13 May 2014

Doing my German Tax Return

I've been living in Berlin for almost two years now. And since I work here, I need to do some bureaucratic things every now and then, such as filing my tax returns. When I was in the United States, I had the opportunity to use a free service offered by the university: since I was a student, and I wasn't really earning money that time, my income bracket qualified me to use the free service offered by the university's business school. This time, however, I am not a student anymore, and therefore there aren't any such services I can avail.

What I did instead was find an online tax preparation software. The main hindrance to this was that everything was in German. In fact, this was one of the things that made me realize I should aim to make my German better if I were to continue living in this country. It is just frustrating to deal with these legal terms without actually knowing what they mean exactly.

Anyway, I downloaded the trial version of one such software, and then after triple-checking every item, I decided to purchase the software. Purchasing it allowed me to print my tax return, in the required forms that the German finance office required. All I did after that was append my signature, and mail it to the Finanzamt.

A few weeks later, I noticed that I got some euros reimbursed into my bank account, exactly as the tax software has predicted. Not bad.

So, in case you're an expat moving into Germany, you might want to invest in such a software; it only costs less than 20 EUR. Some level of German proficiency is required. On the other hand, if you are totally a non-speaker of German, then perhaps it might be worth going to a tax preparer service, which will charge you around 50-100 EUR, but at least, they will be the one dealing with all the paperwork and the legalese that you need.


  1. I must admit taxes is one of these "grown up" tasks I delegate. Mine is too complicated with the freelance business.

    1. Zhu,

      Oh I can imagine. I have a friend who is self-employed (in the US) and yes, she has plenty of things to consider when doing a tax return, and therefore just hires someone else to do it for her.