, please refer to my response to Chimnay.

  • Reply Chinmay 11/07/2017 at 12:10

    Hi Everyone!!!

    I am on employment contract in Germany from May 2017 to May 2018. I received necessary ID Number’s. I have been placed in Steuerklasse 1. After my employment get’s over what sort of taxes i can claim back.

    Following are the Name’s Of Taxes-
    1) Lohnsteuer
    2) Soli-zuschlag
    3) Krankenvers
    4) Rentenvers
    5) Arbeitslosenvers
    6) Pflegevers.

    Also, i read on the internet that my employer can also claim the tax benefit on my behalf?? Is this true?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2017 at 09:47

      Hi Chimnay. The point of your tax return is to lower to income tax if you are an employee. This means that you’ll need to prove you have had expenditures that qualify as tax cuts. What you are listing cannot be claimed back. However, contribution to your pension (Rentenvers) might be transferable to your own country, if there are agreements between Germany and your own country.

  • Reply Bobby 10/07/2017 at 02:16

    Hello! I received the form back from the Finanzamt stating they will deposit money, but I have received nothing in my account. They mailed it back to me in the USA so I am assuming it was about a week or two since they made the decision. Is it a few weeks after that it is deposited?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/07/2017 at 11:05

      Hi Bobby. It takes an extra few weeks after you receive the letter to receive your refund.

  • Reply Ramin 28/06/2017 at 10:19


    I am working just in Hospital for 5 years, and I am single. Is there any nessesary to fill up the tax decalartaion?
    Thanks a lot

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/06/2017 at 15:03

      Hi Ramin. If you have never done it in the past, it will be worth it. It is necessary if you are an employee? No.

  • Reply Kareem Oluwatosin 22/06/2017 at 19:29

    Sorry, am a foreign student, after finishing my studies I was given 18 months to look for job but during this period I was engaged in a job that fetched me a lot of money. So my question is I will be leaving the country soon, can I file for tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/06/2017 at 12:22

      Hi Kareem. Sorry, i don’t understand the question. What do you mean by “fetched me a lot of money” ?

  • Reply Arun 21/06/2017 at 11:07

    Hi ,

    I am a selfemployed-freelancer working in Germany since Apr 2016. My contract ends in Aug 2017. I will file my taxes for 2016 in August through my tax consultant.
    If I deregister & leave Germany in Aug 2017, do I have to pay my 2017 taxes & leave ? Or can the tax payment & filing can be done in 2018 ?
    Note : Since I havent done my 2016 yet, I had not been paying any quarterly tax payment for 2017.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/06/2017 at 10:07

      Hi Arun. I’m not sure which tax you are talking about but you will regardless of that need to do a final declaration for 2017 in 2018, when you moved out of the country.

  • Reply Erli 20/06/2017 at 15:38

    Hi there,

    I have a question about “when” I am able to claim my tax return. My situation:
    I moved to Germany in February 2017 and started working, nevertheless I quit my job in April 2017. Throughout this time I got overtaxed and I am now willing to apply for tax return, can I apply now or do I have to wait until the end of the financial year, in April 2018?

    I am leaving Germany in July, so I am wondering if I will be able to claim my tax back from abroad once I leave (I am not planning to come back to live here).


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/06/2017 at 10:03

      Hi Erli. You have to wait until the end of 2017 to claim anything for that year. It should be possible to use a foreign bank account to receive a refund, but you might have to support the transfer fees for that.

  • Reply Don 17/06/2017 at 12:35


    Does anyone know where I can find an English translation of the tax forms, including Attachment V (rents)?


  • Reply Dani 14/06/2017 at 11:32

    Hi There,
    I moved to Germany from the US in March 2016 with my German financé and we were married here in December. We changed our tax class this year from 4/4 to 5/3 but my in-laws said that in Germany we should receive 300EUR back in taxes for the months in 2016 as if we were married for the whole year. Is this correct? We received our tax return already but if that was the case the amount would be inaccurate as there were other components in our tax return related to relocation costs uncovered by the company I work for. Thanks in advance for your insight! I’m also happy to explain a bit further if the above doesn’t quite make sense.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/06/2017 at 19:04

      Hi Dani. I’m sorry my knowledge is too limited thereto answer with accuracy. I find it hard to believe you can make use of more than just December but you’d need to ask a Steuerberater to be sure.

  • Reply Julio Vizcaino 09/06/2017 at 11:13


    I have some questions: last year I received the unemployment benefit from the Arbeitsamt from March to July and I have the documents from my previous two employers for tax purposes (2016). Do I have to include this help from Arbeitsamt? Is it tax-free? If I use this software do you send it to the Finanzamt or i have to print and send by post? Do I receive a confirmation from Finanzamt that they have electronically received my declaration? How do I know that my tax declaration is being processed?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/06/2017 at 19:28

      Hi Julio. Even if this income is income tax free, you should still put it into your declaration. I don’t know which software you are talking about so i can’t help you but in general you get a confirmation from them yes.

  • Reply efe 06/06/2017 at 13:39


    I have just gotten a feedback from Finanzamt that i will be get paid but the bank information is missing. Even i have sent them all together, I need to send that information again. But there is not any defined way or address written on the confirmation sheet. Should I post it directly to Finanzamt or should I visit there?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/06/2017 at 14:26

      Simply send your banking information in a normal letter and insert your Id-Nr and/or Steuer ID with it. If you look closely at the letter, you might also find further reference numbers for your case, or at least, the name of the worker processing it.

      • Reply Efe 06/06/2017 at 20:51

        Will I receive a new confirmation letter again that i can understand it is processed? Does take 8 weeks again to process it? Thanks

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/06/2017 at 09:31

          No, it should be faster now. You should receive a new letter yes.

          • RND 13/06/2017 at 16:07

            Same thing for me here… sent a letter of bank details, 2 weeks already and still nothing :/

            P.s. I started with print & sign letter from ElsterFormular – waited for one month(from April till mid of May) – no response. Meanwhile I got my certificate and I was able to submit the form thru software – got response in less than 2 weeks. I am starting to wonder, if letter process is even working 😀

      • Reply Elid 07/06/2017 at 15:14

        Hello,i have worked in 2015 year three months in Burger King like a student.I’m not from Germany.But now im going again there for work.It is possible to get back my money from tax 2015?And which documents I need to have with me ?
        Thank you.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/06/2017 at 15:47

          Hi Elid. Yes it possible up to 4 years after as mentioned in the post. As for documents and all, everything is already indicated in the guide too.

  • Reply Bichala 05/06/2017 at 12:55

    Hello, I am International Student studying here in Germany. I am here from 2013 October. I want to know if I can get any tax money back. Example: I have been paying for health insurance from past 3.5 years but I barely go to hospital, mobile bill, I purchased lot of items here. Can you please give me an insight of what all the money I can claim as an International student. I heard this from my friend that we can claim all the above mentioned money, but even he isn’t sure about it. Can you please throw some light on this. Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/06/2017 at 22:18

      Hi Bichala. Yes, even as students you claim a lot of costs back, even though health insurance is not part of that. Anything you bought to support your learning like course material, computers, or any Uni related costs for example are good examples.

  • Reply Jan 04/06/2017 at 16:03

    Thanks a lot for this very clear guide. I am just still a bit confused about the deadline of submission. I have worked from 2012-2016 in Germany. I have filed my tax returns for all years except 2016. Now, i moved out of germany in November 2016. Can i still file my tax returns? Is the deadline in May or at the end of the next year? Is it a problem if i dont file tax returns or if i send them out now?
    I was employed on a regular contract in germany, and for November and december 2016 i was employed and living outside of Germany.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/06/2017 at 12:45

      Hi Jan. For people with employee status, the deadline is NOT a yearly submission like for freelancers. You have up to 4 years to submit your tax return. So in your case, you’d have until 2020 to submit 2016. You can still do it now though. If you moved out in November, you can still submit a declaration for January to October.

  • Reply Paola 31/05/2017 at 18:54

    Hi there, I worked in Germany for two years as a watriess. I understood everything you written here in this blog post but I still have doubts. I had no fixed working hours, even though I worked with no interruption for these two years. Some months I worked for more than 100 hours and some others for less than 40 (per month).

    How is this information affecting my tax return?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2017 at 09:59

      Hi Paola. The number of hours is in itself not relevant for the Finanzamt, it’s all about income and what is written on your pay slips.

  • Reply Marta 31/05/2017 at 15:22

    Hey Bastien,
    I moved to Berlin in July and received ‘Honorare’ for the first three months of work, after what I got a contract. This means for the period July-September I did not pay taxes, while from October it went automatically. Do you know how I should proceed with this? It’s all from the same ‘Employer’.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2017 at 10:12

      Hi Marta. This probably means you were working for them on a freelance basis before getting an employment contract. If you are registered as self-employed, you will need to declare this as per usual. If you were not registered as self-employed at that point (and your company just wanted to save a bit of money), what happened was not exactly in order, almost under the table, sort of.

  • Reply Sara 30/05/2017 at 07:57


    I am a full time employee now, but previously I was getting a scholarship (from Charité, which was tax-free, it was stated in the first letter I received).
    So basically my situation is the following:
    January-August – stipendium
    September – December – salary

    So I filled out everything needed for September-December on steuergo platform (as recommended here), but I don’t know what to do with the income I received in the first part of the year (stipendium). As said, it was tax free and it was really just for surviving. How to I enter it and in which from exactly? I can’t find a place for it!
    I would greatly appreciate any help!


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/05/2017 at 10:01

      Hi Sara, a quick research led me to this page and that page, both telling us that you don’t need to enter this amount, since it was tax-free. Hope this helps. You should double-check though.

  • Reply Alejandro FG 30/05/2017 at 06:36

    Hello, I am a Mexican student that worked as an intern (internship) for 5 months in Germany using my Spanish nationality (no working visa required) in the year 2016. I earned a total gross wage of 6522 euros which I understand is below the tax-free allowance in Germany and I wonder if I am obligated to submit a tax declaration of the wage that I received during my internship.

    I am now back in Mexico and I am considering to submit a tax declaration because I heard that I could get money from the income tax back. However, I am not sure if I want to do it because I am afraid that I could fill the tax declaration wrong and then get in trouble with German authorities.

    Any help is welcome, I thank you in advance for your time.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/05/2017 at 09:55

      Hi Alejandro, as mentioned in the post; you are not obligated to submit a tax declaration. It’s up to you to decide to do one or not. As as student you can also claim some tax returns.

  • Reply Puran 29/05/2017 at 20:13

    Is there a way to file for an extension since I won’t make the May 31st deadline?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/05/2017 at 09:53

      Hi Puran, yes you can simply let your Finanzamt know you need an extension. They usually give you a few extra weeks then.

  • Reply Ferhad Patel 28/05/2017 at 15:05

    Hello, I’ve been on a German employment contract since the 1st January 2017 and leaving Germany on the 1st June.
    My new employment contract is in Asia . I plan to de-register with the local authorities before my departure.
    What’s my tax liabilities ? Do I need to declare my Asia income and is this taxed by the German authorities ?
    Thanks for your advise .

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/05/2017 at 21:10

      Hi Ferhad, if you don’t plan to come back in 2018 or later, then there is no need to worry.

  • Reply Sofia 28/05/2017 at 14:34

    Thanks a lot for the really informative post! 🙂

    I have been searching for something specific that I see in my “Lohnsteuerbescheinigung” but I can’t really get conclusive information…maybe someone here already heard about it.

    In my “Lohnsteuerbescheinigung” it appears a Line 37 “AN-Anteil Zukunftsversicherung (ZVK)” that I don’t know where it goes. I was wondering if this could be added in the “Hauptvordruck, Sonderausgaben, Dauernde Lasten”…Would that make sense? I think the other alternative would be in the “Vorsorgeaufwand” but only when you already pay it before 2005, that is not my case. I would appreciate if anyone has an idea on this! Thanks!

  • Reply SiChal 24/05/2017 at 16:42

    Thanks a lot for this informative post.
    As you stated in the post, it is optional for employees to declare their taxes. However, I learned that declaring tax will be mandatory once the employee declares the tax, i.e., it is optional as long as you don’t declare it once. I also heard that you can apply to the Financeamt so that they will revert it to optional. My question is, can one declare once, then revert to optional, then wait for four years and then declare? This way, it saves some time 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/05/2017 at 12:01

      Hi Sichal. I have never heard of such rule. Me and a few of my friends did it only once as employees and then didn’t do it the years after with no issues at all from the Finanzamt. You shouldn’t worry there. It’s optional for employees.

  • Reply Filip 23/05/2017 at 13:02


    I have questions regarding tax return in Germany. I did internship from December 2015 to the end of June 2016. After that I have stayed in Germany learning German language, all the time Anmeldet. My income for the first six months of 2016 was 8400, and I didn’t work since the end of the internship. How much can money can I get back and what is the easiest way to do it?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/05/2017 at 12:13

      Hi Filip. This is hard to say without knowing more of your situation, expenses, etc. It’s probably worth it if you haven’t done it before though.

  • Reply Maite 18/05/2017 at 17:34

    Thank you for your post.
    I was wondering if you need to send the receipts of all the deducted expenses.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/05/2017 at 13:59

      Hi Maite, in general no, especially if you are an employee, but you will need to be able to show them if the Finanzamt asks you.

  • Reply Simon Stone 17/05/2017 at 13:19

    Hi All. Reading through this page it is all related to either an employee or a freelancer. Does anyone know the specific forms that I would have to fill in if I am an employee in another country(Hong Kong) but I live in Germany? In this scenario I pay my taxes as per the Hong Kong tax guidelines.

    I believe that I am in the situation where I may not have to pay taxes however I would prefer to submit the tax return regardless.

    In addition does anyone know if there is a cheap service which I could get help in filing the return given the complication above.

    Thank you ion advance.

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