The tax return – what do you need to know?

For many veterans, the tiresome topic of tax returns is an annoying but necessary evil every year. However, anyone who has never created one, is no longer up to date, whose income or life situation has changed significantly, may ask some questions of a fundamental and practical nature. The most important answers can be found in this article.

What is meant by tax return?


The tax declaration is an official form that is completed by a tax debtor and submitted to his local tax office. It serves the Authority as the basis from which it calculates the tax liability resulting from the total income of the taxpayer in the past calendar year. The tax office settles the result with prepayments made – for example in the form of payroll tax for employees – which results in the majority of cases in a refund or a supplementary payment. Since most under tax return actually understand the income tax return, our contribution is limited to it. Because not only income requires a tax return, but also donation, inheritance, business, corporation and sales.

What are the advantages of a tax return?

What are the advantages of a tax return?

Current data of the Federal Statistical Office for the year 2015 show that the submission of a tax return is worthwhile: 87 percent of all declarations resulted in reimbursements, an average of 1007 euros and predominantly (58%) between 100 and 1000 euros

Tax rebates are mainly due to the fact that various expenditures are deductible in the year in question. They reduce the taxable income and save taxes retroactively.

Who is not subject to the duty of tax return?

For single persons there is a basic allowance of 9000 Euro for 2018, from 2019 it is 9,168 Euro – for married persons twice the amount. There is no tax liability up to income of this amount and there is no need to declare.
Employees who are subject to payroll tax are already paying their monthly income tax deduction by the employer. They usually do not have to make a statement, as do many retirees.

Who is obliged to pay?

Who is obliged to pay?

In principle, every self-employed, freelancer, farmer and trader must explain his income to his tax office.
Employees are also liable to pay taxes in the following cases (§ 46 Income Tax Act EStG):

  • Married, or registered life partner, if the tax office has certain salary tax deduction characteristics (Elstam) stored on the now electronic income tax card:
    • both are gainfully employed and
      • one of them in tax code V or VI
      • both in tax class IV with selected factor
    • A partner has been registered with allowances.
  • With several employers at the same time and a flat-rate taxed wage (mini jobs)
  • For additional income over 410 euros per year (exception: mini jobs), for example, from lettings, leases, self-employment or freelance work.
  • For wage replacement benefits of more than 410 euros from parental, unemployment, sickness, short-time work and the like
  • Divorced people, in which one of the ex-partners remarried in the same year
  • On receipt of a severance payment for which payroll tax has been deducted under the fifths rule
  • If capital gains were made to which no final withholding tax was paid

For whom is a voluntary explanation worthwhile?

Those who do not have to declare their tax can voluntarily apply for income tax assessment. This can be well worth it, for example, if high expenses (income-related costs!) Or losses in one type of income can be claimed. Even with marriage, the explanation is recommended, in the case of missed adjustment of the income tax bracket or non-continuous employment.

TIP: If the tax office requests a supplementary payment on account of a voluntary tax return, the taxpayer may object, withdraw the declaration and request suspension of enforcement. The latter is important, otherwise he has to pay first.

Which tax office is responsible for me?

Which tax office is responsible for me?

The tax office responsible for the respective place of residence can be found on the website of the Federal Central Tax Office

In what form should the statement be prepared, submitted and what is ELSTER?

Since the beginning of 2017, the comprehensive tax modernization law has been in effect, which is to gradually automate the entire tax procedure by 2022. The declared goal is also the paperless tax return. But still private individuals may submit completed paper forms. Entrepreneurs and the self-employed have no choice, they already use ELSTER, the electronic tax declaration via This way, modernized since mid-2017, is equally free for any other taxed person and has these advantages, among others:

  • lower error rate, plausibility check
  • preferred processing by the authority
  • depending on the version:
    • Display of expected repayments or repayments
    • Receipt, a pre-filled tax return with all information already reported to the tax office
  • three possible accesses:
    1. “Elster Form” (only until tax year 2019) as a free tax administration program for downloading, offline editing and online submission. Additionally necessary: ​​a printed compressed declaration with original signature
    2. One-time registration at “My Magpie” and filling out in the browser, the variant Elster-Basis is free and usually sufficient
    3. Registration as part of one of the commercially available tax programs

Where do I get forms and which ones are necessary?

Only official forms are allowed. In every tax office they are out, sometimes in public offices. All forms are also available for download at
First of all, the four main bows and installations, who needs them and their contents soon:

  • Cover sheet (main form): each taxpayer, (marriage) partner together, contains personal details, signature and some types of expenses
  • Annex N (Income from employment): Employees and trainees, contains everything about wages and expenses (professional expenses)
  • Investment Benefit expenses: (Social) insured, includes contributions to the pension, health and long-term care insurance
  • Attachment child: for a child living in the household, includes expenses, child benefit, allowances, for each child in their own facility

Also often:

  • Annex KAP: Income from capital assets
  • Annex V: Revenue from leases and leases
  • Annex R: Pensioners
  • Annex SO: Other income (sales, maintenance)
  • Annex U: Divorced, permanently separated
  • Annex AV: Payer in Riester pension
  • Annex G: Commercial income (also from solar installations)

Self-employed and freelancers fill their own facilities (S and EÜR).

INFO: Employees without additional income can also benefit from the simplified tax return. Instead of the sheath elbow and plant N, they only fill 2 sides, which cover all frequent settling possibilities and add additional plant precautionary expenses.

Which expenses reduce my tax burden?

Which expenses reduce my tax burden?

The area with the most significant tax saving potential is advertising costs. Other deductible expenses include special expenditure, exceptional burdens and tax rebates on household services.

The most important tax saving options in detail:

Occupational expenses ( income-related expenses), the sum of which exceeds the employee’s allowance of 1000 euros, unless the employer has reimbursed them. A selection:

  • Travel expenses to the workplace, from just 15 kilometers of easy driving distance by car, the 1000-Euro flat rate is often exceeded in the course of the year (Distance or colloquial commuter tax: currently 0.30 Euro per kilometer)
  • Work equipment (such as stationery, office furniture, appliances)
  • Cost of a home study as a sole workplace
  • Expenditure on work related removal
  • Application costs, education and training costs

Special expenses such as church tax, precautionary expenses and others:

  • Contributions for pension, health and long-term care insurance
  • Contributions for liability, accident and life insurance
  • Donations, maintenance payments to an exporter

General extraordinary charges from exceeding an individually determined reasonable load limit (§ 33 EStG), for example:

  • Medical expenses (glasses, dentures, self-paid medicines and treatments by prescription)
  • Support needy people
  • funeral expenses
  • Civil litigation costs

Special exceptional charges are fully deductible exceptions, which are defined in §§ 33a and 33b EStG (disaster and other emergencies).

Household services, labor costs for craftsmen, household help in the mini-job : The Treasury participates with 20 percent, each capped at the top, for example

  • Cleaning aid, caretaker, garden maintenance
  • Care of household members (including pets)
  • Travel and labor costs for craft services, including maintenance. Condition: Invoice and bank transfer are available. Tenants can also deduct benefits that can be deducted from the utility bill.