Tax return in Germany for foreigners made easy – Steuererklärung

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

Tax return in Germany

The road to your tax refund in Germany :

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

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

Should i be doing one?

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

Income sources

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

Family situation

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

So how can I do my tax return in Germany?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What now?

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

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

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

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

Good value for the money: self-help online platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAQ

What is the tax return deadline in Germany?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1,053 Comments

  • Reply Victoria 04/04/2019 at 10:10

    Thanks for the information.

    If one participates in User Testing, do you declare that as well?

    And what about pet sitting services in your free time? If you use a platform like Pawshake or catinaflat, how do you declare this income?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 22:07

      Hey Victoria. I can’t be sure here but if you do this on a regular basis, you ought to be registered as a freelancer don’t you think?

  • Reply Jason 04/04/2019 at 09:25

    Hi Bastien, I have been living in Germany since 2016. I was a student in 2017 without US or German taxable income, so I did not file a return for either country in 2017. In February 2018, I received employment with a German company that has withheld all German-relevant taxes. I also worked for a contractor located in the USA during 2018 resulting in 1099-MISC income exceeding the non-taxable threshhold. I know that I must complete a federal US tax return and will claim the “foreign earned income exclusion” for the wages received from my German employer. I have used both H&R Block and Turbo Tax to generate my tax return information: H&R Block was a little unclear on whether the 1099-MISC income could be included as “foreign earned,” but Turbo Tax was more clear in that it defined “foreign earned income” as any income that was earned by a tax person while in a foreign country (which would apply to my situation) despite the location of the employer. I will need to complete the German tax documentation in English and plan to utilize SteuerGo for this, but I wanted to check to see if you beleive that my decision to include the 1099-MISC as “foreign earned” on my US return is okay, or if on the other hand, you think it would be better for me to exclude the 1099-MISC income from the “foreign earned income exclusion” on my US return, pay taxes on that income in the US at US tax rates, and then claim the taxes paid in the US on the 1099-MISC income as a credit on my German tax return based on the US-German Tax Treaty. If I do pay the taxes in the US as opposed to Germany, will this likely save me some money, or does this scheme unecessarily complicate my German tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 22:12

      Hey Jason. Sorry, this is way out of my league. You should get in touch with a pro.

  • Reply debo 03/04/2019 at 15:10

    Hello, I worked as a work-student in GERMANY ( year 2017 and 2018).
    I submitted tax return form, and I got the tax return only for the year of 2018.
    I thought that I will get for the year of 2017 and 2018 both.
    Now is it possible to apply for 2017 ?As I receive tax return only for the year 2018.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:59

      Hey Debo. Yes.

  • Reply Alexandra 02/04/2019 at 12:30

    Hi there Bastien and Everyone 🙂

    It is this time of the year and, like always, I have been trying to delay it but it’s time to do my taxes. These days are always are dark and full of terror for me.

    I am in a bit of a pickle and thought that maybe somebody here could help me out a bit. So last year was my first year in Germany. From January 2018 till October 2018 I was employed by a bilingual nursery where I had a contract and worked part-time (25h) …to make ends meet and make a bit more money I also worked as an English teacher on a freelance basis and made less than 450€ extra a month. I don’t think I made more than 1500€ in total.

    To make things even more complicated I got married in September 2018 (didn’t change my Steuerklass until December 2018) and was officially unemployed and claimed some benefits in November 2018 after we moved to another city in Germany. In December I found a full time job and have been working on a contract ever since…

    This is all making my head spin now as I don’t know if I can use just ELSTER to report all my incomes. If yes, should I use one form or two different forms (one for my contracted work and the other one for my freelance stuff)? Or perhaps I should use another platform apart from Elster? I would love to employ a tax adviser but I feel I’m not earning enough to afford one.

    Any insight into this would be much appreciated 🙂

    Thank you in advance and I wish you a lovely day!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:38

      Hey Alexandra. I’d advise you to go with one of the self-help platforms then. You will need to fill a few more forms out. You need to make sure to declare any and all of them.

  • Reply Marco 01/04/2019 at 10:12

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you very much for the time you are dedicating to this topic. I have a question as well. in 2018 i worked in Italy from January to September then i moved to Germany where i have been working since October 2018. I will file my tax return in Italy for the first 9 months of 2018, could i declare the last 3 months here in Germany without mentioning the Italian salary of 2018 since for that period i will be paying taxes in Italy?
    Thank you for your time!
    Marco

  • Reply Suraj 31/03/2019 at 10:53

    Hi. I am working in metall firma from 3years and now my treatment is running on because I got accident in company while working period in company and doctor has done operation of my hand and put metall in my bones due to os fracture and doctor has told me to leave this work .so,I was thinking to go back to my own county .please help me how to take my 3years tax and insurance money back?

  • Reply Sofia 30/03/2019 at 07:06

    I run a small business in UK, we need to do VAT return in Germany since we use Germany local warehouse to send out orders. Here we come accross a problem while applying for an Elster account. The activation code post never arrived..We contact Elster, they say the activation code post will ONLY be sent to our UK address, not even an authorized representative in Germany, and they also refused to fax this activation code letter to us.. Anyone has any idea?

  • Reply Karan Verma 28/03/2019 at 19:11

    Hello
    I just filed by tax return for 2018 using Elster. My question is when we use Elster , the data is automatically sent to the Finanzamt correct? I don’t need to take a print out and sign anything to the Finanzamt correct ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:22

      Hey Karan. Yes.

  • Reply Gigi 28/03/2019 at 17:49

    Hi Bastien,
    Thank you for all the info! I am an American citizen working in Germany. I never made income in the US (I was a dependent of my parents), so I never needed to file a tax return there. My first (and current) job in Germany was starting in 2018. From what it seems like in your post, I don’t actually have to file a tax return in Germany. What do I do regarding this US tax return? Do I need to file a tax return in Germany for me to file a tax return in the US proving that I made no income in the US but made this income in Germany? I’m finding confusing information online, and I’m not sure what to do. I would appreciate any help you could give!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:21

      Hey Gigi. Americans are the subject to an unfortunate exception. I’m not very knowledgeable on the matter so i would just advise you to search what your local embassy says.

  • Reply Rounak Poddar 26/03/2019 at 14:39

    Hi Bastein…Can you provide the link to Anlage AUS – Ausländische Einkünfte here again. I seem to have some problem and the link is not opening.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/03/2019 at 20:38

      Hey Rounak. You can find that on the official website listed in the post too.

  • Reply Meenakshi 23/03/2019 at 15:31

    Hi Bastien,
    I was working for a German employer for a year until January 2019 on Blue Card and submitted my tax declaration through https://www.germantaxes.de/ and received the confirmation that the application is submitted to Finanzamt.
    It’s been more than 2 months and haven’t received my refund yet. There is no support option on the https://www.germantaxes.de/ website.
    I’ve left the country already the day after I quit the Job in January. How do I contact or check my application status. Please let me know.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/03/2019 at 20:13

      Hey there. This website is operated by Wundertax: get in touch with them.

  • Reply Zaman 21/03/2019 at 17:03

    Hi Bastien,
    Thank you for this wonderful post. I have the following situation if you could help. I was a student last year and did my internship from April-July and I was paid 4*1500 during that period, my company deducted the taxes from my income. Then I finished my study and started a full-time job from August. So from August onwards I paid 5*502 euro as taxes. Now I’m not sure how I’ll submit my tax return after working under two different employers and receiving uneven salaries. Do I need to fill two Anlage N 2018? Or you would recommend a Steurberater? My tax class is 1, single, no child if that helps. Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/03/2019 at 20:05

      Hey Zaman. Yes, two Anlage N would be the way. and use your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung from each of your employer for each of them.

  • Reply Nathan 19/03/2019 at 17:57

    Hi Bastien,

    I have a question regarding pension payments. I am employee and as such pay compulsory pension payments (deducted from salary) e.g. lines 22 and 23. However, I also pay into a private pension with a third-party (Allianz), do I need to include these payments in my tax-return and if so, where do I include these details?

    Many thanks for the great guide!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/03/2019 at 09:47

      Hey Nathan. If i am correct, that would belong to the Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand Anlage, line 46 to 50.

  • Reply Surendranath Reddy Reddygari 11/03/2019 at 23:30

    Hi, for a foreign student in Germany, if in a year 5 months I have done my thesis (Master Arbeit) which was a mandatory part of my studies and was done in a company. For this work, the company paid me 800 euro per month salary which was tax-free and I got exactly 800 without any deduction. This was done after they submitted a document from my university to finanzamt and they didn’t take any tax from this salary.

    Later in that year, I graduated and joined a company on a full-time job and paid taxes.

    Now I wonder that 5 months salary 800×5 = 4000EUR will this be included on my gross income while calculating whole year taxable income? or this Master thesis income is not part of this gross income? Because I did not pay any tax on this amount, but I wonder while calculating my gross annual income will this be added and affect my overall tax return?

    Thank you for your suggestions in advance,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/03/2019 at 10:08

      Hey Suri. Not sure about this one. I tried to do some research but couldn’t find anything conclusive. I would tend to agree with you: even though not income tax is applied on this amount, it would contribute to raise your total taxable income, and possibly increase the tax rate, depending on which tax brackets/threshold you are crossing.

  • Reply Vlad 11/03/2019 at 18:38

    Hi.

    [… very long question edited by SiB Editor … please: i am not a Steuerberater]

    Other question that I have is related to Steuernummer. I believe you get a new one, each time you move to a different region (that has a different Finanzamt
    responsible). We lived for one month in one region of Berlin, and then after that we moved to another. We never got a new Steurnummers from Finanzamt, is that
    something that you have to get by yourself, going there? Is there a chance that the Steurnummer gets updated automatically, and that HR at my company already
    has it? Last, but not least, in the SteurGo app, they ask you if you got your newest Steurnummer. Is it a big problem if a click No, but they actually allocated
    the new Steurnummer for me, and I am simply not aware (or well informed) of it?

    Thanks in advance for any help on this matter!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/03/2019 at 10:03

      Hey Vlad. If you are moving places within Berlin, you won’t be changing Steuernummer. As for the other very long question: please reach out to a pro if you are unsure. There are so many parameters: i can answer within a comments’ section.

      • Reply Vlad 12/03/2019 at 10:37

        Thanks !

  • Reply Jaedyn 09/03/2019 at 16:09

    Hi Bastien,
    I’m sorry in advance for adding to all the questions you’re receiving! I moved here in July 2018, therefore I was employed in my home country before I moved. You say in your post that SmartSteuer supports having a foreign employer that year, however I’m not 100% sure what you mean by that. I think that means you’re referring to Anlage N-AUS and not my scenario, which requires Anlage WA EST? In which case, SmartSteuer does not support that? Thanks so much!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/03/2019 at 14:11

      Hey Jaedyn. I was referring to N-Aus indeed.

  • Reply Laura 06/03/2019 at 04:44

    Hi Bastien
    My questions seem premature :/
    I’m an expact I will relocate to germany in June 2019
    -is there fixed month of the year to file tax return (ex.July) or it can happen throughout the year (Jan-July) but with 31 July is deadline ?
    -if I went for 2 month summer holiday outside germany; can I request tax
    return? Will it be full refund of income tax or partial?
    P.S. My income tax is at 46%

    Thanks!
    Laura

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/03/2019 at 23:14

      Hey Laura. Please read the post again. Deadline is clearly indicated for both employees and freelancers. Holiday expenses do not offer a tax rebatethough.

  • Reply Éloïse 05/03/2019 at 19:46

    Hi!
    Thanks a lot for all these informations, one more time !
    Another special case : my boyfriend and I worked last year in Berlin, but now have left the country.
    Is there a way to do everything by internet only, without needing to send it by post, or receiving a password by post?
    And in this case, which address should we give? The one we had, and a foreign current one?
    Thanks a lot for your answer and time!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/03/2019 at 23:11

      Hey Eloise. If you can’t access to Elster from where you are, you could use of those platforms indicated in the post. I know: it’s not for free, that’s not ideal. But yes, you can do it through Internet.

  • Reply Santiago 04/03/2019 at 12:50

    Hi Bastien,
    Amazing work you’ve done here! Thanks so much.
    My boss terminated my contract and will end on March 31, 2019.
    How do I proceed with taxes during the month of april and following? I will be a freelancer (sales) for a foreign company, receiving gross income and should declare taxes myself (easy website/english maybe?:) Also pay my krankenkasse myself.
    What order of things would you do in my case? Should I notify some institution with this kündigung? I won’t have any income in april so i really want to avoid expensive taxes!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/03/2019 at 23:02

      Hey Santiago. Have you looked at this post for newly self-employed people in Germany. It has a bunch of information about this too. I think you would probably find the answers there.

  • Reply Palani 01/03/2019 at 15:48

    Hi Bastien,
    I was working for an indian based IT company, where the company took care of Tax returns. I used to give a vollmacht to my company and do the tax returns and declarations with help of external tax agents. I got a new job offer and switched to a germany company from March 2018. But I was working in Indian IT company till end of Feb2018. I did gave my company vollmacht for year 2018.
    But I have tax return due to change in tax class after March 2018. My question is : can the tax return be filed by my company and me for the same year 2018?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:32

      Hey Palani. Why not revoking that Vollmacht and take care of it all by yourself?

  • Reply Carlos 01/03/2019 at 13:40

    Hi Bastien,
    Great article! I have a special case, I was student (I’ve studied with a scholarship) until september 2018 and then I got a job. I received a so called “Lohnsteuerbescheinigung” from my job and also I received from my insurance company a so called “Finanzamtbescheinigung” which described the amounts I paid to them when I was student (from january to september), then my question is where should I that information in my declaration?

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:21

      Hey Carlos. Refer to the guide in the post for more details.

  • Reply Jyotika Valecha 01/03/2019 at 11:35

    Hi Bastian,

    My tax class is 1 and I started my first job in March 2014, I paid the tax for the whole year. Can is till file for 2014? Also in 2015 I didn’t work for the month of May. Can i file tax return for these two years? My co-workers told me that we can file it last 5 years. Can you please tell me deadline and how to file the tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 20:17

      Hey Jyotika. As mentioned in the post, it’s up to 4 years after the end of the year. So 2014 won’t work but 2015 will. Deadline remains the same. As for how: refer to the post.

  • Reply JENNIFER CEASER 28/02/2019 at 10:31

    Hello, I just registered for Elster (I’m a freelancer, not self-employed) and didn’t realize you have to get the code by post. It’s almost impossible to get mail at my address because of the stringent co-op board’s regulations on signs on the postboxes (long story). So, I have an accountant: is it possible to register using my accountant’s address? Or to register a business address? I’m not sure how to proceed if I cannot register with this system. Can I just file on paper instead?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/03/2019 at 19:49

      Hey Jennifer. That is a good question. I think it will be sent to wherever your company/self-employment is registered.

  • Reply Sherry 26/02/2019 at 19:50

    Hello! Thanks for your help. I am a German resident and I am employed with an EU blue card. I do have a small income in American stocks, but all of my main income comes from my salary. The capital gain that I earn in foreign income (from my stocks) is less than €200. I was told that if the amount of foreign income is this small, I am not required to file it in german taxes. Is this true?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2019 at 09:13

      Hey Sherry. It doesn’t matter what the amount this. As a German resident, you ought to declare all income sources.

  • Reply rovshan 26/02/2019 at 14:47

    Hello I worked in germany on 2018 year only 3 month Can I get tax refund ,I m from other country

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2019 at 09:12

      Hey Rovshan. If you are not a German resident, you should be declaring your income in your home country.

  • Reply Eriserdi Mollaymeri 26/02/2019 at 12:36

    Hello Bastien!

    I am a foreign master student in Bayern, currently in the 5th semester. I am stuck in a situation and I do not know what to do.

    I received a letter from my insurance company (AOK) stating basically how much I paid for the health insurance in 2018. They clarified that I can use this information for the tax return, if I have to do it. Up to that point I had no idea such thing existed in Germany, also in my country we do not do it so I might be misinformed. It was the first time I receive such letter from AOK. Furthermore, I have not received any letter from the corresponding financial offices saying that I should do it (I do not know if I should even receive one).

    I will briefly explain my financial incomes for 2018.:

    -From January to April I used to work in a restaurant as a mini-job (less than 450euros per month). I did not pay taxes for that since it was a mini-job.

    -In May-June I did an internship in a company. The internship was counted as a research internship required from the university. I got paid around 10 euros per hour. And I did pay taxes.

    -From October to December I am doing my master thesis at a company. I get paid a little more than the internship and I pay taxes. And the thesis is still going. The current contract I have runs until May.

    Honestly, I am getting a little scared as I have zero experience in such things, my income situation is also complicated as I explained above and my lack of German knowledge is a huge problem. And searching on Google did not take me anywhere, it just rose more questions.

    Could you help me in whether I have to do the tax return or not, considering my situation? Should one receive a letter saying that I have to the tax return? Where can I ask to receive a final confirmation if I have to do it? And is there an office related to the tax return where I can go and clarify all this on my own or so?

    Thank you very much in advance for any help you will provide.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/02/2019 at 09:10

      Hello Eriserdi. German can be overwhelming at times. As stated in the post, you are not required to do one. You won’t receive a letter from the Finanzamt.

  • Reply Arunika Sahu 26/02/2019 at 11:17

    Hi Bastien,
    Thanks for such a beautiful well written explanation on this topic. I have one query though. I started my work in Germany in September 2016. Can I file tax return for the year 2016 as well? Or is there a “minimum number of months” requirement?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2019 at 11:43

      Hey Arunika. You can file a tax return for the year 2016 as well yes.

  • Reply Ivan 26/02/2019 at 00:53

    Hi Bastien,
    thank you so much for this info.
    So, I as doing a summer job as a student last summer in Germany, so now if I want to ask for the tax return, I too need to fill these 3 forms:
    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) ???
    And where exactly do I need to send the documents?
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2019 at 10:15

      Hey Ivan. Yes, that’s correct. You need to send your documents to your local Finanzamt, as mentioned in the post.

  • Reply sam 25/02/2019 at 23:19

    Hello there, i am an employee and i am getting married in March this year. My partner is currently not working and this year she has been receiving Arbeitslosengeld since December 2018. We will move in together after the marriage. She will start a job in April but I earn a lot more so switching to Tax class 3 and 5 is a no brainer for us. Based on this my questions are … when I file my tax return in December 2019 will the whole year (Jan-Dec) be based on Tax class 3 for me and not just from March? also based on the info I have given would you recommend an accountant or is this simple enough for me to do alone using steurgo for example? great job BTW cheers

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2019 at 10:12

      Hey Sam. Since you are applying for a tax change before November, you can benefit from tax benefits for the months prior too. Hard to say whether or not you need an accountant. It’s mostly down to if you have multiple sources of income and the amount of potential tax relief schemes you can take advantage of. If you have both only source of income, it’s totally manageable via SteuerGo.

  • Reply Berliner 25/02/2019 at 17:38

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you very much for your article. Small question: My employer mentioned my tax class wrongly as 6 instead of 1 for year 2018. I got the lohnsteurbeschenigung for 2018 under tax class 6. I noticed this in 2019.

    Can I do retroactive change for 2018? If so, could you please guide me on how to file one? Any online support or I have to approach finanzamt?

    Thank you,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2019 at 20:44

      Hey Krishna. There is dedicated post about this topic this way. It should help.

  • Reply Peter 24/02/2019 at 20:40

    Hi Bastien,

    thank you very much for the valuable information. I’m totally new to this, I got two question please
    I work as a resident doctor in a hospital from 15/12/2017 until today and i want to make my first ‘Steuererklärung’. My questions are, should i ask for tax return for the 15 days in December or ignore them, i mean does it make any noticeable difference in money return since they are only 15 days in 2017 !

    second question is: can i get a back some of the money i spent in Germany before i start my first work, i mean like Exams, Language Courses and Aufenthalt fees. Since the courses and exams fees were necessary to get the Work License.

    thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2019 at 20:36

      Hey Peter. You can also do one for those 15 days too, provided your got a Lohnsteuerbescheinigung for that time period. You may also put any costs towards your education off in taxes.

  • Reply Jeen 23/02/2019 at 11:38

    Hi Bastien,
    Thanks a lot for your valuable information in this website. I ‘m working in Germany from Nov. 2016 up to now as a forigner. I have a short term work permit as Blue Card which is valid until Nov. 2019 (I’m not a permanent residence of Germany) .I’ve deceided to quit my job in Germany by Jun 2019 and move to canada for living. I have also a type of 13 TVöD contract. Do you think can I return a part of my tax payment? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2019 at 09:36

      Hey Jeen. Sorry i don’t think i can help on the specifics of your case. I don’t know about 13 TVöD contracts. However, since you have been here since 2016, you’d be considered a German resident and therefore you can do a tax return for 2019 too, since you will be more than half of the year here.

  • Reply Andre Leo 21/02/2019 at 07:47

    Hello Bastien,

    Thank you for all this helpful information.

    I moved to Berlin on a freelance artist visa in the middle of last year and received my anmeldung (with Steueridentifikationsnummer) in August.

    I only received my Steuernummer in December.

    Do I still do taxes from August, as I had started doing small jobs already?

    Thanking you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2019 at 09:28

      Hey Andre. Yes.

  • Reply Ravi 19/02/2019 at 23:28

    I filed my tax return on Jan 28th 2019 , when I expect the refund
    Can I expect by end of March..?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2019 at 09:22

      Hey Ravi. See the FAQ for an answer.

  • Reply Rodrigo 14/02/2019 at 05:36

    Hello!
    I am living AND working n Munich since January of 2018 and currently doing so having the steurklass 5. From October my wife came, we got married in November, I then kept working having changed from steur 5 to steur 3 since then. She has now a mino job. Since I dont have any other income besides my job should I so the tax declaration?
    If so, what kind of expenses should I declare?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2019 at 17:04

      Hey Rodrigo. Yes, as mentioned in the post. You should do it.

      • Reply Rodrigo 15/02/2019 at 03:35

        Bastiem, thank you!
        Regarding rent, as I its my first year I am paying directly to my landlord without receiving any kind of receipt or proof og payment.
        Is this declared ? I mean, I can do my tax declaration without the renting part?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/02/2019 at 11:51

          Hey Rodrigo. Yes, rent expenses are not relevant.

          • Rodrigo 15/02/2019 at 22:31

            Thank you for you answers. Hope they help someone else!

  • Reply Girisha 13/02/2019 at 08:03

    Hi Bastien,
    I worked in Germany for 5 months with special assignment. I came on deputation from Indian company to here. I went back after 5 months and continued my job in my origin company for rest of the year. Am I eligible to apply for tax return?

    Best Regards,
    Girisha

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2019 at 16:56

      Hey Girisha. If you are an Indian resident, working under India contract for an indian company, i don’t think that would be possible.

  • Reply Fauza Mahmood 09/02/2019 at 14:12

    Hello,
    Last year I submitted in my tax return through a steuar berater which was estimated to be over 1800€ but finasamt later informed me that I will get less than that amount because am not paying for my child internal, as I am staying together with my girlfriend but I had just join her in about 3 months. Was this really necessary?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/02/2019 at 21:01

      Hey Fauza, I don’T really understand the question.

  • Reply Ram 08/02/2019 at 07:02

    Hi,
    Thank you for the info. Can you please let know as to what are all the bills that can be submitted for filing tax return? Ex: Electricity bill, grocery bill, etc.

  • Reply Ali Imran Raja 08/02/2019 at 02:48

    Hey i need to know how can i file a tax return without having registered address (Anmeldung). Actually i am running out of time and i cannot do my Anmeldung in such a short period. is there a way out of this because in all the forms, you have to mention the registered address.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 12:18

      Hey Ali. If you are not a German resident, you would do your tax return in your home country.

  • Reply Nebojsa Suvak 07/02/2019 at 17:06

    Hi, great article and still i have 1 question : Is the fuel spent for travelling to work refundable, do i have to keep bills or something etc?

  • Reply Anique Teichmann 07/02/2019 at 14:56

    Hi Bastien,
    i arrived in Germany on the 24.12.2017 and they are telling me to pay the tax for the whole year 2017. I come from Mauritius and have worked there and paid my taxes there. Is it true that I have to do this, please?
    Thank you very much for your answer.
    Anique

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 12:13

      Hey Anique. What sort of tax are you talking about now?

  • Reply Rehan 04/02/2019 at 08:22

    Hi I have a question. I am working fulltime and have tax class 3. There is nothing on my “Lohnsteuer” box on my “Lohnbescheinigung”. What that’s means? Am I not able to file tax return of 2018? Because last year in 2017, I had tax class 1. I had claim my tax return because Lohnsteuer box was not empty. Hope you understood my question. Please answer me asap. Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:36

      Hey Rehan. This seems weird indeed, does this mean you haven’t paid any Lohnsteuer all year then?

  • Reply Afreen Khanum 03/02/2019 at 00:14

    Hello Bastien,
    My husband worked in Germany for 2 months in 2017 (Nov, Dec) and 1 month in 2018 (January). Can he claim for tax return?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:32

      Hey Afreen. This question is too vague. Can’t answer sorry.

  • Reply Hephep 01/02/2019 at 22:03

    Hi Bastien,
    I couldn’t get the following: if one has been employed by different employers within the same year, is mandatory for him/her to fill the declaration? Or is it just his/her right to do it?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:29

      Hey Hephep. As mentioned in the post, it’s one of the cases in which you are obliged to do so.

  • Reply katrina 01/02/2019 at 15:11

    Hi,
    I completed a tax return for last year and got a lot of money back as i’d only worked for half the yaer.
    My question is, do I HAVE to, by law, do one again this year for 2018? I’ve heard that ‘once you do one, you have to do it annually’ but that doesn’t seem all that real to me.

    Also, what are the implications for not filing a tax return?

    Thanks,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:27

      Hey Katrina. It is written in the post who do a Steuererklärung.

  • Reply Adisfah 01/02/2019 at 01:35

    Hi Bastien,
    That’s a very nice piece of information which will come in handy definitely
    We have landed in Germany in Dec 2017. Only my husband is working and I have two kids. The problem I have is, due to technical issues(the registered officer for us was on long leave) in stadhaus, we had our blue card printed delayed by 6 months. But my 2nd boy still didn get one though, coz unfortunately his passport was about to expire nd our officer said he will give 9 months temporary visa. So they are waiting for that time period to get over for blue card. And the trouble here is, i did not get kindergeld for 6 months for 1st boy and am not getting kindergeld for 2nd boy yet(14 months now) . Will I be able to claim for it in tax return? When I went to familienkasse office, they are not helping with English.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:26

      Hey Adisfah. You may want to double check with a professional but i don’t think you will be able to proceed that way. I think you will need to take this with your Familienkasse directly.

  • Reply Iman 01/02/2019 at 01:13

    Hi Bastien, For 8 month I received unemployment money and only the last 2 month of 2018, I had an internship job with tax class 5. The amount of unemployment money was sth like 5900 Euro which was given in Hauptvordruck in line 96. But surprisingly from ELSTER, I got the Berechnung saying ‘ Festgesetzt werden as +2350 ‘ Euro which makes a total estimate of +90 Euro to be paid by me to financeamt. Should I go their office and talk? or this is just an estimate that Elster gives and probably some how they will understand that my unemployment money was already reduced to my tax class 5. I am having a bad economic year and was really counting on this tax return. I never got less than 300 euros back and now this is really surprising for me.Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/02/2019 at 11:24

      Hey Iman. Unfortunately, i cannot tell you if that’s right or wrong because there are many other parameters involved into deciding what is due. If you think that is a mistake, you can go a Verband or a Steuerberater for more help. Sorry and good luck.

  • Reply Jasmin 31/01/2019 at 14:02

    Hello! Great information here! However, the tax deadline has been changed for the first time this year. The tax declaration for 2018 can be filed until July 31st, 2019!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/01/2019 at 15:31

      Hey Jasmin. Thanks for letting me know. I had forgotten to update the info. It has now been updated! <3

  • Reply Mike 30/01/2019 at 21:10

    Hi Bastien,

    My tax class is 1 and I started to work in December. When I check my payroll, the tax is considered for the whole year. Since I worked only one month in 2018, am I granted to take any tax return? If so, can you tell me what percentage it will be? I also have another question regarding my marital status. My wife is in my hometown and will join me 4 months I started to work ( in April, 2019) . When I change my tax class from one to 3, can I take any tax return for January, February and March in 2019?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/01/2019 at 15:28

      Hey Mike. Yes, you can do a tax return even if you only worked one month. For second question, please read this article.

  • Reply Desirée 29/01/2019 at 17:07

    Hi Bastien,
    the deadline to submit your tax declaration has been changed this year! So for the tax year 2018, the deadline is July 31st, 2019. If you could update your information on this, it would probably be helpful to many people. Other than that, this is a great guide! Thank you very much!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/01/2019 at 15:11

      Hey Désirée. That is a great reminder. I forgot to update. Thanks so much!

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