Expense allowance (Germany)

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An allowance is that in Germany a flat fee, which is paid as compensation for expenses associated with office or activity and which can be defined more precisely not in time, place and / or content or need. These payments are taxable if and to the extent that they have not been expressly made tax-exempt .

The term reimbursement for expenses must be distinguished from the (German) reimbursement of expenses under the law of obligations , which must be provided in the form of concrete evidence.


An expense allowance is allocated to the seven types of income in Germany and is therefore taxable as personal income.

To promote voluntary work , certain amounts have therefore been designated as "tax-free" for decades. Only in the last few years has it been systematised by § 3 Nos. 12, 26 and 26a and it has been made clear that any income exceeding the stated exemptions is taxable (and, if applicable, subject to social insurance) and that these tax exemptions are not side by side or additive May be claimed.

Expense allowances for non-professional activities as guardian (according to §§ 1773 ff. BGB ), carer (according to §§ 1909 ff. BGB) or legal supervisor ( §§ 1896 ff. BGB) are reimbursed at a flat rate, this expense allowance according to ( § 1835a BGB) is 399 euros per case annually. A "tax exemption limit" of EUR 2,400 also applies here, but this is in accordance with Section 3 No. 26b EStG.

The sum of all personal (tax-free) expense allowances may in any case, regardless of the activity they are drawn from (Section 3 Nos. 12, 26, 26a, 26b EStG), personally and per calendar year not exceed EUR 2,400. This 2,400 euro limit is an "absolute limit", above which taxes are incurred in any case (in many cases even further charges according to Section 1 of the Wage Tax Implementation Ordinance (LStDV)).

Tax treatment of expense allowances in Germany

The tax treatment results from the EStG - in general - from § 3 Nos. 12, 26 and 26a. The cases not regulated therein according to the German Civil Code, such as guardianship, are again subject to Section 3 No. 26b EStG.

In no case can expense allowances be claimed tax-free "side by side". The upper limit of 2,400 euros applies, regardless of which expense allowances are claimed, as a tax-free lump sum for the person as a whole, above which taxation begins in any case.

(So-called) exercise leader allowance (§ 3 No. 26 EStG)

An expense allowance of up to 2400 euros per year (2100 euros until 2012) is tax-free according to Section 3 No. 26 EStG if it is paid

a) for an activity

  • as a trainer , trainer , educator , supervisor or similar activity with a pedagogical focus or
  • as a supervisor (e.g. holiday supervisor, companion on the way to school) or
  • as an artist (e.g. singer, church musician, theater club, carnival club) or
  • for the care of old, sick or disabled people


b) at a non-profit organization / association or a corporation under public law


c) the activity is carried out on a part-time basis: An activity is considered part-time if, in relation to the calendar year, the working hours do not exceed a third of a comparable full-time position. A “main job” does not have to be exercised ( pensioners or students are also possible), but the secondary activity must be different from a main occupation, for example.

Volunteer allowance (honorary allowance, § 3 No. 26 a EStG)

An expense allowance of up to 720 euros per year (500 euros until 2012) is tax-free according to § 3 No. 26a EStG if it is paid for voluntary work at a non-profit organization / association or a corporation under public law that is not under § 3 No. 26 EStG falls. This personal tax-free allowance is the volunteer allowance , also known as the volunteer allowance.


In autumn 2019, the federal government reported on plans to increase the voluntary allowance to 840 euros per year.

Expense allowances for voluntary guardianship, guardianship and care (since 2013, Section 3 No. 26 EStG)

Here, too, up to 2400 euros per year are tax-free. (Legal basis: § 3 No. 26b EStG; further amounts that are paid according to § 3 No. 26 EStG are included in the total)

Expense reimbursements for other voluntary secondary activities (Section 3 No. 12 EStG)

The exemption is also only granted once, but can be divided among different organizations within the scope of the exemption. In the case of a higher allowance, only the amount in excess of EUR 2,400 is taxable.

It is irrelevant whether the activity is dependent or freelance .

The deduction of business expenses or business expenses is excluded from the tax-free allowance. Excessive income can only be reduced by operating expenses and business expenses, provided that these exceed the tax-free amount.

Sales tax treatment (§ 4 No. 26 UStG)

Remuneration for voluntary work that is carried out independently is exempt from income tax and social security, but is generally subject to sales tax . According to § 4 No. 26 UStG , however, they are exempt from sales tax,

"A) if the activity is carried out for legal entities under public law or
b) if the remuneration for this activity consists only of reimbursement of expenses and reasonable compensation for time lost".

Further details are provided in the application decree of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Section 4.26.1.

Web links

Wiktionary: expense allowance  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Tax-free income from voluntary work; Application letter for § 3 Nos. 26a and 26b EStG. (PDF) Federal Ministry of Finance, November 21, 2014, accessed on July 11, 2017 . Page 2.
  2. https://www.gn-online.de/grafschaft/hilbers-will-das-ehrenamt-mit-steuerlichen-anreizen-staerken-329626.html
  3. Sales tax application decree - consolidated version (as of February 4, 2014). February 4, 2014, accessed February 7, 2014 .