Last updated on 11/01/2021
If you have worked in Germany, you may be entitled to a tax refund at the end of the tax year.
Lohnsteuer (income tax) will have been deducted from your wages throughout the year. However, it is unlikely that your employer will take any income-related expenses into account when calculating your income tax.
This means you may be able to claim some of it back. You can do this by filing your income tax return.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about your German tax refund and how to claim it back the easy way!
Am I a resident or non-resident for tax in Germany? And why does it matter?
You’ll be considered as resident in Germany if you have a domicile (a home or dwelling owned by or rented to the taxpayer) there and spend more than 6 consecutive months in the country. Otherwise, you will be considered a non-resident.
Non-residents can be considered and taxed as German residents if:
- A minimum of 90% of all their worldwide income in a calendar year is subject to German income tax
- Their income from outside Germany in a calendar year does not exceed €8,820 for 2017, €9,000 for 2018, €9,168 for 2019 and €9,409 for 2020. These amounts are to be reduced where necessary and appropriate in light of the conditions in the taxpayer’s country of residence.
Extended business travellers are likely to be considered non-residents of Germany for tax purposes unless they stay in the country for more than 6 months in a row.
What benefits from Germany can be claimed?
If you earn more than €450 per month you are automatically part of the social security system in Germany. You may be able to claim certain benefits such as:
Kindergeld (Childcare Benefits)
Parents who are working in Germany and have children can claim this benefit. Foreigners living in Germany can also apply as long as they have a valid residency permit. Residents of EU/EEA countries do not need the permit to apply for Kindergeld.
You can claim this benefit if you:
- Work/worked in Germany
- Are an EU/EEA citizen
- You have a permanent residence permit
Even if you worked and lived in Germany but your children did not, you may still be able to claim the benefit.
The amount you can get depends on the age and number of children you have.
You can claim Kindergeld for only 6 months back in time. The date when the application is received will be taken into consideration. This means that the later you send it, the later it will be received by the German authorities, the fewer months you will be able to apply for.
Pension Insurance Contributions (Rentenversicherung)
You may be eligible to get a refund of your pension insurance contributions. If you're a resident of a non-European Union country and have worked in Germany, you may have paid into a pension fund.
Once you have been out of Germany for at least two years, you can apply to get all your pension payments refunded. The average pension insurance refund a Taxback.com customer gets from Germany is €5,410.
In order to qualify for a pension refund in Germany, you need to be a resident of a non-EU country (excluding Turkey, Israel and former Yugoslavian states). You also need to have paid contributions for less than 5 years into the German Pension Fund.
If you’re sailing on a German registered ship you may be due a tax refund. Expenses for professional education and renewal of sailing-related certificates can also be claimed.
Scientists and Researchers (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter)
Scientists can also claim work-related expenses including:
- Textbook costs
- Tuition fees and fees for courses taken to get or improve skills in an occupation
- Administration and enrolment fees
Want to learn some more facts and useful information on German taxes? If so, check out our detailed guide on this topic!
Filing a German tax return
You don’t need to file a tax return if your only source of income in Germany is your salary, this is because it is taken at source. However, if you want to claim your tax refund or are self-employed you need to file a tax return at the end of the tax year.
What is the deadline for filing a tax return?
The German tax year runs concurrently with the calendar year. The deadline for your tax return is usually 31 July, you can request an extension if required. The deadline is also extended to 28 February the second year after, if the tax return is prepared by a German tax professional like Taxback.com.
What happens if I don’t file my tax return?
If you don’t file your tax return before the deadline you may be liable for fines and penalties.
How much tax can I expect to claim back?
The average German tax refund a Taxback.com customer receives is €1,020.
However, the amount you get back will depend largely on your personal circumstances.
You may be due a refund from Germany if you:
- Have annual income under the tax-free allowance
- Worked in Germany part-time or temporarily
- Were not correctly classified for tax payments
- Financially supported your parents or other dependants in your home country
- Paid for rent in your home country and in Germany
- Paid for flights to and from Germany
- Incurred work-related expenses such as travel costs
- Are married, but were taxed as single
- Incurred work-related expenses where your employer did not cover you for them
To find out how much you’re owed, simply apply with Taxback.com here.
What will I need to file my tax return?
All you are going to need to apply for a tax refund from Germany is:
- Lohnsteuerbescheinigung - This is your annual income statement which you will receive from your employer
- Identifikationsnummer - Your 11 digit unique identification number
- Steuernummer - If you have filed your German tax return in previous years, you can find it on your Assessment order (Steuerbescheid) from the Finanzamt
How can I file my tax return?
The easiest way to file your return and the best way to maximise your tax refund is to apply with Taxback.com.
Our team will be delighted to help you.
Plus, if you have any questions about the German tax you can contact our Live Chat team anytime 24/7.
The Average German Tax Refund is €1020