Tax return in Germany for foreigners made easy – Steuererklärung

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

Tax return in Germany

The road to your tax refund in Germany :

Before your panic when thinking “I haven’t done my tax return this year!”,  let me assure you that you won’t have any problems with your Finanzamt if you forgot to file your tax statement. As an employee, you are taxed every month off your wage. If your salary is your only income, then it will be a piece of cake to get your tax refund. You have already paid your taxes, now your job is to obtain as much refund as you can! For freelancers, it’s of course another story as it is compulsory.

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

Should i be doing one?

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

Income sources

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

Family situation

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

So how can I do my tax return in Germany?

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

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

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

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

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

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

On this website,  it is also possible to download an official tool called ELSTER (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) onto your computer. This tool enables you to proceed to your tax return in Germany via the internet, saving both you and your Finanzamt a lot of time. You need to sign-up for an account and you receive your password by post.

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

What now?

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

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

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

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

Good value for the money: self-help online platforms

If this is too much to do, there are also online tools that make it super easy to get your tax declaration in Germany right for a maximum return. You might consider SteuerGo for example that i can really recommend for employee and freelancers alike, especially if it’s your first time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What is the tax return deadline in Germany?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ps 2 : If you feel like you are running out of time, you can let know your Finanzamt before the 31st of July you need more time. They usually give you an extra 2 or 3 months to do your tax return in Germany.


  • Reply Tuani 30/08/2018 at 16:45

    Hi. Really nice arcticle!
    I have a bit of a complicated question about it, though.
    I’m a brazilian citizen living in Germany as a language student. I have the “Anmeldung” but have never declared my taxes in Germany.

    I’m a freelancer and would like to get money from my clients in Brazil and Estland directly on my N26 Account. The question is: i, then, would need to declare this taxes or will have any kind of trouble because of it?
    (I declare my taxes annually in Brazil and will continue to do so).
    Thank you in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/08/2018 at 21:38

      Hello Tuani. It probably all comes down to know if you are a German resident, i.e are you living here more than half a year. This defines how you should pay your taxes. If you are a German resident, you should pay income tax here, even if the income sources are abroad. You can then proceed to avoid a double-taxation from Brezil or Estland by saying you pay taxes here already, provided there is a tax treaty between Germany and them. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Jamie 27/08/2018 at 22:38

    Hello, could you please point me to a site with information about the tax situation for stipendiaten? Everywhere I go, I can only find information for Employees or Self-employed people (same with the Krankenkasses) but I have just moved to Germany on a postdoc (steuerfrei) so I am neither. How does this work? Do I submit a tax return anyway? Where can I find information about this scenario? Surely I’m not the only one looking to figure this out?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/08/2018 at 10:19

      Hi Jamie. The situation is nearly similar to students actually. You are not obligated to submit it, but you can if you think you put enough expenses off in taxes to get a good return. In this case, you should also your Stipendium as a income source, even though it’s a tax-free income.

  • Reply Alex P 27/08/2018 at 11:45

    Hey Bastien,

    Thank you for the article, very useful!

    I have a quick question on my side. Last January, I made my tax declaration in Berlin on the official Elster website. I did it for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 all at the same time. Three weeks after, I managed to get my taxes back from 2014/15/16 but the 2017 taxes are not back yet and we are now in August.

    Do you know if taxes from 2017 take longer to be received? Is there a threshold for the amount of taxes back under which the Finanzamt requires more documents?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/08/2018 at 10:16

      Hey Alex. Hard to say what’s going on. It’s always best to reach out to the Finanzamt directly. August seems too long to wait indeed.

      • Reply Alex P 04/09/2018 at 15:30

        Thank you very much Bastien!

  • Reply Alessandra 25/08/2018 at 15:13

    I have never in my life experienced mistreatment at the hand of authorities as I have with the Finanzamt, and that includes having to deal with Syrian visa officials. I even used a Lohnsteuerhilfeverein to make sure I did my tax return properly, and the Finanzamt wrote me a letter saying they had opened criminal proceedings against me accusing me of having tried to underpay my taxes (I had paid at Steuerklasse I). Turns out the Verein had made a mistake and forgot one document. I was told by a German this is unheard of, so I imagine it is because I am Italian. So beware if you are a foreigner, and especially a southern European or non-EU national. I experienced similar discrimination from Bürgeramt and Krankenkasse. I lived in the US and the UK, and I was never mistreated by public authorities. In Germany, I have yet to be treated with dignity and respect by any public authority.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/08/2018 at 12:22

      Hey Alessandra. Hard experience! Thanks for posting it here.

  • Reply Ben 15/08/2018 at 14:59

    Hi there,
    Thank you for this great post. It inspired me to apply for my tax returns, after 7 years residence in Germany. Its my first time applying for a tax return (for the year of 2017) hence i am using Steuergo. I filled in all my details and Steuergo tells me that i will get a refund of XX euros. But i also read this on Steuergo – ‘If you do not claim any individual income-related costs, the amount of 1.000 Euro will be assumed as a lump-sum without proof.’ So will i get a refund of XX+1000 euros or just XX euros? Sorry im a bit confused, any help would be appreaciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/08/2018 at 14:08

      Hey Ben. This means you are able to put off 1000€ off in expenses, without any proof. This might in turn impact on your total taxable income and increase the amount of refund you get. So not really XX+1000e.

      • Reply Ben 17/08/2018 at 09:05

        So i will automatically get a refund of 1000 e without any proof. Is that correct?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/08/2018 at 20:25

          No. As mentioned before, this means that you are able to reduce your total taxable income by 1000€ without proof, which, depending on your case, might lead to a higher refund, but not necessarily 1000e.

  • Reply S. 12/08/2018 at 13:50


    I have a bit of an issue with filling out my taxes and I have very few time to fill them out at the moment. Apreciate any help.

    I worked in one company from 01.01.2017 to 28.02.2017, and in another company for the rest of the year. This means I have two Lohnsteuerbescheinigung from 2017, from each of the companies with the respective months of work. The program I will be using (my german is not great), allows only to fill out one work position and one time the numbers decribed on my Lohnsteuerbescheinigung. So if I have 2 Lohnsteuerbescheinigung with different numbers from different jobs and times of the year, how should I proceed?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/08/2018 at 21:56

      Hey there. Maybe you should use another program then, if it only support one job per year… which i find strange tbh.

  • Reply Peter Johnson 28/07/2018 at 01:39

    Hi bastien

    I am currently working offshore paying the highest percentage of tax because we are working in German waters no will I be able to claim any of this back as I live in the uk and will I be able to claim it back at the end of 2018

  • Reply Alison 26/07/2018 at 12:47

    Hi Bastien,

    This website is very helpful, thank you! My question is, how easy is it to reclaim tax payments if you are not living in Germany? My husband works full time on a good salary, and is tax class 4, and I do not work. We will be moving abroad to New Zealand in September (permanently), so will not be in Germany when it is time to submit a tax refund. I think it should be very straight forward, and that we will be able to use the SteuerGo website, but if we have problems how do we know who our FinanzAmt is? And will they pay a refund to a foreign account?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/07/2018 at 22:48

      Hi Alison, in that case, it might be wise to keep your German bank account until that point. Contact details will be made available to you on the Steuerbescheid you will receive at that point.

  • Reply Miguel 23/07/2018 at 11:02

    Hi Bastien,
    first of all congratulations and thanks for such a nice work done here!
    My questions is the following: if I am sending money regularly to my family in Spain because their income is very small, is it possible to get tax refund for that support abroad and those amounts sent as they are “dependable members of me”? If so, do you know what kind of documents and proofs do I need?
    Thanks in advance for your response!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/07/2018 at 15:04

      Hi Miguel. This question comes up a lot and the answer is unfortunately not simple. Basically, it is super hard and lengthy process to prove that your family lives under the poverty line in your country, so you can put off the amounts in taxes. More info about the process here.

    • Reply Mark 10/08/2018 at 14:50

      Hi Miguel,

      Yes it is possible. I did it. I support my mother. But when I submitted my tax return, I went to a Steuerberater and he told me to ask my mom sign on a “Quittungen” book and bring it back to him so we fill it out together. He advised me to be honest, I told him I send 400 Euros monthly. So we went by that. I think the best person to be supported by you are either your mom or dad.

  • Reply Florian 18/07/2018 at 12:10


    recommending a Steuerberater is maybe not the best solution for employees as they are specialized in freelancers and companies. There are Lohnsteuerhilfevereine for employees and they charge a membership fee only.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/07/2018 at 21:06

      Hi Florian. I beg to differ because once you have multiple revenue sources, a mortgage, kids, life insurance, etc, a Steuerberater might be more able to make the best of your situation. But yes, those Vereine are also a good option.

  • Reply Jonathan 16/07/2018 at 23:31

    Hi Bastien,
    I’m hoping you can give a clearer view of the refund process. I submitted my tax return using an online program. A copy of the results of the tax return was uploaded to this program with all the calculations and refund amount. However, it doesn’t indicate when the refund will be received. I’m sure it won’t be much longer at this point (the tax assessment is dated 2 weeks ago) but do you have a general idea of when refunds are distributed?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/07/2018 at 09:29

      Hi John. Please read the post again to find your answer.

  • Reply Jeffrey 16/07/2018 at 11:32


    I moved last year from my home country with my own money, burn out a few savings moving in, tickets, security deposit, some administrative filing etc. I also got government help for a couple of months (3 to be exactly). I have been working already almost a year, and have been moving through houses a couple of times. Is it really worth doing my tax returns or is there just no case in which I’ll get some money back?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/07/2018 at 09:28

      Hi Jeffrey. If you have never done it before, i’d say it is likely it is worth it.

  • Reply Rosa 10/07/2018 at 11:05

    I have been doing my internship in Germany for a period of 6 months (Dec. 2017-May 2018). I would like to refund the tax related items: Employment tax, German Reunification tax, pension insurance and unemployment insurance. I also had to pay 93,00 euros/month for commuting to work (is there any possibility for this one?) The whole sum is more than 1000 euros. May I kindly ask you to advice me in this regards?. What are the related forms and how and when should I apply for the tax refund? how long does it take to be returned?

    Ample thanks for your great help in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2018 at 11:32

      Hi Rosa. This is an excellent reminder that i should write a post about things you can get a refund for, when leaving Germany for good. I don’t have answers for you right now sorry.

  • Reply Charlotte 09/07/2018 at 19:27


    I moved to Berlin for 6 months and have been working as an intern but I will be returning to the UK in September. Would I be eligible to reclaim the tax I paid over the 4 months I worked? and would I need to apply for this before I leave Germany or would I be able to do it from the UK? Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2018 at 11:30

      Hi Charlotte. You can apply for a tax return even if you only worked a few months. It is possible to do it from home.

  • Reply IULIA CROITORIU 06/07/2018 at 07:39

    Hi Bastien and thank you for your help and info.
    Please let me know the level of percentage you can get back out of the payed tax.
    For example I was paying a monthly tax of 1.700 euros out of a brutto salary of 4.200 euros.
    I know it depends on Steuer Klasse and all that, but please let me know just an approximate amount.
    Do I get back around 30% of the taxes payed or more?

    Vielen vielen Danke!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:49

      Hi Iulia, it really doesn’t work that way. So many factors come into this. If you want to know how much, you can try one of the online tools that can make you see quickly how much you can hope, without paying anything.

  • Reply Muqit Zoarder 05/07/2018 at 16:16

    HI, I send money to my mother in every month in my country (bangladesh), I have all the document of that apps from where I send the money, so can I include this information in ELSTER? If so then can you please tell me which formular is this?

    Kind regards


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:46

      Hi Muqit. Yes it is possible but it is apparently the Finanzamt wants proof that your relative is need of such support money, as per your own country’s standards, as described here and here. Seems not impossible, but super complicated to pull off.

  • Reply Kanchan 04/07/2018 at 12:01

    Hi Bastien,

    My Tax class is 5 (that means I am unemployed but my husband works). However in some months I earn around 1000 EUR by freelancing some tasks. How should I declare such earnings ? Does it make a difference if I include such earnings as extra income in my husband’s tax declaration or in mine (I mean if the taxable incomes is calculated as whole for a couple or individually). Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:38

      Hi Kanchan. You should follow the normal process as also described in this post. I’d suggest that you put a joint declaration out, it would likely reduce your husband’s taxable income a whole lot but of course, i know very little about your situation so that is just an opinion. Good luck!

  • Reply Vishu Bhatnagar 01/07/2018 at 19:55

    Hi Bastien,
    I did an Internship from August 2014 until January 2015 when I was a student and then I did another Internship from June 2016 until November 2016 when I was not a student. So, is it possible that I can claim my tax return for it? What process do I need to follow?

    • Reply Vishu Bhatnagar 01/07/2018 at 19:56

      Apart from my Tax they also deducted money for pension fund . Can I also get that back with my tax return?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:34

        That would be another process entirely if you decide to leave the country for good. I haven’t made a post about this yet but i plan to write about it. You don’t do it together with a tax return.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:33

      Hi Vishu. Yes it is possible. The process is the same than described in the post.

  • Reply Glen 27/06/2018 at 09:02

    Thanks a lot for this helpful article! Doing taxes in Germany is not really easy when you don’t speak the language.

    I have a question though, is it possible to do taxes for 2018 already as well? I have been doing my internship here (for half a year) and have been set into class VI because I have no tax class ID (I asked for one but did not receive any answer still) so there have been a lot of money going to taxes (like €600,- each month) while I also have to travel daily (which I have been told that I could get a €1000,- extra due to the distance I traveled). As an intern, I have read that you can get a full refund if you do not exceed a certain amount of money, so this would mean a refund of €4000,-? That’s why I would love to know if it is possible to already file it for 2018!

    Again, thank you for this article and thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/06/2018 at 12:47

      Hi Glen. You will to have to wait 2019 to do that.

  • Reply Romane 25/06/2018 at 18:12

    Hi 🙂

    Thanks for the useful post! Here is my problem:

    From April to July 2017, I was an intern and paid too much taxes as I did not have the right tax number, so to say. I only thought I could get taxes back on this, and not on the whole salary… So I only claimed my taxes for those months, which I got the money back.

    Could I then get help from a professional who could help me claim the rest of my taxes and ask for an extension? Do you have anybody to recommend? Also, what is the commission they are usually taking? I’m thinking that my boyfriend and I could both do it together with him.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/06/2018 at 20:23

      Hi Romane. I’m not exactly sure what the problem is here, but you can certainly get in touch with a Steuerberater to find new/better ways to claim more, that’s their job. More info on how to find one on this page.

  • Reply Chetan Vasudev 25/06/2018 at 17:09

    Hi Bastien,

    I was a student from 2013 to 2017 & have started working full time from 2017. I had filed for tax returns for 2014 and after that i haven’t done it. Is it possible for me to file for tax returns for the previous years now?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/06/2018 at 20:18

      Hi Chetan. Yes.

  • Reply Jemma 18/06/2018 at 18:32

    I submitted mine through SteuerGo about a month and a half ago. Do I get any confirmation of it being received? Or does the money just show up in my account when they are finished with my forms?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:13

      Hi Jemma. You will receive your Steuerbescheid for 2017 from the Finanzamt and if applicable, a letter telling you how much you should receive, or pay back.

  • Reply khaled 18/06/2018 at 10:21


    I just want to fill tax return for rent income for my apartment in Berlin.
    But I do not read or write german ?
    should I download the (Forms) for Self Employed ?
    Thank You

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:13

      Hi Khaled. Depends if you are self-employed or not. Rental income is completely separate from your status as a worker (employee vs self-employed). In the forms, there will be a sections for other kinds of income. There will be one line for rental income. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Luis g 18/06/2018 at 10:13

    Hi Bastien.
    Good morning. Can you please guide to make the best decision in regards taxes here in Germany. My wife is a tagesmutter and she had earned in 2017 close to 25.000 Euros now she is a self employee but she gets paid trough the stadschumlamt. Basically she gets paid for taking care of the daily children but she has to pay for insurances and our living cost. We have a daughter and I am not currently working. I am in german classes to obtain the b1 certification so I can apply for a job. Now today is June 18 and we have filed her taxes yet. In fact we are not sure where to start. We have been told to first obtain a tax number from the finanzamt and filed for taxes with that number also to find out in which tax bracket we as a family with an only income from her fit to. Others have told us that is too late to filed for taxes because we were suppose to file before may 31st. I am hoping that because we as a family have one income for now and my daughter and I are her dependents for everything plus the expenses we make to run this tagesmutter service, I am confident that we should receive a refund from the finanzamt. But I am not sure where to start and if we are too late to do anything. I appreciate your time on reading this short letter and any advice will help. Thanks again.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:11

      Hi Luis. Yes, you are definitely too late. I’d get in touch with a Steuerberater if you don’t know where or how to start. Maybe you can do that on your own next year but right now that’s the best option as a Steuerberater can apply for a deadline extension for you.Good luck.

  • Reply Jay 14/06/2018 at 10:16

    Dear Bastian,

    I worked last year as a freelancer and as an employee in Germany. I deregistered from Germany in October last year also. I forgot to file my tax return this year. It’s only 14th June. I still have a registered address at a friend’s in Germany and haven’t received any letters yet. Will the consequences be bad? Does the deadline change if you are no longer registered in Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:05

      Hi Jay. You are definitely late and should do it asap. Deadlines don’t change if you have unregistered. You were registered in 2017 and need to do it either way. Good luck.

  • Reply Lara Hurtubise 12/06/2018 at 15:17


    I am Canadian and I studied my master’s from March 2015- October 2016 and worked part time, and now work full time. I claimed my taxes for the first time this year and only got 30 EUR back but it was based on my 2017 salary. Can I still claim my taxes from my uni tuition? Or is this jeopardised from already filing my taxes?

  • Reply Evangelos 11/06/2018 at 22:02

    Forgive me, my friend. I had the translation on! 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 01:07

      Glad it worked out. 🙂

  • Reply Evangelos 11/06/2018 at 21:58

    Hi Bastien.

    Nice work here my friend. I start making my own tax declaration and i sign up for the password to send me for the post
    Now I went to download the files for employers but there is no Anlage N 2017. Could please give me an update?

    Thanks and keep up the nice work!

  • Reply Katharina 11/06/2018 at 11:37

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you for a great post!

    One more question from me:
    is it compulsory to fill in tax declaration in 3&5 tax classes combination (if my spouse doesn’t work at all)?

    Thank you!

  • Reply Nikhilesh Patil 07/06/2018 at 20:36

    I find your article very helpful. I have a question regarding my Tax Returns Situation: I have already filed a tax return for year 2017 in the month 02.2018. I have been working as Software Engineer Since 2016. I got married in 2017 but my wife came to Germany in the month of September. In the months October and November. I did not receive any additional money for my wife as I have not registered her in Finanzamt. I have talked to them, they said I will receive it in my tax returns. When I filed Tax Return by SteuerGo it has showed me that I will get an amount of about 3500 Euros. Now I have recently received a letter(Festsetzung) from Finanzamt. In it is written that I have to pay about 305 Euros by 11.07.2018. How can this be even possible. What I have done wrong here. How is EinkommenSteuer Calculated? And to mention Salary is my only source of income. I do not own a house nor a car. I would be quite pleased to get some help and suggestions.

    Many thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 01:04

      Hi Nikhilesh, this issue is best to be taken with a professional who can give you proper care and time. There can be many factors influencing the Finanzamt’s decisions, so it would be ill advised of me to tell you anything with such little info. Sorry i can’t help more…

  • Reply Tiphaine 06/06/2018 at 16:01

    Hello, is it possible that I actually have to give money back to the gouvernement following my request? Thank you ? 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 01:00

      Hi Tiphaine. Yes this may happen although i cannot tell you exactly with this little info.

  • Reply Ben Dochil 05/06/2018 at 13:33

    I work in Germany since November 2016.
    I contacted a Tax-Return-Company and the calculated:
    – 2016 – 1000 euro;
    -2017 – 60 euro.
    How this is possible, when the first year I have been working here 2 months, and 2017 is a whole year.
    I am class 1.

    Thank you for the reply.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/06/2018 at 21:55

      Hi Ben. Impossible for me to reply within a comment section on so little details. You should probably trust professionals on that.

  • Reply Parvaneh 05/06/2018 at 13:20


    Thanks for the great article. I came to Germany in January and I am working here for 8 month after that I will back to my country. As my job contract is just for 8 months can I apply for tax return? Do you have any idea if they return the tax I have paid or not?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/06/2018 at 21:54

      Hi Parvaneh. If you registered, had a tax ID then you would be eligible yes.

  • Reply Ashwini Jadhav 04/06/2018 at 17:26

    My husband work in Germany last 21 June 2017 and i am coming in august 2017.his tax class change 1 to 3 when i am coming here .i want go back to my question is when i am go back to India then again change tax class of my husband.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:28

      Hi there. This is possible to do once every year i believe. so yes is the answer.

  • Reply Ana 04/06/2018 at 16:55

    Hi Bastien,
    I have one question regarding taxes declaration in Germany. I am a PhD student in Germany and i don’t have a direct contract with the University but a fellowship. Do I need or can declare taxes to the government as student?
    My second question is my husband is a student in the university, however he got a contract last month in a company as a partial time as student with a monthly salary between 450-850 around. Does he need or should declare taxes?
    we both are foreigns living in Germany,
    thank you very much for your answer.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:30

      Hi Ana. You can both do a tax return, even if you are students. You will need to put in the income you get through the fellowship. If i am correct, that kind of income is usually tax free anyway. Don’t forget you put some expenses off as a student too!

      • Reply Fidan 17/08/2018 at 15:55

        Hi Bastien,
        Thank you for this post! I will jump in here as I have a question on student tax returns.
        I have started working this year as a working student and planning to claim for some tax returns. I have also read that tuition fees, books and software are subject for deductions too. The question is: can I apply for the return of these expenses from the previous years (I started studying in 2016) even if I am taxed only from February, 2018?
        Thank you very much in advance!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/08/2018 at 20:24

          Hi Fidan. Yes, you can do a tax return for these years as well, even if you didn’t work.

  • Reply Nakato 04/06/2018 at 13:32

    Hello, I am on a one year fellowship program with a company . I receive a small salary and the tax is automatically deducted and I pay into the pension scheme. Will I be able to get a refund on my tax?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/06/2018 at 19:07

      Hi Nakato. You should probably talk to a Steuerberater for this.

  • Reply David 31/05/2018 at 17:58

    I know this article is about income tax but was hoping I might find some help.

    I am fully registered in Germany, but I do not speak the language (my bad), a few months ago I renewed my car tax for the year.

    I recently returned to UK in car to visit sick family friend and car developed a serious fault.

    Now I need to stay in UK for care obligations and want to scrap the car in UK for whatever I can get.

    I want to get a refund of my car tax, I have been told I have to return papers and plates in person in Germany, but this is not practical.

    In UK they have a certifcate of recycling or you can get a SORN to declare car off road.

    Is there a way to deregister this car and get a refund if perhaps I get a UK certificate?

    Who would I contact about this, ideally someone English speaking!

    Many thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/06/2018 at 10:36

      Hi David. I think it’s best you talk with a dealership or garage directly. I’m not sure what else to do here.

  • Reply Dr. Carol van Buren 31/05/2018 at 03:42

    Hi Bastien,

    You said that we can ask for an extension. I’m using Smartsteuer – gave up on trying to figure out on ELSTER! – I definitely won’t be finished tomorrow (31 May). Who should I contact to request a deadline extension?

    Is there an email address or telephone number or online form? Can you provide these details?
    My local tax office is C’Burg. Do I need to contact them directly, for example? Or is there some centralised system?

    This will be my first tax declaration. I arrived late last year and started my freelance (translation) business in October so “fortunately” I just have 3 months to prepare. Still a total nightmare though 🙁

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/05/2018 at 16:23

      Hey there Carol. If you are only 2-3 days left submitting it, there is in general little to no consequences to it, even without asking for an extension. If you need an extension, just get in touch with your Finanzamt directly, and give a valid reason. More time to gather missing documents and that it’s your first time doing this usually works. No guarantee though. Good luck!

  • Reply Waqas Arshad 31/05/2018 at 02:23

    I have worked 4 month at company i also worked as freelancer during my job. Can you please tell me in this how i can file my tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/05/2018 at 16:20

      Hi there. In this case, you need to send both forms at the same time, one for the freelancing, and one of the employee job.

  • Reply Ana 30/05/2018 at 11:55


    I have been payed a fellowship for 2 months and then had a contract for the rest of the year. Should I state this somewhere (if so, where?) in the tax refund form?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:32

      Hi Ana. Yes, you need to put all sources of income in your tax return forms. There will be a dedicated line for that kind of income.

  • Reply Juan 30/05/2018 at 02:38

    Hi, amazing work done here…

    I arrived to Germany in September and worked as Gewerbebertreinde first for a bout a month and so, but then i found a Job and started to work as and employee. Also never signed off from the Gewerbe. Should I treat my case as an employee or a Gewerbe or fill both forms and send them.

    My incomes were quite low and would get not much of the tax return but better be prepared for the next year.

    Anyway, thank you very much for the info

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/05/2018 at 16:14

      Hi Juan. Even if you earned nothing or close to nothing with your Gewerbe, you need to declare it as such to the Finanzamt. It’s compulsory.

  • Reply Magda 27/05/2018 at 17:51

    I have worked in Germany from september on, but before I had an income in denmark for which I paid taxes.
    Can I still do my tax return in Germany eventhough until September I pid taxes for income in Denmark?

    Does anyone have an idea?



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:15

      Hi Magda, make sure to google “Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen” to avoid double taxation!

  • Reply Ally 27/05/2018 at 14:54

    Hi, thank you for great infos. it helps alot!

    I started work in Munich on 01.12.2017

    should I issue ‘Income Tax return’ for working for one month last year?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:16

      Hi Ally. Yes, it is possible. If you are an employee, you can also wait for next year for example.

  • Reply Kelly O'Donohue 26/05/2018 at 02:28

    Might be a silly question, but just wanted to clarify what forms exactly I would need to fill out as a self employed freelancer who hasn’t earnt enough to pay tax/ VAT and is well under the threshold. Is the following correct?
    – Est 1A 2017
    – Anlage S 2017

    I’m on the linked site and wondering which of the Est 1A 2017 would be the right one? As there are 3, im guessing the first but would like to double check. Thanks

    • Reply Kelly O'Donohue 26/05/2018 at 03:23

      and does the SteuerGo program work for freelancers also?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:19


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:20

      Hi Kelly. Est 1A 2017, yes. The rest: It depends if you are a Gewerbe or Selbständig… Please read the post again.

  • Reply Aleksandra 25/05/2018 at 18:23

    Dear Bastien,

    thank you so much for this post- it’s really helpful. I have a question regarding my tax situation and I would really appreciate if you could answer it. I moved to Germany in September 2017 and in mid-October 2017 I started working on a part-time basis (25h/week) in a bilingual kindergarten (as an employee). In November 2017 I registered as a freelance teacher and started looking for extra teaching jobs to get extra money- I started teaching as a freelance teacher in December 2017 but I didn’t invoice and didn’t get paid for those lessons until February/March 2018.

    Do I have to do my tax declaration for 2017 this year or can I wait till next year? If I wait, will I lose any tax refund I might be eligible for?
    Do I have to somehow include my freelance activity even though I wasn’t paid for it until 2018?

    Thank you in advance 🙂 Aleks

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

      Hi Aleks. Yes, even though you earned nothing as a self-employed, you have to tell exactly that to the Finanzamt. It’s compulsory.

  • Reply Mark 24/05/2018 at 20:18

    I was living and working in the UK until May 2017, then moved to Germany and worked here since June.

    The online calculator suggests I’ll only pay a little German tax on my UK income, but the advice I’ve read online says that I will pay more. Is this right?

    As extra information, my wages were much higher in the UK. Also the UK tax year runs from 6th April to 5th April each year (not a calendar year) if that makes any difference to anything.



    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:25

      Hi Mark. Sorry; i am not sure i have the correct info on this one.

  • Reply Petra 23/05/2018 at 22:01

    Dear Bastien,
    thank you a lot for a great article and lots of valuable information!

    I have seen your answer to one of the comments regarding the proof of expanses – that you should be able to provide them upon request of Finanzamt. What would be then the best approach in case I wasn’t saving, say, train tickets to get to work- 1) don’t claim anything you can’t prove; 2) claim the average cost of a trip since it is clear I didn’t walk 20 km per day to get to and from work (and I don’t own a car); 3) other approach?\

    Also, do you know if the confirmation from confirmation from my bank account counts as a proof?

    Thank you!

    And have a great day 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:31

      Hi Petra. As a rule yes; don’t try to put off expenses that you can’t prove. Regarding commute to work however, you can get a “Pauschal” per kilometer i believe, regardless of the Transportation mean you used.

  • Reply Ryan 23/05/2018 at 20:27

    Hi Bastien,

    As expatriates, it is our understanding that if you live in Germany (and all European countries I believe), for less than a period of two years you should receive all of your income tax back. Do you know anything about this? We have been living in Germany for nearly two years and are having major troubles with our tax authorities, even with the help of a tax consultant. Thank you!

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

      Hi Ryan. I am not familiar with this rule. Can’t help sorry.

  • Reply Jelendar reddy Anantha 19/05/2018 at 12:28

    How can i search for refund status of german taxes filings i have filed returns 2 months ago still i didn’t get refund how can i search for refund status

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2018 at 19:54

      Hi Jelendar. Get in touch with your Finanzamt.

  • Reply R.Rivera 17/05/2018 at 20:45

    Hi Bastien

    Thank a lot for your website it helps a lot!!
    Can you tell me if there is a way to validate my actual Tax Stage? We already submitted a request together with my wife for the combination III/V but still getting the highest tax stage at work… We will really appreciate your help.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2018 at 19:50

      Hi Rivera. Well, get in touch with your Finanzamt.

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