German income tax declaration. Elster online. Introduction

Last Updated on October 9, 2023

German income tax declaration is named Steuererklärung. From tax return for 2019 the main part (Mantelbogen) of the German income tax declaration has changed significantly. And this was the last year when it was possible to fill in the tax return in the PC version of the official Elster tax program. Now you must use Elter Online.

In this thread, I will begin to consider filling out the declaration in the online version of Elster.

Those who are dissatisfied with Elster online are advised to use commercial programs. I think I also advise to begin with commercial programm and next year change to Elster Online.

Quick navigation for oft used attachments:

1. Work expenses not reimbursed by the employer: see Anlage N
2. Housework: Anlage Haushaltnahe Aufwendungen (35а)
3. Kindergarten or paid school expenses: Anlage Kind
4. Expenses “above normal”: außergewöhnliche Belastungen
5. Donations, maintenance of relatives: Anlage Sonderausgabe
6. Work abroad: Anlage Wa-Est, Anlage N-Aus
7. Insurances: Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand

In addition, I highly recommend reading the “Everything I Can Return” topics so that you know what you can return in general, and not look for where to write German courses that will not work.

Let me remind you that I am not a professional tax consultant. Declarations are considered from the point of view of an ordinary user: a family with children and one working person of average income.

You can prepare a income tax declaration using:

  • tax consultant (Steuerberater). The cost of services is quite high – 200-500 euros.
  • societies of “assistance for the submission of the declaration” (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein, LoHi). In one city there may be several different ones). You need to join society, i.e. subscribe to a regular service with an annual fee depending on the annual income (approximately 150-250 euros). You need to unsubscribe from services in advance, as from all similar annual memberships in societies (see a post about it).
  • independently, with the help of Elster or paid programs, such as the one that is sold in December in Aldi (and is instantly sold out within a couple of days). Or with the help of paper forms. You can download it online or take it from the Finanzamt (FA)).

The costs of tax consulting since 2006 can be returned partially. Services in the invoice from the consultant must be spelled out point by point and some of these points can be indicated in Werbungskosten. The cost of LoHi can be deducted partially. The cost of the tax program, as far as one can judge, is written off in full.

Who must fill a tax return in Germany

I have read many times that the declaration must be submitted, since huge amounts are returned. Well, not huge, at least not for everyone. If a person is employee, does not have an office at home, his wife does not work, money is not sent to relatives, there were no business trip, there are no children, – then there is practically nothing to return. Especially if you also spend money on a tax consultant.

It is only short summary about who must fill a tax return. More about it read here: Who should file a tax return in Germany

It is also often said that a family with classes 3 and 5 must fill a declaration. This is not the case. If one person does not work or works for a non-taxable minimum, there is no additional income, – then it is not obliged. Although it is usually in the interests of the family itself to do it.

And who is obliged?

  1. Families where both people work in classes 3 and 5, with both earning taxable income.
  2. When you receive additional income (for example, renting a house) from 410 euros.
  3. Freibetrag was entered into the tax card.
  4. Self-employed whose income is above the non-taxable minimum (and in other cases, which I will not study in detail).
  5. With income in the form of unemployment benefits, Elterngeld, Krankengeld (above 410 euros).
  6. “Special” payments received from the employer are marked with letters in the Lohnsteuerbescheinigung.
  7. Divorced or single parents making a Frei- or Pauschbetrage for a child.
  8. Employed by multiple employers.
  9. One of the spouses is a citizen of an EU country.

Deadline for submitting the tax return

Until July 31 of the year following the reporting year. Those who are not required to do it but want to – can do so within four years.

Berators have the right to submit your tax return by the end of December of the year the return was submitted.

What is required before filling tax return in the online Elster

Simple registration will not be enough. When registering, you are asked for a code that comes by mail. The second code is sent to the email. When these codes are entered, a digital certificate is issued. It will need to be found each time on the computer and uploaded along with the login. Thus, the registration itself turns into a weekly procedure.

What parts does income tax declaration have?

The declaration consists of a body (Mantelbogen) and annexes (Anlagen).

The main part has varieties:

  1. Formular ESt 1 A – for those who have a permanent residence in Germany or usually reside here.
  2. Formular ESt 1 V – a simplified declaration for employees. Those who are required to submit a declaration, but should not and do not want to fill out annexes.
  3. Formular ESt 1 C – for those who have income in Germany, but are not a resident (with limited tax liability).


Anlage Sonderausgaben – donations, maintenance of relatives, contributions to the party
Anlage außergewöhnliche Belastungen – expenses “above normal” (more as a certain sum) if you could scrape them together

Anlage 35a – housework costs

Anlage N – for employees (N = nichtselbständige Arbeit)
Anlage N-AUS – employment in other countries
Anlage Wa-Est – for those who started working in Germany this year or, conversely, leave the country

Anlage KAP – investments
Anlage V – landlords

Anlage G – self-employed – not Freiberufler (Gewerbe, including solar panel owners)
Anlage S – Freiberufler and similar (§ 18 EStG)

Anlage R – pensioners

Anlage SO – special income (such as income from the speculative sale of property)

Аnlage AUS – income abroad

Anlage Unterhalt: Unterhaltsleistungen an bedurftige Personen als außergewöhnliche Belastung (maintenance costs for treatment, divorce, etc., exceeding a certain amount)

Further – Mantelbogen. All posts about tax return – #steuererklaerung

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