Submitting Your Tax Return

Not everyone is required to submit a tax return - for most employees, the tax deducted from their monthly wages is sufficient. For both those required to submit and those who submit voluntarily, there are some important tax topics to keep in mind:

Tax ID and tax number

Tax IDs are identification numbers that help the tax office (Finanzamt) to identify and organize taxpayer information. These numbers are permanent and every resident of Germany is assigned with one.

Tax numbers, on the other hand, are assigned to you according to your local tax office and change upon moving. It's possible to have multiple different tax numbers for different types of income.

Voluntary vs. Mandatory Tax Returns

Voluntary Tax Return

Most employees aren't required to submit a tax return if they have no income in addition to their (non-freelance) employee wages. However, for most taxpayers, it's still worthwhile to submit a voluntary tax return as an average tax refund of 1,027 often awaits them.

Mandatory Tax Return

There are some simple rules that determine who is required to file a tax return:

  • If you have secondary income that exceeds 410 euros
  • If you have rental or leasing income that exceeds 410 euros
  • If you have income from freelance work
  • If you have income from capital gains subject to withholding tax on which no dividend tax was paid
  • If you received wage replacement benefits exceeding 410 euros (such as short-term work benefits, unemployment benefits, insolvency benefits, maternity benefits, parental allowance, etc.) that are subject to the so-called Progressionsvorbehalt
  • If you had two overlapping work contracts which lead to two separate incomes being received simultaneously
  • If the tax office (Finanzamt) entered a wage tax allowance (Lohnsteuerfreibetrag)
  • If you received a severance package (Abfindung) and applied the one-fifth method
  • If you and your spouse have a tax class combination of III/V or IV/IV with factor method
  • If you are separated and didn't split the education allowance, disability allowance, or survivors' allowance 50:50

There are also special situations that lead to a mandatory tax return that are not so easy to define. If this is the case, you will receive a letter from the tax office informing you that you are obliged to file.

Deadlines

The deadline to submit your tax return (when you are required to file) is July 31st of the following year. If you are filing voluntarily, you can file retroactively up to four years later.

Obligation to Provide Proof

Since 2018, taxpayers no longer have to automatically provide proof when filing their tax return; however, there is a requirement to hang on to all receipts and invoices in case the tax office requests proof for specific entries.