The Tax Office
When you’re living and working in Germany, it’s important to know what your taxes are and how much you need to pay. Your first step is to get a tax number (Steuernummer) from the Finanzamt in your district. This is your ID number, and you’ll need it for all kinds of paperwork.
The German Income Tax Return
The annual tax return is a document that tells the Finanzamt how much you made and how much you need to pay. It’s called a Steuererklarung, and it needs to be submitted on paper or online using ELSTER software designed by the Federal Central Tax Office.
It’s essential to submit your tax return before 31 July each year (July 31st 2022 for 2021). If you’re not sure how to do it, or are in the habit of paying your taxes late, seek professional advice.
ELSTER is the official online tool for submitting your tax return in Germany. It’s free to use but you need to sign up and receive your password by post, which can take a few days.
Your taxes are broken down into different ‘Areas’ such as Anlage Sonderausgaben, Haushaltsnahe Aufwendungen or Objekten. These are areas where you can claim a deduction for expenses you have incurred that don’t come directly from your work.
If you’re a freelancer, there’s also another area where you can claim a deduction: Corona grants/aid/support money you received in the period between 2014 and 2016. These were given to people who had contracted the Corona virus and were unable to work due to their health condition.
The Finanzamt has developed a new system for this which makes it easier to submit your tax return. Unlike in the past, you can do everything electronically.