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.

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


  • Reply Graeme 17/05/2018 at 17:16

    Hi Bastien, I had a question: I registered as living in Germany in March 2017, however I had received money from a German company as a self-employed writer in the month previous to that. Should I include this on my tax return?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:36

      Hi there. Yes.

  • Reply Mamatha 17/05/2018 at 08:56

    I applied for my tax returns on feb still I have not received yet still how long needs get back my Tax returns

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2018 at 19:49

      Hi Mamatha. As mentioned in the post. It depends.

  • Reply John 16/05/2018 at 11:03

    Good morning. I currently teach here in Germany on a freelance basis. I technically have only been paid during this year, 2018. Does this mean I don’t have to claim the income I have made so far?

    Thank you for your helpful tips.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2018 at 19:48

      Hi John. Not only you don’t have to but also you can’t do that until 2019.

  • Reply MIA 15/05/2018 at 16:35

    Hi, I got married in Febr 2016 and started to work in Aug 2016. My husband did tax refund before since he has worked since2013. After married, we can do it together. The question is: must we do it for every year or can we do it a bit later 2019 for example? Tks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:50

      Hi Mia. If you are both employees, i suppose yes.

  • Reply KS 14/05/2018 at 08:38

    Hello Bastien,
    The information is very helpful. Can you please additionally tell how to apply for extension of deadline for filing the tax return? And which additional forms to fill if I have income in my home country (non-salary)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:45

      Hi Ks. Only a Steuerberater can do that for you.

  • Reply Taxtroubles 10/05/2018 at 18:43

    Hi. Up until last year I did not do a tax return as all i had was my smallish salary. I now also get rental income for renting out a room in my apartment. I got a professional to do my tax return last year but it cost me more than I got back (130 Euro). I am trying to do it with SteuerGo this year…but I am afraid of entering something incorrectly. If I submit something that is incorrect (refund of 300 expected), will that cause me a heaache?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:42

      Hi Claire. If you submit something that is not accurate and get caught in the future for it, there will be consequences yes. How bad? How quick? I can’t tell you…

  • Reply Daniela Bejarano 10/05/2018 at 17:01


    I just did my tax declaration of me and my husband, as a result is says we need to pay money beides getting a refund. Is that correct?

    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:41

      Hi Daniela. Quite impossible to answer that question within a comment section… So many variables to consider. Sorry.

    • Reply Katja 26/05/2018 at 12:50

      Hi Daniela, I also did tax declaration for me and my husband. And although I did not receive a reply yet, I expect them to request more money from us. In my case, it is because of Steuer Class. My Husband has 3, and I somehow received 4, and our taxes were calculated accordingly through the year. But his is not correct, I should be class 5, and I should have paid more money through the year. That’s why I expect they will let us pay.
      Maybe you have the similar situation? What are your and your husband”s tax classes?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:18

        Are you sure it’s 3/4?? It can only be either 4/4, or 3/5, or 5/3. I find it strange….

  • Reply Mirta 09/05/2018 at 23:42


    I have been working in Germany for past three years full time with one mont break.
    You mentioned I could ask for a refund for past three years.
    -Is there something special I need to do in that case?
    -What should I do if the tax declaration paper I got from my last job got lost?
    -A colleague of mine mentioned that gastronomers (chef, in my case) can get a bit more refound by stating things like washing work clothes daily….is that true and can that be done online too?

    Sorry for my bad english and thank you in advance!

    Best Regards,


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/05/2018 at 21:40

      Hi Mirta. You have to check the expenses you can put off in taxes yourself, or with a Steuerberater to be sure, but it sounds like something that could be possible. You can do your Steuerklärung for the 3 years, just send the relevant forms (with the correct years on them). If you need your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung again, just ask your employer for a copy.

  • Reply Sophie 05/05/2018 at 19:12

    Hi Bastien!
    Thanks for blog and your effort to inform all the awsomness of Berlin for all the people that are moving here.
    Lets say that i lived in Berlin for from 2015 to 2018 mid feb. I have moved back to Sweden and now realize I can get a refund from my taxes.
    Can i still do my tax declaration even though i am not registerd in Germany / Berlin anymore?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2018 at 20:33

      Hi Sophie. Yes.

  • Reply Georgiana 02/05/2018 at 13:48

    Dear Bastien,

    Your blog is very helpful, thanks a lot for doing it :D.
    I got one question about the tax return: why would the government give me back some money? Assuming everything was right from the beginning (tax class and things like this).

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/05/2018 at 22:16

      Hi Georgiana. As mentioned in the post, you can put some expenses off in taxes and it can lead to a refund in a lot of cases.

  • Reply Muhammad Jibran Khan 30/04/2018 at 10:03

    year of 2016 as a full time worker at Daimler during my semester break. Now I want to get my income tax refund and Please guide me how can I file Income Tax return for year 2016 while I am living in Pakistan.

    1-Can you please guide me about filing Income Tax Return for year 2016 while I live abroad.
    2-Can I receive money from Finanzamt to my local currency bank account that I keep in my home country or should I have to have a German Euro Bank account in order to get the return amount ?
    I will be very thankful to you for your kind and positive response.

    Thanks & Kind Regards,
    Muhammad Jibran Khan

  • Reply Alex 26/04/2018 at 23:56

    Hi, thanks for a nice article!
    Let’s say, someone works for 2 years while being a student – 2017+2018, earning more than 8 thousand per year. Then he starts working full-time and works for a year – 2019. Will the tax refund made for the past 3 years consider the total paid tax for 3 years, or is it that expenses of e.g. 2017 can be only deducted from the tax paid specifically in 2017?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2018 at 09:16

      Hi Alex. Good question. I don’t know how the Finanzamt proceeds in cases like this. Logic would make me say that expenses for one year will count for that year only, but i might be wrong.

  • Reply Fatima 25/04/2018 at 00:25

    I wish to claim my tax return for the year 2016. 2015-16 I was deputed to work in one of the firms in Germany. So before coming to Germany I had to sign a document saying that they have the authority to claim my taxreturn. Now is there anyway to cancle the authority or attorney I gave for taxreturn to the firm in Germany.

  • Reply Maire 24/04/2018 at 15:23

    Hi there, this is so great! I have one question: in 2017 I changed jobs – I worked for one company January – April, and then another May – December. I have received one Lohnsteuerbescheinigung für 2017 from my current employer (the May-December role) – do I need to request and submit my return including a Lohnsteuerbescheinigung für 2017 from my previous employer, or is this automatically calculated within my Lohnsteuerbescheinigung für 2017 overall? Any advice much appreciated!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2018 at 09:22

      Hi Maire. You need to request the Lohnsteuerbescheinigung from your previous employer and include it as well.

  • Reply metodi 24/04/2018 at 13:08

    I worked as a student for 3 months,2 years in a row last year i submitted my tax return documents and in a month and a half i received the money this year i did the same thing exactly by hand send it by post 2 and a half months no answer i send 2 email no answer.My question is can they reject my documents or this year it takes a little longer depends on the Finanzamt please help .

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2018 at 09:23

      Hi Metodi. No idea, depends on the Finanzamt probably.

  • Reply Jordan 24/04/2018 at 10:25

    Hey Bastien

    I’ve been in Germany for a while now. I’m self employed but this year I have cut out my accountant and going at it alone. I am a subcontractor (messebau) and would like to ask what forms do I need to fill out monthly? I no I need the Umsatzsteuer Voranmeldung but I’m not sure if there are any other i.e. (Anlage S, EUR, KAP…)

    anything helps! Thanks


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/04/2018 at 19:16

      Hi Jordan. Maybe simply look at what your accountant was sending last year? I don’t know enough about your job and obligations to give you a reliable answer i’m afraid.

  • Reply madtar 17/04/2018 at 23:45

    Hi Bastien,
    I came across your blog today as I am trying to figure out how to deal with my taxes in Germany. This is an excellent blog and so helpful.

    My situation is somewhat complicated (at least in my head as I never had to file any tax reports before).
    I have been living and working in Germany for some years. Beginning 2017 I found myself unemployed and with no other source of income (zero).
    I start looking for jobs. Meanwhile, around February I start making some “side income” by doing some quick and easy online marketing-related tasks for a crowd-sourcing company. They “hired” me as “independent contractor” (whatever that means) and they were paying to my Paypal every month something around 450EUR. In total I earned around 2500EUR, from February till end July 2017.
    By the way, during the same period (Feb-July 2017) I also ventured into some online freelance platforms and scored some small amounts (around 600EUR in total).
    Beginning of June 2017 I go to the Finanzamt to register as freelancer/self employed to work as a web-design professional. I made sure to check to be VAT exempt since I wasn’t expecting to gain anything near 17000EUR during 2017, and a few days later I received my Steuernummer ID by post.
    I don’t think I scored anything under this profession (maybe 200Eur if any).
    August 1st, I leave Germany officially.
    I also notify in person the Finanzamt that I am closing this freelance profession and I leave the country.
    I realize that I have to declare any income made while residing in Germany, the question is how? Do I declare the “crowd-sourcing income” in a separate income form with my Identifikationsnummer, or I have to include everything in a self-employed form with my Steuernummer? I never had to send any invoices to anyone by the way, everything I earned was from online jobs, that were paid automatically.

    Last but not least, can I do everything online as I already said, I do not live in Germany any more? Can (and should) I register and use Elster?

    I am absolutely lost and any advise would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks on advance and congrats again for your very helpful blog!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/04/2018 at 11:31

      Well the truth is that it was not really legal to take these freelance jobs before you were properly registered. It doesn’t matter how the invoicing/getting paid process works. It might be problematic now that you need to do a tax declaration. I’d talk to a Steuerberater if i were you.

  • Reply Joana Sequeira 17/04/2018 at 20:53

    Hello! I’ve lived and worked in Berlin last year legally, but I’ve moved out so I’m currently living in Lisbon now. Still, I’ve worked and I’ve payed my taxes so I sh0uld get my share. Is it okay to do everything only within SteuerGo? Or not?

    Thanks for your help!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:41

      Hi Joana. Yes, you can do it.

  • Reply Dora 17/04/2018 at 17:40

    Dear Bastien,

    if I am married and both of us is in the Steuerklasse 4, do we have to do the Steuererklärung? In my country it was obligatory, but I don’t know how it work here in Berlin.

    Thank you for your reply in advance.


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/04/2018 at 19:38

      Hi Dora. Married or not married, it doesn’t matter. If you are both employees, there is no obligation to do it.

  • Reply Merum 16/04/2018 at 13:57


    i worked as a
    – work student January 2017 – June 2017
    – full time employee (company 1) July 2017 – August 2017
    – full time employee (company 2) September 2017 – December 2017

    Can you suggest how to file the tax return please. Do I need to file the tax return separately for all of the jobs or together?
    Also do I need receipts of the tickets and other stuff? e.g. relocation, public transport, work clothes/equipment, etc

    One more thing, where can we get Lohnsteuerbescheinigung from?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/04/2018 at 20:37

      Hi Merum. All these jobs were in 2017, you can file a return for all of them. You need to be able to prove any expense you used to reduce your taxable income.

  • Reply Princess 12/04/2018 at 14:00

    Dear Bastien,

    I came across your helpful blog while i was making research. It really explain a lot about the Tax return. I worked for 6 months in another city for last year 2017, the company provided accommodation while working, no registration of the Nabenadresse and also, i did not pay church tax because my church ain’t here. In my main registered city at the Rathaus it was declared on my Anmeldung (Catholic) and am not a member of catholic. My question are :
    Will Church tax affect my tax return or be taken from it?
    Since no transportation or other expensive done, will that affect me for not registering Nabenadresse?

    Waiting your reply.

    Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 18:20

      Hi there. i don’t understand your second question but regarding Church tax, you can look at this post here, in short, the answer is yes; you will pay a higher income tax.

  • Reply Paola 12/04/2018 at 00:42

    Hi there,

    I submitted my tax return forms on Feb. 27, 2018 and received a Kirchensteuerstelle form from the Finanzamt in the mail in early April. Is this something that will affect me from getting my tax return money?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:39

      Hi Paola. In this case, there is a doubt about if you belong to a certain Church, and if you need to pay Church tax. So potentially yes, depending on what you answer.

  • Reply DasuRani 05/04/2018 at 13:24

    Both husband and wife from India. Can a husband demand wife tax id and other details if both are living separately in Germany. Is wife details mandatorily needed while filing the tax return?If the wife doesn’t wish to share the Tax Id and other details can a husband force the wife?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:52

      Hi there. No, there is no obligation for spouses to do a joint tax declaration.

  • Reply Nath 04/04/2018 at 22:07

    Hi ,
    I have been working as Intern as well as a work student during the year 2017 during which i also paid taxes. However since my gross salary was less than 8800 euros i am thinking to file tax return for getting back the taxes paid. Could you please advice me on the two doubts i have

    1.Would it be possible to receive the tax returns.
    2.I am a Non EU person just graduated from University and so would it affect my future stay in Germany.
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:55

      Hi Nath. 1. Yes.
      2. No.

  • Reply Alice 04/04/2018 at 20:15


    Many thanks for this informative post!

    I lost my Elster password, I tried everything but seems like it’s impossible to retrieve a new one if you are not German. Is there any other way to send it over electronically?

    Also, I moved places between the last two years, if I need to send in my declaration per post, do I need to send the one for 2016 to place X and the 2017 declaration to place Y?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:56

      Hi Alice. They only send activation codes by post. You only need to send your declaration to the Finanzamt you were last registered to.

  • Reply marcus 03/04/2018 at 23:22

    I wonder if you could answer this question I am currently an employee of a company and I have the opportunity to earn some commission based earnings promoting another companies product. This does not clash with my current employer and I would like to know how I would declare this commission I will receive? The amount would not be much maybe a few hundred euro per year.
    Best Regards,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2018 at 15:19

      Hi Marcus. It depends if you consider this to be a Nebentätigkeit.

  • Reply sunil kovuri 27/03/2018 at 17:01

    Hallo Bastien,

    Thanks for the much usefull information.
    I started working in germany from mid-march 2018. i am in class 1 for the tax
    my wife and kid will come from india in july 2018. then i will be in class 3.
    will i get the refund for the tax as i will be paying more (as per ckass 1) from march till june 2018.

    thanks very much in advance

  • Reply Varun S 26/03/2018 at 17:18

    Hey Bastien and SIB Team,
    Kudos for the excellent write-up and sharing valuable piece of information.

    I have a question about my taxes paid for the last year. I was a student for most part of 2017 and was later employed full time in a company from Oct 2017. I have a situation where in I received income as a student under the following categories
    1. Jan 2017 to March 2017 : Amount “x”. This was a student job, and was credited as salary/income.
    2. April 2017 to Sept 2017 : Amount “y”. I did my thesis in a company, and this amount was credited as allowance, and not salary.
    3. Oct 2017 to Dec 2017: Amount “z”. This was during my full time employment and i was taxed at ~42% under Class I.

    When i file the tax returns this year, should i add up x+y+z and declare the sum as my total income for 2017 for receiving refund (since i was deducted with the highest tax rate between Oct 2017-Dec 2017)?
    Is the income during my thesis exempted from being calculated as income, since it was provided as an allowance, and i need to declare it somewhere else while filing the tax ?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/03/2018 at 19:27

      Hi Varun. All income, taxable or not, should be put in your tax declaration. There is a different spot of it yes.

  • Reply rajiv chirania 25/03/2018 at 14:30

    Hi Bastien,

    Thanks for the great article and help that you provide!

    You mentioned above that: “employees whose sole income are their salaries are not required by law to submit a tax return”. So you mean to say that if your income in only through SALARY then even if you file tax return you will not get any money back.?

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/03/2018 at 19:21

      Hi Rajiv. Yes you can get money back. You just don’t have to do it.

  • Reply Neeraj 24/03/2018 at 21:54

    Hi Bastien, Many thanks for the detailed information. However you have covered all the generic information , but i have one situational question.
    I moved to Germany from Non-EU country in January 2017 and this is my first time and first year in Germany that i am filing my tax return.
    I have heard that i should get some tax benefits as i have relocated to Germany.
    I have below questions :
    1. Is that true that i should get the tax benefits as i have relocated to Germany ?
    2. By any chance have you come across any such example ? How much amount should i expect ?
    3. If yes , then do i need to mention it somewhere explicitly while filing my tax return ?

    Your reply is much much appreciated in advance .

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/03/2018 at 19:21

      Hi Neeraj. I think what you mean is that whenever you are relocating, you can claim the expenses of relocating (like paying a moving a company for example). So yeah, in that sense it’s true.

  • Reply Vasanth 16/03/2018 at 05:37

    I have worked 3 months in Germany last year(2017).
    I heard “in case total deputations duration is less than 183 days there is no provision to file tax return in Germany”.

    Is there any way to apply Tax return of duration less than 183 days in Germany ? ?

    Thank you in Advance.

    Best regards,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/03/2018 at 10:48

      Hi Vasanth. I think this is maybe linked to the resident status in Germany. I don’t have the answers for you. Sorry.

      • Reply maira ghauri 12/04/2018 at 13:28

        which things we need for tax declaration in germany.. if the wife is not in berlin than tax will be declare or not

  • Reply Karl Emil Koch 13/03/2018 at 18:34

    Hello Settle in Berlin
    Thanks for good information. I have a simple question:
    Will an abmeldung have any influence on my tax return?


  • Reply Jenna 13/03/2018 at 13:02

    Hey Bastien 🙂

    Can you please provide a little guidance.

    I have been employed since August 2017 and I’m married. My spouse is not currently working and since August I have been on the Steuerklasse 4 and not Steuerklasse 3.

    The finanzamt have recommended that I send in a tax return for 2017.

    – On the SteuerGo website, should this be classed as a single application or a joint (as my spouse is not employed)?
    – As we both will be leaving germany permanently, is there any way the extra tax paid for 2018 can be claimed straight away, or do I have to wait until 2019, to file for the 2018 tax year?

    Any help would be appreciated!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/03/2018 at 19:12

      Hi Jenna. You can choose if you want to declare taxes together or separately. Up to you. If you earn well and your spouse not, you might benefit from a tax cut. The tax return for 2018 will have to wait for next year though.

  • Reply matthew 13/03/2018 at 09:18

    Does anyone know an alternative to ELSTER online that supports Mac OS? . The only way to authenticate on Elster is with the Sicherheitssick, but that link doesn’t work. I am willing to pay a little bit for the software. I found this, but not sure if it is any good.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/03/2018 at 21:00

      Hi Matthew. The Sicherheitsstick is only one of the ways. I just use a combination of password and custom “Zertifikat” Datei.

  • Reply Rocio 11/03/2018 at 12:04

    The information is very helpful! But I have a question.. can you still get your tax return after you did the abmeldung?

  • Reply Robert 10/03/2018 at 17:22

    Hey there, first of all thanks for the great, informative post, it’s great that someone takes the time to explain this to everyone else who are lost. Now to my question. Is it possible to transfer the money to another account than my german? I am swedish and would like to put it on my swedish account, is it possible to just fill in the IBAN and BIC for my swedish account and then it will be transferred to that one?

    Regards Robert

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/03/2018 at 18:15

      Hi Robert. I think it’s possible; possible fees will be deducted from your side in that case i believe.

  • Reply Mo 07/03/2018 at 15:47


    Does anyone know how does it work if you’ve moved to Germany in the middle of the year? Do I have to declare what I’ve received in another country? Of course I’ve paid tax there as well.

    (I am using and when I enter my income before Germany it decreases the tax return significantly)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:35

      Hi Mo. You only need to declare what you earned as an employee or self-employed when you were a German resident.

  • Reply Skg 07/03/2018 at 14:20


    Quite informative post. What is the procedure if a person is freelancer for 6 months and then employee for the rest 6 months?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:33

      Hi there. You just take both set of forms and fill them-up. The time period doesn’t matter. It’s about that year.

  • Reply AlexP 05/03/2018 at 13:11

    Hello there, I have a quick question regarding the time it takes to receive money back once we’ve submitted our tax return declaration.

    I’ve filled out my 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 tax declaration within the span of 2 days at the end of January. I received the money from 2014, 2015 and 2016 rather quickly, after 3 weeks. Though, still no sign from the 2017 money. Is there some sort of delay in that case?

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:26

      Hi Alex. Those are in the inner workings of the Finanzamt. Impossible for me to say. Patience is a good friend. 🙂

      • Reply Alexp 08/03/2018 at 17:45

        Thank you for the reply!

  • Reply Sofia 04/03/2018 at 21:12


    first of all thank you for the helpful post! I am portuguese and I started to work in Germany in late September 2017. As I lived for more than 6 months in Portugal in 2017, my fiscal residence in 2017 (according to what I read only) is considered to be in Portugal. Therefore my question is: I am obligated to declare the Steuererklärung here in Germany for the fiscal year of 2017?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:22

      Hi Sofia. That’s interesting. Are you an employee or self-employed?

  • Reply Nasim 01/03/2018 at 16:50

    Hi, thank you for the post. I have downloaded the forms. The guide you linked for filling the genral info form doesn’t fit the 2017 format of it. I couldn’t find the Umzug costs in the form and also some other thing.

  • Reply Asad Ullah 27/02/2018 at 20:39

    I have not ever done it sofar .But my friend told me do not apply steureclarung if you do it once you have to do it all lofe every year. IS it harmful or any sidr effects if i do it or is there a penalty if i do not do it?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2018 at 20:02

      Hi Asad. if you are an employee, there is no obligation to do it, so there are no penalty if you don’t do it. If you are self-employed, there is an obligation.

  • Reply Goncalo Lopes 25/02/2018 at 20:13

    Hi guys,

    So, I’m a portuguese student and I worked in the summer in Germany to earn money to pay my college. The thing is that I’m not german, neither I have the Steuernummer. I only have the eTin number. How can I do my taxes only with the eTin number?

    Thank you,

  • Reply Lisa 23/02/2018 at 14:35

    Hello, thank you for this amazing information here. I WOULD like to ask a question please. I have to send off my tax form but I also have things such as Uban purchase tickets , Germany courses which I paid for , translation of my married documents as well Do I send these out as well for a Tax return ? I was told that I could do this please any advice would be grateful.

    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2018 at 08:46

      Hi Lisa. You don’t need to send these in for now, but you need to keep all of it to be able to prove your expenses if needed.

  • Reply Jay 20/02/2018 at 10:58

    Here is my question: If you only have a rental property in Germany, and not a resident, and not an employee of Europe. Then you don’t have to file a tax return. Or do you have to file a tax return.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/02/2018 at 16:50

      Hi Jay. I suppose that you would have to file the income from that property in the tax statement you make in own country. You won’t pay income tax in Germany for that matter.

  • Reply Emma Bosse 19/02/2018 at 11:36

    Hi This is a very interesting feed! Thank you! Do you happen to know how much (percentage) do Freelancers have to pay on their income?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/02/2018 at 18:53

      Hi Emma. You can do a simulation with this little tool here.

  • Reply Andy Miller 17/02/2018 at 19:12

    Hi Bastien,

    Thanks for the information but I still have a silly question to ask..! Is it possible to claim a tax refund even though I haven’t paid tax in Germany..?

    My situation is this: ex UK military pensioner now living permanently in Germany but not working so no taxable income earned. Simply living off my pension and paying the full Health insurance + long term care insurance payments.

    I’ve just seen my Healthcare statement today which said I have paid €3164 for 2017 and that I can claim an income tax refund on this amount, if true then that would be around €600 in my pocket…?

    I know in the UK, you have to pay tax and put something into the system, before you start taking the cream back off the cake.
    I would be very surprised if Germany had a different rule which would allow me to claim this money, but at the risk of looking really stupid, I need to ask anyhow..!



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/02/2018 at 18:03

      Hi Andy. I can’t really help you as this is beyond my experience but as rule; any German resident need to declare their income sources, even if they are foreign, one way or another.

  • Reply Monika 16/02/2018 at 14:26

    Hi Bastien,

    Thanks for the great article and help that you provide!

    You mentioned above that: “employees whose sole income are their salaries are not required by law to submit a tax return”. Can you give me some other examples of types of income that exist?

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/02/2018 at 11:10

      Hi Monika. Income from rental investment, from stock-markets, from land or forest, from funds or ETFs and many more.

      • Reply Monika 17/02/2018 at 16:52

        Is the purchase of a house (for own living) relevant for the Tax declaration? Would it affect the tax return in a positive or negative way?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/02/2018 at 09:20

          Hi Monika. It might be best to approach a Steuerberater to see how you can optimize your situation concerning the expenses you had. The purchase itself is not so relevant in my experience, unless you use the space to earn money with.

  • Reply Adnan 14/02/2018 at 10:25

    I only worked 1 month in Germany (Regensburg), and just like in most countries I’m eligible to get my taxes back.

    – Anything special I need to do because I worked only 1 month?
    – Do you have to physically put your tax declaration in the post? Or can you do it also online. Reason: I don’t live in Germany anymore.
    – Any other suggestion?

    Thanks very much in advance. Really appreciate what you are doing.

    Best regards,


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2018 at 22:48

      Hi Adnan. Since 2018, you can send this online, not via paper anymore. The amount of time you worked doesn’t matter.

  • Reply Mona 12/02/2018 at 13:23

    Hi, I asked a question couple days ago. I’ve been waiting, but even though you replied the questions other people asked after me, you did not reply mine, can I ask why?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2018 at 21:22

      No reason. I sometimes don’t have time to reply to all comments right away and usually proceed with the simplest cases first. It’s up to me.

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