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Taxes For Members

New deadlines and deductions: How to file taxes in Germany in 2023

The Local Germany
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New deadlines and deductions: How to file taxes in Germany in 2023
A computer displays Germany's ELSTER tax return portal. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

The deadline for people in Germany to file their 2022 tax return is coming up. Here are the newest tax changes to keep in mind - and how you can benefit from them.

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For many people in Germany, submitting a Steuererklärung (tax return) is about as pleasant as hearing nails slowly scratching the surface of a chalkboard. 

As a result, they put it off as long as possible. But with the deadline for 2022 taxes slowly coming into sight in September, here's a look at what you should know - and which changes to tax law will take effect for the very first time.

By when do I have to submit my tax return?

Normally, the deadline for filing an income tax return is always July 31st of the following year - provided the taxpayer completes and files the return themself. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the German government temporarily granted tax payers an extra three months more time, which also benefited the overburdened Steueramt (tax office). 

For the 2022 assessment period, there will still be an extended deadline, but just for two months - or to the end of September 2023. 

However, because September 30th falls on a Saturday this year, the documents do not have to be submitted to the tax office until the next working day, or October 2nd.

And even in Germany there's a little flexibility: Taxpayers can always request a later submission date from the tax office. However, they need a valid reason for this - for example, if they have a longer stay in hospital that affects the process. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's extended tax filing deadlines

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What deadline applies if I use the services of a tax consultant or income tax assistance association?

If you work with a Steuerberater (tax advisor) or tax association, your tax return for the year 2022 does not have to be submitted until July 31st, 2024. 

Starting with the 2025 assessment period, the regular deadlines will apply again. This means: Those who entrust a professional with their tax return have seven months more time than a self-filer. 

Do employees have to file a tax return at all?

Theoretically no, as taxes are automatically deducted from an employee’s payslip. Yet 50 percent of employees are still required to submit a tax return  - for example, if he or she earns additional income through renting out a property, receives wage replacement benefits such as Kurzarbeit short-time allowance or makes use of Ehegattensplitting (spousal splitting) together with his or her partner. 

Self-employed people also need to submit a return in all cases. Anyone who doesn't file their return in time should expect the tax office to impose a surcharge for late payment.

READ ALSO: The top tax deadlines often overlooked by employees in Germany

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There is no obligation for single people with tax class I, nor married single earners with tax class III, to file a return if they don't have extra income.

In such cases, though, it’s still recommended to voluntarily file a tax return, for example to claim income-related expenses thus get money back from the tax authorities. 

Employees have four years to do this - so there is plenty of time to file a return. 

Typewriter with German tax return

A Steuererklärung - or German tax return - on a typewriter. Photo: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Can I still submit my tax return on paper?

Employees and retirees who have no other taxable income (except from capital assets or renting/leasing) may continue to fill out their tax return on paper and submit it to the tax office. In all other cases, electronic submission is mandatory. 

The tax authorities recommend the state portal "My Elster" for this, though there are also an array of filing apps in Germany, including several such as Taxfix, with an English option.

What changes in tax law should be noted this year?

Last year, the basic tax-free amount on which no tax is payable was set at €10,347. It's now gone up to €10,908.

In light of the high inflation and to prevent a creeping tax increase ("cold progression"), Germany has also increased the benchmarks of the 2022 tax scale by just under 1.2 percent, so the bottom line is that taxpayers have more money left. 

Last year, Kindergeld (child benefit) was €219 for the first two children, an amount which has now gone up to €250. The tax-deductible Kinderfreibetrag (child allowance) was previous €5,620 per child and has now been raised to €5,760.

READ ALSO: The tax cuts foreign parents in Germany should know about

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Which tax deductions have changed?

As Germany grappled with skyrocketing inflation of over 10 percent last year, the government decided on some changes to relieve the burden on taxpayers.

These included an increase in the employee lump sum (Pauschbetrag), which is often also called the income-related expenses lump sum. 

It increased retroactively to January 1st, 2022 by €200 to €1,200. 

For 2023, the figure will go up once again to €1,230. 

Anyone who does not wish to claim individual income-related expenses in their tax return automatically benefits from the flat rate.

Germany also agreed on an increased commuter allowance. The change, which was set to come into effect in 2024 was brought forward in view of high inflation. The commuter allowance is now 38 cents from the 21st kilometre. Up to the 20th kilometre, it is still 30 cents per kilometre. The regulation is - at least for now - limited until the end of 2026.

Employees working from home can furthermore claim up to €600 for the tax year 2022 - €5 per day for a maximum of 120 days. 

READ ALSO: Germany to extend (and increase) tax rebate for people working from home

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