At a glance

Taxes are automatically deducted from your salary. Read the following information carefully to understand the basics of how taxes work in Germany.

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In Germany, income tax is automatically deducted from the monthly paycheck of all employees. Many employees, especially  unmarried people who have no other income, do not have to file a tax return. Unless you want to claim tax deductions.

Most scholarships also do not usually require you to pay tax or file a tax return unless you receive other income. Contact your scholarship provider to clarify the details.

Keep in mind: Germany has progressive taxation, which means that while employees earning less than about 9,984 EUR/year do not have to pay taxes, the tax rate starts at 14% and increases up to 45% for incomes higher than 277,825 EUR/year. Thus, reducing your income by a small amount may save you a substantial sum.

Additional income subject to income tax
  • Securities

if you invest your money for example in stocks, crypto currencies or funds, you usually have to pay tax on the profits with the final withholding tax. In this case, you should consult an expert tax advisor for your tax return. 

  • Other income

However, you must file a tax return if you have other income, such as rental or business income and interest from bank accounts. This is also required if you want to claim tax deductions, for example for moving costs to Germany, childcare, maintenance of your house, etc.

Deadlines for submitting a tax return to the tax office

Taxpayers have until 31 October 2022 to submit their 2021 tax return to the tax office. The tax return for 2022 must be at the tax office by 30 September 2023 and the tax return for 2023 by 30 August 2024.

How can I file my taxes?

There are several options to file taxes:  

  • Directly with the Finance Ministry (German) using ELSTER

You can fill out forms or file your taxes online with the Finance Ministry (only available in German).  
Forms for paper tax returns: Formular-Management-System (
To file an online tax return directly: ELSTER - Startseite

  • Programmes

There are various computer programmes available online that can help you complete your German tax return. These programmes sometimes also have English versions.  
By searching for “German Taxes” or “German Taxes English”, you can find programmes that could help you file your tax return without needing to know German.  
The ELSTER website provides a list (in German) of the various software products on the market that support the ELSTER system, allowing you to look for software for a specific operating system or for certain tax needs. The website is also divided up between Freeware products and commercial products. Please note that not all products listed are helpful when completing your tax return as they have been created for other tax-related issues. ELSTER - Weitere Softwareprodukte

  • Individual Assistance Filing Taxes

There are two primary means of getting individual assistance when filing taxes.  

i. Income Tax Assistance Associations (Lohnsteuerhilfevereine)
In Germany, there are Income Tax Assistance Unions which, by becoming a member for a yearly fee, do your taxes for you and can provide you with tax advice.  
You can look to see what offers are available by searching for “Lohnsteuerhilfevereine  
Tübingen”. It is always a good idea to check to see whether associations speak English (or another language), what kind of tax returns they cover and how much their fees are.  

ii. Tax Advisors (Steuerberater)
Tax advisors are another option to have someone else do your taxes for you. By searching for “Steuerberater Tübingen”, you will find various tax advisors in Tübingen. It is a good idea to check to see whether they speak English (or another language) and how much their fees are.

Tax Identification Number (Steuer-ID)

When you register as a resident, you automatically get your personal 11-digit tax ID number from the tax office (Finanzamt). Your tax ID will be sent to you by mail within 2-4 weeks. If you have not received the letter with your tax ID, you can also ask for your tax ID at the Citizens' Registration Office (Bürgeramt). The letter looks innocuous - but is very important. Your employer needs that number to pay your salary and your taxes.

Please also note that your tax ID number remains the same for life. Even if you move or get married, your tax ID will not change.


Tax Group (Steuerklasse)

According to the German tax system, married couples and families with children carry a reduced tax burden. The tax class identifies your family status and affects how much money is automatically deducted from your monthly paycheck. Your tax class is usually assigned to you when you get your tax number, but you can ask to have it changed.

  • Class I is for singles
  • Class II is for singles with children
  • Classes III, IV and V are for married and registered same-sex couples. If both partners make about the same amount of money, they usually both choose class IV, otherwise the person with the greater income selects class III, while to person with the smaller income selects class V.
  • Class VI is for individuals with two or more separate employers.
How to change my Tax group

As a spouse/registered civil partner, you can apply to the tax office once a year for a more favorable wage tax class combination (IV/IV to III/V or vice versa). For this purpose, the Federal Ministry of Finance has prepared the information sheet on the choice of tax class. You will need the form "Antrag auf Steuerklassenwechsel bei Ehegatten/Lebenspartnern" (Application for change of tax class for spouses/partners) to make the corresponding application.
All employees, including single persons, must inform the tax office if they meet the requirements for a less favorable tax class (for example, the requirements for tax class II have ceased to apply). This also applies if a lower number of child allowances is to be considered. 
In the opposite case, i.e. if the conditions for a more favorable tax class are met, you can also apply for a change. 
According to the German tax system, married couples and families with children carry a reduced tax burden. The tax class identifies your family status and affects how much money is automatically deducted from your monthly paycheck. This also requires the presentation of a recognised marriage certificate. Your tax class is usually assigned to you when you get your tax number, but you can ask to have it changed

Applications and declarations regarding the wage tax deduction features can also be transmitted electronically to the competent tax office. The transmission works nationwide via 

  • the online portal "My ELSTER" under the menu item "Forms & Services" or 
  • a transmission programme of your private provider.

The following applications and declarations can be transmitted electronically to the tax office

  • Application for change of tax class, 
  • Application for wage tax reduction 
  • Declaration of permanent separation, 
  • declaration on the resumption of marital or civil partnership union, and 
  • Application for the electronic wage tax deduction features (ELStAM), e.g. change of your ELStAM data. 


Church Tax (Kirchensteuer)

Germany is unique in the fact that the tax office collects taxes for several churches and religious groups. These include the Roman Catholic, Lutheran (evangelische Kirche) and several free Christian Churches, as well as the Jewish Community. When you register with the local authorities as you first move to Germany, you will be asked whether you belong to one of these religious groups. It is important that you opt out of this if you do not belong to either of these religious denominations! Doing it later can be extremely complicated. A list of communities that may charge Church Tax is on the back of your registration form (more information on registration is available under Official Registration). 

In Baden-Württemberg, the church tax amounts to 8% of your income tax. It is automatically deducted from your monthly paycheck and transferred to your church account.

Double Taxation Agreements

Double taxation agreements are official treaties between different countries dealing with people that have income in two countries. The goal is to prevent taxpayers from having to pay taxes twice on the same income.

Germany has signed many such treaties and is currently preparing more. The German Ministry of Finance publishes a map and a list showing these countries and the official German text of the treaties.

Each treaty is a bit different. If you are in the position of receiving income from Germany and another country in one year, you should look into the treaty that applies to you or consult a tax specialist before filing your German income tax return.

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