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 Abhilash Basavaraju 13/12/2017 at 14:42


    I am working here in Germany from October 2017 till next year October (2018)
    When should i claim my tax returns?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/12/2017 at 22:48

      Hi Abhi. In 2019.

  • Reply Alan bush 10/12/2017 at 13:08

    Hello i work for a uk company but my work is carried out in germany, I work in germany for 3 weeks then 1 week home, back out for 3 weeks then 2 weeks at home in the uk, this rotation carries out throughout the year i am not self employed, should i be paying German tax as i am not in the country for any great time, thanks alan

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/12/2017 at 22:44

      Hi Alan, ask the company if you need a special contract as an expatriate. You need to pay your taxes when you have residence in Germany for longer than 6 months i believe, but you might want to check on that rule again.

  • Reply Simon Kentley 06/12/2017 at 16:44

    I worked at a school in Germany between September and December 2013.
    My wife was working at the time in a school in England.
    When is the cut-off date to claim back tax for this period?
    Since it is 4 years ago, I don’t have any wage slips, personal/tax details etc
    Is this likely to harm the claim?
    Thanks very much

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/12/2017 at 11:17

      Hi Simon, the cut-off date would be until the end of 2017 as mentioned in the post. If you don’t have anything to make your statement with, i would not do it.

      • Reply Simon Kentley 11/12/2017 at 15:59

        Thanks anyway

  • Reply rani 06/12/2017 at 14:42

    I would like to claim for Tax returns for the year 2012. Can you please suggest me a good Software so that I can do it on my own!. I ve paid tax in a foreign country in 2012 and came here for Masters in Germany. Still can I claim for tax returns in Germany? Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/12/2017 at 11:16

      Hi Rani. It’s too late for 2012, i’m sorry.

  • Reply Lucia 04/12/2017 at 12:21

    I am a single student that has worked in Germany for 5 months (15th July 2017-15th December 2017). I have heard that as I have lived here for less than half of the year and I made less than 8.000 euros I should get my taxes back. Can I fill the forms before 2017 ends or do I have to wait till the end of the year?

    Thank you in advance,


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:39

      Hi Lucia, as mentioned in the post. You have to wait until the end of the year to apply for a tax return for the year prior.

  • Reply RAMESH KUMAR VAKADA 02/12/2017 at 18:02

    I started working in Germany from 24th Oct 2016. I have not submitted tax returns before May 31st 2017. Can I do it now or no?.
    If yes, Is there is any minimum period of time in that particular year should work to apply tax return. as I have only 2 months 7 days of sty in 2016.
    Can apply for tax return or not. If I apply how much I will get return. 43K is my annual income. according to Tax class 1 deducted tax for the above mentioned period of stay (From 24th Oct 2016 to 31st Dec 2017)
    Thanks for your advise in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:37

      Hi Ramesh. Please read the post. Yes you can apply for a tax return. Cannot tell you how much you will get back. Depends on your situation.

  • Reply Vamsi 01/12/2017 at 17:41

    I worked from may 2012 to june 2013.
    And i didint applyed for tax return. Is it ok if i can apply now?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:34

      Hi Vamsi. Please look in the post again as your answer is there. You can only apply for the last 4 years.

  • Reply Suchita 30/11/2017 at 16:19

    A friend of mine was in Germany for 6 months last year (10th April 2016 to 02-10-2016) and wants to apply for tax refund
    Is it possible? I have could different answers from different “tax agents”.
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:34

      Hi Suchita. Yes why not if he was registered and worked during that time.

  • Reply Christina 29/11/2017 at 20:59

    I am married to an EU citizen, and I need to register to the marriage at the Standesamt, and then the Finanzamt. We have been married for 2 years and I have been working here for two years without that registration. if I register the marriage, and I put in my tax return will I get more tax back retroactively? Many thanks,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:32

      Hi Sybella. I don’ t think it works that way but you can call the Finanzamt for a confirmation. You can only do a joint declaration if you are registered partners together.

  • Reply Gabriel 25/11/2017 at 14:27

    Dear Admin,

    I recently moved to Germany to complete a Masters program in Frankfurt and would like to know if i will be taxed on savings, that I had previously earned in my home country, that I transfer to Germany? I am worried about being taxed on my savings that I intend to use for my Masters program that lasts for 2 years.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/11/2017 at 20:34

      Hi Gabriel, i’m sorry i can’t answer this question in the comments section as i would require a lot more details.

  • Reply Goutham 25/11/2017 at 10:45


    I studied in germany from 2012 until 2015 and then I started working from 2016. I paid quite a lot of amount for my studies. I contacted a tax agent and they said I can do the tax claim only from 2013. My question is do I get any returns for the fees I paid during my studies ? If so, can I include all the details in the tax declaration for 2016 or should I do it separately for each year ?

    Thanks !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/11/2017 at 20:24

      Hi Goutham, the fees you paid for your studies will impact your total taxable income and some expenses are eligible to tax returns. Not sure but i think it’s possible to include this in just one declaration, adding up all fees together; just make sure to insert the right dates for these fees.

  • Reply Amrita Sukumar 22/11/2017 at 12:29

    Dear Admin,

    I am living in Germany for 5 years. I was a master student from 2012 October until 2015 April at the University of Siegen.I did my registration at finanzamt in Siegen when I was a student. Now I live and work in Stuttgart. So I dont know exactly which is my tax office.

    For the year 2015, I have two Lohnsteuerbescheinigung

    Jan 2015 – April 2015: I did my internship, Stuttgart.

    May 2015- Dec 2015: I was full time employed as the Product Manager same company, Stuttgart.

    Additional expenses:

    Jan 2015 – April 2015: I have document and visa supporting that I was a student. I paid my tuition fee and also printing cost for my thesis.
    May 2015- Dec 2015: I am full time employed with a normal wage and I supported my parents (Eltern geld).

    Should I sum Lohnsteuerbescheinigung together or fill separate forms.

    Best regards

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:54

      Hi Amrita, you don’t need to do separate forms, just mention that there were different position.

  • Reply Hayk Voskanyan 21/11/2017 at 12:39

    I started to do my MBA in Germany at 2013 October and finished it on 2015 March. from December this year I will start to work. My question is, is it possible to deduct the payments for my MBA from the taxis I am going to pay?
    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:17

      Hi Hayk, you can still deduct the fees for the MBAs from your taxes, as mentionned in the post.

  • Reply Tiara 20/11/2017 at 14:50

    Greetings.! I work for a German based Indian organization and I’m currently working in Germany for deputation (~3 months) and I get my wages as per German law. I have neither registered in Rathaus nor I have a bank account here in Germany. Is it possible for me to file my tax returns on my own, once I’m back home? If so, what are all the documents that I will need?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:08

      Hi Tiara. No that wont be possible i’m afraid as you need to be registered for the time you are working here.

      • Reply Tiara 16/03/2018 at 05:42

        Thanks for your reply. Do I still have a chance if I have an eTIN number and Lohnsteuerbescheinigung document?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/03/2018 at 10:50

          Hi Tiara. I am confused, if you are not registered, how did you get your eTIN number?

          • Tiara 23/03/2018 at 14:19

            I’m not sure of the answer for your question. May be, my employer would have done on my behalf (not sure though) .. But I do have an eTIN number on my Lohnsteuerbescheinigung document.

  • Reply Praveenkumar Beedanal 17/11/2017 at 00:09

    Hi, I am a student in the Germany. I have worked as work student in the 2 companies. So my tax deducted more than the normal. So how can i refund the tax amount?. What is the procedure for that?. What is the deadline for applying for tax declaration?. I am still studying in Germany. I want to refund money of past 4 Months.

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/11/2017 at 14:46

      Hi Praveenkumar, the whole procedure is the same as the one described in the post.

  • Reply Tony 15/11/2017 at 13:16

    Hi there,
    I worked as intern from July, 2017 and will finish my intern in January (Master student). The salary is my only income. Can I get some tax refund back? (my total salary is less than 8000 per year as I work for 6 months only.
    Best regards,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/11/2017 at 14:54

      Hi Tony, yes you can apply for a tax return. The process is the same as detailed above.

  • Reply Joyce 14/11/2017 at 17:45

    Hi there, thank you for this really informative and useful post, this is pretty much what I need the most now.
    I had been working full-time for the past 6 months and will leave Europe at the end of this month. I was employed, my sole income was the salary from this job. I will de-register before I leave but keep my german bank account.
    I have an Elster account already and plan to use it for my income tax return.
    Today I went to a Finanzamt to sort things out and they told me that even with an Elster account, I would need a registered address to receive letters from Finanzamt for my tax return.
    My question is: can I get the money back in my german account without a registered address in Germany?

    Another thing they actually said is that I should do the tax claim in the country I will be living (in Asia), and I will get the tax return from that country, then that country will claim the money from german government. Is that true? Because it sounded a bit odd to me.

    Thank you again and also for reading this message.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/11/2017 at 10:40

      Hi Joyce, you first question: If they say it’s not possible, then it’s not possible. Second question: i would not know about that. Interesting concept. I shall research it.

  • Reply Khan 13/11/2017 at 19:27

    I did Steurerklarung for 2016 and 2014, but not 2015. Can I do 2015 now? If so when shall I submit it? thank you


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/11/2017 at 10:37

      Hi Khan, yes you can still do 2015 now, at any time if you are an employee.

  • Reply John 08/11/2017 at 09:52

    I am working for Germany in 3 months before returning back to the US. My question is, can all of this be done online? Or should I try and file the papers while I am here with the Finanzamt. I am thinking it might be too early, since it is only November 2017, and the tax returns would not be due till May 2018. Also, would the Finanzamt be the best place to go to arrange the refund to come back to my US Bank account, or can I just specify that in the official form?

    Same question but for the pension refund as well, although I know I have to wait two years to do that, so then my question would be what forms should I hold onto until I can process that refund.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/11/2017 at 18:07

      Hi John, yes you can submit your tax return online, as mentioned in the post. You can specify a foreign bank account for potential refund yes.

  • Reply Pablo Lia Fook 07/11/2017 at 17:45

    I started working in Germany on September 2016. However, I just came to know about the ”Steuererklärung” procedure. Moreover, I realised that the deadline for the request was 31st May. Can you tell me if I still eligible to submit the tax refund regarding last year?
    Many thanks,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/11/2017 at 18:05

      Hi Pablo. I can’t tell if you are an employee or self-employed, that changes things. All info is in the post anyway, please read it again.

  • Reply Ervis 04/11/2017 at 19:53


    I work in Germany since January 26th of 2016. I have been earning 40k brutto per Year. But, I will leave Germany in 24th November.
    What is the approximate amount of money I could get back?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/11/2017 at 18:59

      Hi Ervis, as mentionned in many other comments: impossible for me to tell; there are too many parameters that could impact your tax return.

  • Reply Israel E 03/11/2017 at 15:42

    Hi Guys, thanks for all the tips. Please which of these forms is appropriate for students “ESt 1 C 2016 – Einkommensteuererklärung für beschränkt steuerpflichtige Personen” ,
    “ESt 1 A 2016 – Einkommensteuererklärung 2016 (Mantelbogen) für unbeschränkt steuerpflichtige Personen” or this ” ESt 1 V 2016 – Vereinfachte Einkommensteuererklärung für Arbeitnehmer” ? I want to file for my 2016 tax return and i’m not sure how to begin. Please help

  • Reply piyush 03/11/2017 at 12:28

    hi, i started working in Germany two months back and my has deducted 34.6 % tax from my salary under pension scheme plan. Now i would like to resign from my company and get back to my country. Can i get this taxes back?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/11/2017 at 18:52

      Hi there. You can research if there any agreements between Germany and your home country to transfer the pension rights you earned here to your home scheme.

  • Reply Bhagat Krishna 01/11/2017 at 21:28

    Hi, I’m working in Germany from 25th January’17 and leaving back to India by 24th Nov. Before leaving germany, i will do deregistration from local Rathus and Closing of Bank account. Now my question is,
    Whether I can get the tax refund directly to my Indian Bank Account? (Because, after November all my german bank accounts will be closed); If that is the case, this refund subjected to tax in India?
    Or I can give my friends Bank account to get my tax-returns?

    Thank you,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/11/2017 at 09:43

      Hi Bhagat, yes, you can also give the details of a foreign account, provided it’s IBAN format. Additional expenses and additional admin steps that might occur on your side are then up to you.

  • Reply TRINH 01/11/2017 at 02:12


    I have started working as an employee (a PhD student as well) at a hospital in Germany since 11/2016. The salary wage I get monthly is calculated from TVL-E13 (E50%) in 2017. I would like to know whether I could get back the tax refund in 2017? When and how much money could I get back if possible? Thanks for you help.

    Best regards, Trinh

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/11/2017 at 09:38

      Hi Trinh. You can probably get some money back yes. how much exactly, it’s impossible for me to say.

  • Reply Asad 30/10/2017 at 11:35


    I just have a simple question. I was working in India until July 2017 (resigned from the job) and moved to Germany in August. I am going to start working with a new employer (First job in Germany) in Berlin from 1st Nov 2017. I just need to know how my tax will be calculated for 2017? Because my total earning in Germany in 2017 will be my two months salary only i.e. November and December which is less than EUR8000. Do I need to pay any tax for November and December salary?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/10/2017 at 09:06

      Hi Asad, if you read the post, you can see that income tax is taken from your salary directly, so there is nothing for you to do there, apart from doing a tax return in 2018 for the 2 months in 2017.

  • Reply Diana 27/10/2017 at 11:18

    Hello, Thank you for a great article!

    I am currently a PhD student receiving a scholarship from the university (hence I do not pay tax for this). In addition to that, 2 years ago I worked for a semester (6 months, Winter Semester 2015/2016) as a teaching assistant with a relatively small salary but for which I paid tax. I was told that in principle I could ask for tax refund since I only worked for 6 months. Do you know anything about such situations? Do you think I could apply for tax return? If so, does the same procedure described on this page apply – filling in the 3 forms that you mentioned?

    Thank you very much,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:52

      Hi Diana. You can probably get something out of a tax return; even students that don’t work can get something back. It’s definitely worth a shot.

      • Reply Diana 02/11/2017 at 17:01

        Thank you!

  • Reply Woganfan 27/10/2017 at 00:10

    I have to say this website is an absolute gem, even for those of us not moving to Berlin, so thank you for all the articles and information. It looks like I will be moving to Ingolstadt soon, engineer position not with AUDI sadly. The pay is €80-85k p/a but does not come with a company vehicle. It has been mentioned to me that if I live more than 25km from my work place, employees get tax relief on the commute. Is this true? If true, is it only on the km over 25, so if one lived 30km from work, you can only claim for the 5km each way per day? Many thanks again for the site and your efforts.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:49

      Hi there. You get a tax relief commute from the first kilometer i believe, but maybe they are talking about some other bonus, but that’s only from what i remember on other sources online. You’d better check that.

  • Reply Khan 26/10/2017 at 14:58

    Hi, First of all very useful article. So here is my situation:

    I have paid about €17,000 for my masters in Germany. I graduated this year and its been four months since I started to work fulltime.

    My question is: Is the fee inculded in the expenses or not? If yes, then will I get a huge or few thousands euros back since my expenses and yearly income will be equal (if we include the fee) ?

    P.S: A friend of mine said I will be able to get huge reutrns since I already have paid the fee. True?

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:45

      Hi Khan. It’s hard to answer without some more details but it depends where you took your master. You can definitely put these as “Fortbildung” costs. Since it’s your first time doing this as an employee, you will probably get a decent return out of it all yes.

  • Reply Rathan 26/10/2017 at 11:22


    I am married and started working in Germany from September 2017 and my wife join me before 31st dec 2017.
    Will I be able to get tax refund for earlier months of the year under category 3?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:42

      Hi Rathan. no.

  • Reply Frank 25/10/2017 at 12:09


    Long time lurker, first time poster.

    Is it normal to have to sign a contract with a steurerberator? I was happy with the initial advice offered during a recent meeting but a bit confused why I would need to sign a contract with them.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:41

      Hi Frank. There can be many different reasons why you could work with a Steuerberater so i cant answer without knowing details but in general yes, it is fine and normal to have a contract yes.

  • Reply mohamed hassan 18/10/2017 at 16:36


    I finished my master degree last july and will start my 1st Job in Germany next December . I have never work in germany before . I’m planning to buy a house and will transfer capital from my bank in my own country to Germany , is there any type of tax . I received tax number after reach Germany with few months . I have never deal with financial office before. still i have a student visa till the current moment.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/10/2017 at 19:04

      Hi Mohamed, you might need the help of Steuerberater to optinize transfer of capital and house purchase.

  • Reply sharath 18/10/2017 at 14:05

    Hi, I have been working in germany since 2 years and filed the tax return for last year myself and it went well.
    Now this year I am a little concerned regarding if we could submit any expenses we had, like I took a fuhrerschein, auto, and other appliances.
    I heard that we could submit these expenses and benefit a reduction in the tax.
    Please let me know how to do this. I did everything via Elster on my desktop, was not sure about if there was such provisions to attach such bills.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/10/2017 at 19:01

      Hi Shara. It’s the job of a steuerberater to help you optimize your tax returns. Those self-help platforms also help you do that.

  • Reply Vinay Kumar Vanjakula 16/10/2017 at 10:06

    I am Vinay. I working in Germany as a student. I need some info for tax refund, What is the amount (eg. <8600 Euros) that I can be eligible to apply for refund?. If so that amount, should I calculate with taxes or without taxes?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/10/2017 at 12:15

      Hi Vinay, there is no minimum amount to submit a tax return.

  • Reply Nag 13/10/2017 at 14:44


    I started working in Germany from 01/02/2017 and my wife came to Germany and registered on 12/08/2017. Will the tax office considers 3 as my tax class for the whole year? or starting 12th Sep?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/10/2017 at 11:46

      Hi Nagesh, update in tax classes happen automatically but usually over a few weeks. Probably some weeks after the 12/08, provided you have made your marriage also valid and recognized in Germany.

      • Reply Nagesh 16/10/2017 at 13:46

        Hi, I know that it will get updated automatically. my question is that tax class for the whole year will be three?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/10/2017 at 22:12

          Just the three.

  • Reply Sweden 13/10/2017 at 12:16


    Thank you so much for your work with this site. Its been so helpful each step of the way in relocating.

    I have a question regarding being in the wrong tax class.
    I started working for a company in Berlin in june and since I was renting second hand apartments without being able to do the holy anmeldung I have been in the wrong tax class (6) until now (october) I was told when I started here that I would receive the money I (over)taxed back once the HR dept. received identikationsumber and I came into the “right” tax class (1). I have now submitted it but was horrified when I read here that I won’t get the money back.

    Could you provide some more insight to how this works? Have I been screwed here?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/10/2017 at 11:44

      Hi Jens; sorry to hear about your case but it’s not uncommon unfortunately. I have never heard of the possibility of getting this back but do ask your HR what they meant by that and come back here to tell us the good news (hopefully). I would then amend this post.

  • Reply Louis 11/10/2017 at 12:27

    Hi there,

    Submitted my tax return 8 weeks ago and just got a transfer from the Finanzamt. The amount is different from what I expected, but still worth it. I was wondering if I will also receive a letter with the breakdown of my refunds? E.g. 100 euros for moving costs, 150 for x, 30 euros for y… etc.

    That would allow me to see what works and does not work for the next tax declaration!

    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/10/2017 at 20:03

      Hi Louis. No, those costs impact on your total taxable income, so it is the sum of it that matters.

  • Reply Uday 10/10/2017 at 12:00

    Hi , In my case I received a letter from FINANZMAT regarding tax class change , but the same is not reflecting in the salary , it is still with old tax class even after 2 months, So what is the wait time for it to get reflected in the salary?(I spoke to the payroll team they said it is done automatically by local tax authority), Is there anything else I can do about it?

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/10/2017 at 20:00

      Hi there. To my knowledge, this is handled automatically yes.

  • Reply Mahant Parekh 07/10/2017 at 14:10


    I came to Germany in Oct. 2012 for my Master Studies in Berlin.(1 year internship 2014-15) Completed my studies in 2016. Now I am working in Munich since 1 year 3 months. I have paid for my studies as the course was in English. I have never filed my tax return. I want to file it from 2012. Can you help how to proceed?

    Mahant Parekh

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2017 at 11:03

      Hi Mahant, the process is clearly outlined in the post. Cant help you further sorry.

  • Reply Karl Emil Koch 06/10/2017 at 23:14

    Thanks for a great article!
    I have a question regarding the refundable tax. I am so unfortunate that i did not get my Steuer ID before my first salary. In your article you state that i cannot get my overpaid tax refunded. Can you explain this more in depth? Does it mean that it is unchangeable and I will have to pay maximum tax rate for every salary without being able to get it refunded?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2017 at 10:59

      Hi Karl. You pay maximum rate on your salary until your get tax ID. After that, you should your employer know you have one and it should be fixed then.

  • Reply Slaw 06/10/2017 at 11:31


    I’ve been working in Germany in 2014/2015, and stopped working and left the Germany on 09.2015. Last week I’ve got the letter from Finanzamt that I need to submit the tax declaration for year 2016 (when I haven’t been in Germany already and definitively haven’t been working then). In the letter it have been told, that other option is to send letter with explanation, why do I think I do not have to submit tax declaration and proof of that. What should I do?
    Importantly, I’ve submitted the tax declarations for the years 2014 and 2015 before, and received the tax refunds.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2017 at 10:58

      Hi Slaw, then it must be a mistake from the Finanzamt. They must not be aware you have left the country. Send them a letter explaining your situation with documents to prove it (like the document that said you unregistered yourself at the Standesamt).

  • Reply Abhishek Jain 04/10/2017 at 09:10

    I just finished my masters and started working now in Germany Since september 2017 , I have some doubts regarding tax return!!
    1) Being a student, i did couple of parttime jobs and payed the taxes as well. Is there any way to get that money back??
    2) As a part of main job now, What steps i have to do get the money back? Do i have to apply now for this as well or should i wait for one year !!

    Looking forward to the positve reply

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/10/2017 at 16:40

      Hi Abhishek, please read the post again, the answer are there. As a student, you can still apply for a tax return yes. You have to wait until 2018 to apply for 2017.

  • Reply Andy 03/10/2017 at 18:30

    Thanks for all the infomation you are sharing (pretty awesome)!
    I have a problem, I was employed (single, tax class 1) at the University in Germany from May 2012 to September 2015, than I moved out. I was actually enrolled also as a PhD student paying semester fees for all this period. I have never filled out a tax return because in my situation was not compulsory. Few days ago, I was sorting all my old papers and I found out that on the first lohnsteuerbescheinigung (2012) there is the Capital letter “S” that apparently makes the tax statement compulsory even if you are an employee…I am a little be worried because at the time I was not aware about this stuff and now it’s pretty late…I am not sure what I am supposed to do. When I started in May that was my first job ever (before I was a student in my home country), so basically what they took was everything they should have taken (actually much more)….by the way I never eared anyting from them in the time I was there. Do you have any suggestion?
    Thanks man!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/10/2017 at 17:58

      Hi Andy. If you left the country and never received any news. I would not take any further steps and wait it out. If you are coming back one day, maybe best to clear it with a Steuerberater.

  • Reply Saleh 01/10/2017 at 02:21


    I have a full time job but I’m working as a freelancer beside my job, not every month though.
    My employer is already paying taxes for my full time job, how I can pay taxes for the freelancer work?
    I’m very confused how to start in my situation specially how to connect my both taxes together (full time and freelancer) specially that I’m not doing mine at all.

    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/10/2017 at 14:33

      Hi Saleh. You should have registered as a freelancer. For more information on that and paying taxes too, you can read my guide there.

  • Reply India 28/09/2017 at 19:33

    Hi there, is it really possible to get a thousand or more euros back?? According to my ta consultant, I am only getting 500 back for 2015 and 500 for 2016 even though both years were for only partial employment. Not to mention the fact that I am paying about half of each refund amount to them for completing. I feel like I am over paying for a refund that is not that good…

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/09/2017 at 11:49

      Hi India. Yes it is really possible, but you need to justify enough expenses and tax cuts to get there.

  • Reply Saprol 28/09/2017 at 11:54

    I have a question. Do you still get a tax refund if you are a working student? Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/09/2017 at 09:04

      Hi Saprol. Yes.

  • Reply Ricardo Picinatto 27/09/2017 at 15:44

    I have worked in Germany for 3 months, register in Berlin tax class I and have no other income. I left my job and I won’t work in Germany in the future. First question can I send the tax refund before the end of the year (2017), since I am still in Germany or I have to wait to 2018?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/09/2017 at 09:04

      Hi Ricardo, you have to wait for the next year.

  • Reply Ángel 26/09/2017 at 19:19

    Hi, I had heard that it’s only compulsory to do your tax return if you earn more than a certain amount. Is that true?
    It’s been almost 4 years since I started working in Germany and had never done it nor did I think I had to, so I’m a bit worried eheh. Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/09/2017 at 10:07

      Hi Angel. If you have been an employee all these years and that was your only income, then don’t be worried: you don’t need to submit a tax statement. You should do it though, because it is likely you will get hundred of euros back.

  • Reply Jacky 25/09/2017 at 01:25

    Hi there, Our company registered in UK and based in UK only. We don’t have any office in Germany. We sales computer accessories online to Germany via Amazon platform. We had apply a German VAT number and submit VAT return monthly. We received a letter asked for make tax return to Germany Tax office. My question is we are not registered in Germany, do we need to submit tax return in Germany ? Please share your thoughts. Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2017 at 11:21

      Hi Jacky. This page is about tax return for private individuals, not companies, sorry. You might need to ask somewhere else.

    • Reply Hamed 26/09/2017 at 16:13

      If you have already registered your company in Germany and have a VAT Id, you need toy submit your VAT declaration each 3 months (quarter) and as soon as the Finanzamt receives your documents, they will automatically reimburse the VAT to your bank account assigned in your application.
      more questions?

  • Reply Michael 23/09/2017 at 00:51


    I am single and currently working in Germany since June 2017. I also earn money from online gambling. So can I ask you a few questions? How will the tax apply to my situation? Do i have to pay tax for my online earning? And can I still be able to get some tax return? Thank you very much.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2017 at 11:18

      Hi Michael. I assume you mean you are also gambling aside from your full time job as an employee. You have to be careful, it does count as income and should be taxed yes.

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