How to Submit a Tax Return in Germany (2024)

Do you want to know How to Submit a Tax Return in Germany? But are not sure how to file your taxes in Germany? Worry not, in this guide I share exactly how to do that. I will also clear some myths about tax return in Germany.

Why submit a tax return in Germany?

It is possible that as a taxpayer, you have paid too much tax in advance, which can result in a tax refund. However, it is also possible that you have paid too little tax, which means you may have to pay additional taxes.

In Germany people get an average of €1095 back from the Government if they file a tax return in Germany. This amount is just the average. If you can show valid expenses then you can get even more in your Tax return.

Documents Needed to File a Tax Return in Germany

To file a tax return, you will need your 11-digit tax identification (ID) number, which you receive in the mail after registering in Germany. You may also need your 13-digit tax number, which can be found on your salary slip.

Your tax numbers may change if you move, but your tax ID number will always remain the same. If you do not have your tax ID or tax number, you can contact your local tax office to obtain it.

Who has to submit a Tax Return in Germany

You are not obliged to submit a tax return in Germany : If you have tax class 1 or in case you are married and have tax class 4. However if you have recieve wage replacement benefits then you would be obliged to submit a tax return.

Wage Replacement Benefits in Germany

Wage replacement benefits in Germany include

  1. Unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld)
  2. Short-term work benefits (Kurzarbeitergeld)
  3. Maternity benefits (Mutterschaftsgeld)
  4. Parental benefits (Elterngeld)
  5. Sick pay (Krankengeld)
  6. Transitional allowance (Übergangsgeld)
  7. Injury benefits (Verletztengeld)
  8. Subsistence payment (Unterhaltsgeld) as a supplement
  9. Care assistance benefits (Pflegeunterstützungsgeld)
  10. Employer supplements to wages and salaries (Arbeitgeberzuschüsse zum Arbeitsentgelt)

If you have any other tax class then you are also obliged to submit a tax return.

Should you still submit a tax return in Germany even if not obliged?

On average, people who file a tax return in Germany get €1.095 Euro back as a tax refund. So Even if you are not obliged to submit a tax return, its still better to submit a tax return in Germany.

Specially if you have many work or study related expenses. Student in Germany can claim many expenses like their University Fee. Employees in Germany can also claim all work related expenses in a Tax Return in Germany.

Tax Return Deadline in Germany

If you are are obligated to file a tax return, then the deadline is July 31st of the next year. If you fail to do that there may be penalties for missing the deadline.

That said if you get professional help then the deadline is extended by about 6 months or so. If you are not obliged to submit a tax return then you have an option to file for upto 4 years in the past. Meaning that in 2024 you can submit a tax return for 2023, 2022, 2021 and 2020.

Submission Deadline20202021202220232024
Self Submission (non-obliged)Freely Up to 31.12.2024Freely Up to 31.12.2024Freely Up to 31.12.2024Freely Up to 31.12.2024Freely Up to 31.12.2024
Self Submission31.10.202131.10.202220.10.202302.09.202431.07.2025
Advised Submission31.08.202231.08.202331.07.202402.06.202530.04.2026
Tax Return deadline in Germany

How to Get the Maximum Tax Return in Germany

In order to get the Maximum Tax Return in Germany, we first need to discuss how tax return works.

Based on your tax class and your salary, the government cuts a specific amount of Income tax. For example lets say you have Tax Class 1 and €50.000 salary per year. You would have to pay € 7.176,96 as income tax. This is based on a fixed calculation table, you can calculate your taxes here.

You can reduce the income tax by showing that you have work or study related costs. Lets say you were able to show €10.000 worth expenses, your new base for income tax calculation will become €40.000 instead of €€50.000.

Based on the expenses, now your income tax would be €4.720,92 . Meaning that in our example, showing €10.000 of expenses, we can get a tax refund of €2456.04.

Now you know how tax decleration in Germany works, lets discuss how to maximize your tax return.

Related Guide: 9 Ways to Pay Less Taxes in Germany

What Expenses can be give in a German Tax Return

All expenses that are related to your Work and/or Education can be claimed. These expenses can vary depending on your individual case. For example Students might have different expenses compared to Employees. Self employed have different expenses than regular Employees in Germany. That said the following expenses can be claimed in a Tax Return in Germany:

  1. Education Fees
  2. Transportation costs
  3. Work Equipment
  4. Literature and other tools
  5. Telephone and Internet costs
  6. Electronic Hardware (Mobile phone, Laptop, Tablet)
  7. Accomodation costs
  8. Relocation Costs
  9. Student Loan Interest
  10. Application costs (student jobs, internships, full time jobs)
  11. Meal Costs
  12. Investment Losses
  13. Insurance costs (private health insurance, liability, legal etc)
  14. Tax Return Assistance (software, webapp, consultant costs)
  15. Remittance Money sent to Family overseas
  16. Many others depending on your specific case

Detailed Guide for Students in Germany

Detailed Guide for Employees in Germany

Claim Remittance money sent to Family

As a foreigner in Germany, chances are that you send money to your family. Good news is that You can claim remittance sent to your family. This includes money sent to Parents, Spouse, Children and In-Laws.

Students and Employees both can claim these expenses. The maximum claimable amount for supporting a single person varies depending on where they live. However you can support multiple people at the same time.

Detailed guide on Claiming Remittance money sent from Germany to Family overseas

How to Declare Taxes in Germany

There are many options that you can use to file a tax return in Germany. The most common being physical submission in person. For that you can go to your nearest finanzamt get the tax return forms from them. You can submit the tax return there directly. However an increasing number of Finanzamt only accept digital submissions.

Digital Tax Decleration in Germany

For digital Submission you have both Free and Paid Options

Elster is a platform from the German Government where you can file your tax return for FREE. This is the MOST comprehensive app that you will find, it has all the options one would need. It is however only available in German language and can be difficult for expats.

Then you have Paid apps, like Wundertax and Smartsteuer etc. These webapp are designed to make your tax decleration process simple. They have stripped down features compared to Elster. This not only makes the tax decleration process easier, they also make it less time consuming.

Related Guide: This is the Best Tax Return Software In Germany

There are many other webapps which you can explore, and you can also buy Tax Software from amazon and other shops. The cheapest software I found was for 3.99€ at Aldi (its usually only available in December)

The only webapp available in English language , where you can claim Remittance money is Smart Steuer. If you are interested you can watch my complete video guide on Smart Steuer. That said my Favorite webapp is Wundertax. It has easy features for small businesses so I can also include my business without any extra charges.

Getting Professional help for Tax Return in Germany

If your case is complicated or you do not want to do your taxes on your own. You can get professional help from a tax consultant or a Tax Lawyer. The cost of professional help depends on multiple factors like the case complexity and your salary.

The most cost efficient way would be to google “vlh+ your city name” to get help from Lohnsteuerhilfeverein. Their fee depends on your salary, however their fee starts from 52€ .

You can also use Tax Consultants to file your taxes which increases the deadline for tax submission by about 6 months.

Conclusion

In my opinion it is definitely worth it if you file a tax return in Germany. I have received between €800 to €3000 as a tax refund in Germany. Depending on your case you get an even higher amount.

Whether you use a tax app or a tax consultant you should at least try to do sample calculations as I have shared in the video above.

If you want to learn more about taxes, then head over to our Taxes in Germany section and learn about how taxes are applied in various cases.

*Affiliate link, I may earn a commission if you use the link and make an account at no additional cost to you

Disclaimer: None of the content in this article is meant to be considered as investment advice, as I am not a financial expert and am only sharing my experience with stock investing. The information is based on my own research and is only accurate at the time of posting this article but may not be accurate at the time you are reading it.

2 Comments

  1. Dear Ahsan,

    I appreciate the work that you are putting in related to finance. I have one question. I have already submitted my tax return for year 2021 and 2022. I forgot to mention about the home office tax return. Can I do it when I file a tax return for year 2023?

    Best Regards,

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