A tax return is a written statement by a taxpayer regarding their income situation in one particular calendar year. The tax office checks your tax return to make an assessment of the amount of taxes that should have been or should be paid for that year. If you've paid too much tax in advance, the difference will be refunded. However, if you've paid too little, you need to pay the difference to the tax office within a statutory period.
Voluntary tax return
If you receive your income as an employee, filing a tax return is voluntary. Your employer calculates the tax, solidarity surcharge, and if necessary church tax based on your income and pays this to the tax office directly. However, a tax return can be worthwhile, especially if you've had work-related expenses that could reduce your tax burden. These are, for example, expenses for a job-related move (including moving in from abroad) or for trips between home and work.
You may submit a voluntary tax return until 4 years after the calendar year in question.
Mandatory tax return
If you receive income from self-employment, renting, capital assets, pension or income from several employers, you will be required by law to file a tax return. Further obligations arise from Section 46 (2) of the Income Tax Act (Einkommenssteuergesetz). Additionally your are required by law to file a tax return if you had chosen tax classes III/V or IV/IV with factor method.
The tax return has to be submitted until May 31 of the following year. The deadline can be extended upon application. If the tax declaration is submitted by a tax consultant or income tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein), the deadline will be extended without having to apply.
You can submit your tax return by mail, electronically or in person to your responsible tax office. Which tax office this is depends on your registered address. Moreover, you can ask a tax consultant or income tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) to fill out your tax return.
For further information, please refer to:
- City of Hamburg: Hamburg Authority Finder (to find your tax office) – (in German)
- Federal Ministry of Finance: Tax return forms (in German language)
- Elster: Online tax return (in German language)