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. If you have no other income and do not want to claim any deductions, you do not have to do anything else.

Most scholarships cover only the amount required for basic subsistence, and, therefore, if scholarship holders have no additional income, they do not have to pay taxes or file a tax return. Check with your scholarship organization for details.

However, if you have other income, such as interest from bank accounts or shares (greater than approximately 800 EUR/year), rental income or income from a business, you need to file a tax return. The same is true if you want to claim deductions, such as expenses for moving to start your job in Germany, child care, house maintenance or several other categories. Therefore Taxpayers have time 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.

A German income tax return consists of a basic form (Mantelbogen ESt 1) and, depending on your personal circumstances, any number of additional annex forms. You have to store all documents verifying your income and expenses and be prepared to submit them if requested. Even Germans often rely on special tax software packages, tax payer organizations or tax attorneys to properly submit their tax return.

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 greater than 277,825 EUR/year. Thus, reducing your income a small amount may save you a substantial sum.

Below, you will find basic information about special considerations regarding the German tax system.

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.

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.
Solidarity Tax (Solidaritätszuschlag; "Soli") The Solidarity Tax is an additional tax of 5.5% of your income tax, charged as special payment to finance German unification.
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. Check our Practical Advice - Religion page for further information.

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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