Tax return Germany | 49 deductible expenses

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Written By Alex

What is Steuererklärung – income tax return Germany?

Steuererklärung – Germany tax return is a declaration by which those who are employed or have their own company (Gewerbe) in Germany present to the tax office (Finanzamt) their income and costs in real figures.

You can complete the Steuererklärung – your tax return in Germany either as a paper form or electronically.

After submitting your tax return in Germany, the tax office (Finanzamt) determines how much tax you have to pay as a taxpayer.

Furthermore, the Finanzamt will determine whether you still owe money to the tax authorities or whether you should get money back, depending on your expenses and type of income.


SteuerGo * has launched the online application for completing the Steuererklärung – Tax return in Germany in ENGLISH !

The link below will take you to the tax return calculator Germany, which can be filled out directly in English:

ONLINE HELP in ENGLISH for filling in the tax return in Germany Steuererklärung*

Who has to fill in the Steuererklärung – tax return Germany?

You will have to file tax return in Germany if in the year for which you are filing your tax return you have received:

  • unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld)
  • sick leave paid by the health insurance fund (Krankengeld)
  • short-time working allowance (Kurzarbeit)
  • parental allowance (Elterngeld)
  • financial aid from the employment office (Jobcenter)

You must also complete the tax return and submit it to the Finanzamt if:

  • in that year you received salaries from several employers
  • as spouses you have chosen income tax combination III/V or the factor has been entered for tax class IV
  • if your spouse does not work in Germany, you will need to present the EU/EWR European Income Tax Form to the tax office (Finanzamt)
  • whether tax exemptions are specified on the annual payroll tax slip (Lohnsteuerkarte)
  • you remarried in the year of your partner’s death
  • you remarried after getting divorced in the same year
  • you have earned additional income or income subject to progressive taxation exceeding EUR 410
  • if you have a certain degree of disability, if you receive a disability pension or sickness pension
  • if you are a legal person, i.e. if you have your own company (Gewerbe), regardless of whether you work as an employee or not
  • if your local tax office (Finanzamt) requires you to file a German tax return – Steuererklärung – even if you do not fall into any of the above categories

In addition to the above examples some other possibilities exist.

Why should you fill in the Steuererklärung – Germany tax return, even if you don’t fit into the above categories?

Even if you don’t have to file a Steuererklaerung – tax return in Germany, it’s worth doing.


Especially when you have deductible expenses (see below) you can almost always expect to get some of your tax back.

And sometimes the amounts can be very interesting.

What income is taxed in Germany?

According to there are several types of income that are taxable and must be declared. This is income earned from:

  • employment or self-employment
  • in a company or commercial enterprise
  • capital assets (interest, dividends, price gains on sale of shares and others)
  • rent and lease, obtained in Germany. Income earned in this way, at least in an European Union country, is not taxed in Germany.
  • state pensions or pensions provided by the companies you work for
  • agriculture and forestry (obtained in Germany). The incomes obtained in this way in Romania are not taxed in Germany.
  • special pensions, subsistence payments, parliamentary allowances and miscellaneous income from private sales transactions

Can income from inheritances or gifts be taxed?

Although this type of income does not fall under German tax law, it is subject to taxation (by a special law).

Is income from gambling (e.g. lottery winnings) taxed in Germany?

Income from gambling in Germany is not taxed.

So good luck with the money you win on the lottery!

Tax return Germany deadline

From 2018, the tax return Germany deadline depends if you seek the advice of a tax adviser in Germany or not:

Persons who are obliged to file a tax return and who do NOT seek the advice of a tax consultant/accountant (Steuerberater):

Steuererklärung – tax return in Germany must be filed by the end of July of the following year (e.g. 31.07.2021 for 2020 tax return)

Those who are obliged to file a tax return and who seek the advice of a tax consultant/accountant (Steuerberater):

Steuererklärung – the German tax return must be filed by the end of February in another year (e.g. 28.02.2022 for the 2020 tax return)

Does Corona pandemic has any impact on the tax return Germany dealine?

Yes, due to the Corona pandemic the deadline to file the tax return in Germany for the year 2020 has been exceptionally extend with 3 months.

Thus, the tax return dealine Germany for 2020 is 31st of October 2021 (without tax adviser) and 31st of May 2022 with tax adviser.

What expenses can be deducted from tax in Germany?

Here you can find the types of expenses that can be deducted from your tax with the Steuererklärung – Germany tax return.

What exactly does this mean?

You will get some money back if you declare them as expenses.

Typical tax-deductible expenses in Germany for a household

  • Handwerkerrechnungen über Reparaturen oder Modernisierungen – labour (e.g. bathroom renovation, heating maintenance, chimney sweeping, gardening)
  • Costs for household help, e.g. for cleaning, ironing or cooking (Hilfen im Haushalt)
  • Expenditure on care for the older persons (Aufwendungen für die Pflege alter Menschen)
  • Childcare costs (Kosten für die Betreuung von Kindern)
  • Funeral expenses (Beerdigungskosten)
  • Medical expenses for you and your family members (Krankheitskosten auch für Familienangehörige
  • Maintenance payments to relatives in Germany or abroad (e.g. spouses, children, parents, grandparents, divorcees) Unterhaltsleistungen an Verwandte im In- oder Ausland (z. B. geschiedene Ehegatten, Kinder, Eltern, Großeltern)
  • expenses due to disability (Aufwendungen aufgrund von Invalidität)
  • Income tax return Germany consultancy costs (Steuerberatungskosten)
  • Donations (Spenden)
  • Riester / “Rürup” pensions
  • Certain types of insurance (Zahlungen an Versicherungen)
  • Expenses for substitute or supplementary schools (Schulgeldzahlungen an Ersatz- bzw. Ergänzungsschulen)

Tax-deductible expenses in Germany for those who are employed

(in German: Werbungskosten bei Einkünften aus nichtselbstständiger Arbeit)

  • Moving costs (Umzugskosten)
  • Costs you have when applying for a job: photos, CV writing, translations, certificates, files, travel to interviews (Bewerbungskosten)
  • Expenses related to the space/room where you work (Arbeitszimmer)
  • Expenditure on clothing for work purposes (Arbeits- und Berufskleidung)
  • Language courses and vocational training courses (Ausbildung / Weiterbildung)
  • Work equipment, used for professional purposes – electronic equipment, furniture, bags (Arbeitsmittel)
  • Costs resulting from accidents to and from work (Unfallkosten)
  • Travel expenses and travel abroad (Auslandsreisen und Reisekosten)
  • Expenses related to participation in professional conferences (Fachtagungen)
  • Membership fees to trade associations, e.g. trade union membership fees (Beiträge zum Berufsverband)
  • Purchase of professional books or journals (Fachbücher/Fachzeitschriften)
  • Meal expenses taken for business purposes (Bewirtungskosten)
  • Charges for telephone calls for work purposes (Telefonkosten)
  • Double budget household (doppelte Haushaltsführung)
  • Travel expenses on the way to work (Fahrtkosten)
  • Bank account maintenance fee (Kontoführungsgebühr)
  • Expenditure on the purchase of a computer, laptop (Computer)

Tax-deductible expenses in Germany for those who rent, lease or lease back in Germany

(in German: Werbungskosten bei Einkünften aus Vermietung und Verpachtung)

  • Depreciation of fixed assets (Abschreibungen)
  • Rental search ads (Annoncen im Zusammenhang mit der Mietersuche)
  • Membership fees for landlords’ clubs (Beiträge zum Hausbesitzerverein)
  • Tax on leased land (Erbbauzins)
  • Costs of registration or amendment of the land register (Erschließungs-/Anschlusskosten)
  • Financing costs of real estate purchases (Finanzierungskosten)
  • Property tax (Grundsteuer)
  • Heating costs of rental properties (Heizkosten)
  • Costs of landscaping (Gartenanlagen)
  • Cable TV/Internet connections (Kabelanschluss)
  • Bank account maintenance fee (Kontoführungsgebühr)
  • Rental agreement forms (Mietvertragsformulare)
  • Purchase of furniture (Möbel)
  • Fees for lawyers and litigation costs in connection with disputes with the tenant and service providers (Rechtsanwalts- und Prozesskosten)
  • Repairs (Reparaturen)
  • Installation of satellite antennas (SAT-Schüssel)
  • Administrative costs, such as written correspondence and telephone calls to the tenant (Verwaltungskosten)
  • Rainwater (costs for drainage) (Wasser – Kosten für Entwässerung)
  • Other expenditure on rental of immovable property (Vermietung/Immobilien)

What documents are required for the Steuererklärung – Germany tax return?

Information about you and your family (Allgemeine Angaben)

Here you need ID cards and passports, tax number, etc.

Income for the year for which you make the tax return (Einkommensnachweise)

Here you will find documents such as the annual payroll tax slip

(Lohnsteuerbescheinigung) or evidence of compensation payments, etc.

Deductible expenses for employment income (Werbungskosten aus nichtselbständiger Arbeit)

Among the evidence you need here are receipts for various deductible expenses such as the purchase of equipment or proof of distance travelled to work and number of days worked, etc.

Evidence of deductible expenses for income from renting, leasing, leasing (Werbungskosten aus der Vermietung von Wohnraum)

For example, here you have to prepare documents proving the amount of interest, whether you have taken out a bank loan to buy a property, maintenance costs, and so on.

Deductible child care and education expenses (Kinder)

For this category of expenses you need to prepare evidence of childcare costs, school fees, health insurance and childcare contributions for privately insured children, etc.

Evidence of special deductible expenses (Sonderausgaben)

In this case you need proof of special expenses such as insurance, donations, training costs, etc.

Extraordinary expenses (Außergewöhnliche Belastungen)

It is best to have proof of expenses related to health, treatment, burial, etc. ready, if applicable.

Other documents (Weitere Unterlagen)

Among the documents you may need here are invoices for various services from the carpenter, electrician, plumber, or home maintenance services.

How to file tax return in Germany?

There are three options for completing your tax return in Germany – Steuererklärung:

1. Fill out the Steuererklärung with a tax return calculator Germany, in English

For completing your Germany tax return online I recommend:*

SteuerGo is an online application from Germany, in English. With the help of this tax return calculator Germany you can quickly fill in the Steuererklärung from your PC, tablet or mobile phone.

According to the SteuerGo website, SteuerGo users recover, on average, more than €1,000 per year from the German state.

Important: the SteuerGo platform is recognised by the Finanzamt and is (also) in English.

2. Ask for help from a financial advisor – Steuerberater in Germany

A Steuerberater in Germany is the financial advisor who helps you complete your tax return in Germany (Steuererklärung).

The cheapest way is to contact an association of financial advisers who can help you to complete your tax return in Germany.

Such associations are called Lohnsteuerhilfeverein.

3. You complete your tax return in Germany ALONE, without any help

To do this, you need to be very familiar with: the German language, the specialist terms used in the tax return and what expenses are deductible.

For this you can use the German tax authorities’ online application ELSTER (elektronische Steuererklärung – electronic tax return).

The advantage is that it doesn’t cost you any money, and the disadvantage is that you can make a lot of mistakes if you’re not good at it.

Short recap

What is Steuererklärung – tax return in Germany?

It is a declaration in which those who are employed in Germany or have their own company present their income and costs for the previous year to the tax authorities (Finanzamt).

Where can you get the form to fill in the Steuererklärung – German tax return?

If you use the SteuerGo* online application you will automatically have access to the form.

You can alternatively find the form on

Who has to fill in the Steuererklärung – the German tax return?

Although only certain categories of people are required to file a tax return, depending on their income type, I recommend that you do so every year.

This way you can get good money back from the Finanzamt.

What income is taxed in Germany?

Income from employment and self-employment, rents, stock market earnings and so on.

By when must the Steuererklärung – tax return – be filed in Germany?

Usually by 31 July of the following year.

What expenses can be deducted from tax in Germany?

You can find some of the types of expenditure above. To these are added many more each year.

What documents are required for the Steuererklärung – Germany tax return?

In addition to personal identification documents, prepare all proofs of payment, invoices, contracts you have made for tax-deductible services.

How can you fill in the Steuererklärung – tax return in Germany?

  • With the help of a tax return Germany calculator in English SteuerGo *
  • With the help of an association of financial advisors – Lohnsteuerhilfeverein
  • By using ELSTER from the German tax authorities

Important notice:

The information on and in this article is gathered with great care, from the most reliable sources and after long research. However, the information may be incomplete, incorrect or may not accurately reflect your case. Therefore, if you need a specialist opinion, please contact a financial advisor in Germany (Steuerberater).

Links marked with * are affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase the services of our partners, we will receive a small commission from which we pay the administration costs of this site. But for you, it won’t cost you anything extra.