Income tax return

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Income tax return form

The income tax return is the written declaration of a taxpayer about his income situation. It serves as the basis for determining the income tax to be assessed .

It is submitted to the tax office by the taxpayer or his authorized representative (usually a tax advisor or income tax aid association ) . There it is checked and the income tax to be paid and the solidarity surcharge as well as the church tax, if applicable, are determined by means of a tax assessment . If a higher tax has been paid in advance than calculated, the difference will be refunded.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the reimbursement for 2016 averaged 1,027 euros, while the average back payment was 1,180 euros.

Forms and attachments

The income tax return must be submitted on the official forms. The forms for this can be obtained from the tax office or online. The tax return can also be sent to the tax office online using ELSTER or other software.

If the income tax return is prepared using software , the printouts must correspond to the official forms in terms of design and content. An exception applies to the electronic submission of the tax return using ELSTER , here only a summary is printed. By means of electronically authenticated transmission, the paperless submission of the tax return via ELSTER is also possible.

In 2019, 23.8 million people in Germany filed an income tax return in electronic form.

Obligation to pay / compulsory assessment

Income tax cards - obsolete from 2011

The obligation to submit an income tax return is generally regulated in Section 149 (1 ) AO and Section 25 (1 ) EStG and specified in Sections 56 EStDV and Section 46 EStG.

In § 46 ITA the tax liability of workers is controlled. Employees must submit an income tax return in at least one of the following cases:

  • Income that is subject to the progression proviso (unemployment benefit, short-time work benefit, parental benefit, etc.) of more than 410 euros
  • Other income without wage tax deduction, for example renting or leasing or pensions, of more than 410 euros (after deduction of any old-age relief and an allowance for agriculture and forestry)
  • If there are several wages next to each other, i.e. if income tax class VI has been settled
  • If the flat rate pension taken into account in the wage tax calculation is higher than the actual possible deduction for pension expenses
  • Spouses had the tax class combination III / V or IV with a registered factor if both received wages
  • Exemptions were entered on the income tax card or on the replacement certificate
  • Spouses do not choose joint taxation and do not want the standard 50 percent apportionment for the training allowance or the lump sum for the disabled . In this case, both spouses must file a tax return.
  • In special cases with special payments, in this case the income tax certificate is marked with a code letter
  • In the case of special payments and a change of employer in the same year, if the new employer did not take the previous employer values ​​into account when calculating wage tax
  • The marriage was divorced or ended by death, and one of the spouses remarried that year
  • A spouse living in another EU country was taken into account on the income tax card (certain requirements must be observed, see Section 1a EStG)
  • Residence abroad and application for unlimited German tax liability.

Taxpayers without wages are subject to the tax in the following cases:

Ultimately, an income tax return must be submitted if requested by the tax office ( Section 149 (1) sentence 2 AO).

Application assessment

If there is no obligation to submit a tax return (see above), a tax return can be submitted voluntarily and an application for an income tax assessment can be made (application assessment). The application assessment takes the place of the previous annual wage tax adjustment. An application assessment is z. B. makes sense if, due to special circumstances, an income tax refund is expected, for example in the case of:


Until 2018, income tax returns had to be submitted by May 31 of the year following the assessment period , if one was generally obliged to submit an income tax return ( Section 149 AO). For taxpayers who have their tax returns drawn up by a tax advisor, the tax offices extended the deadline to December 31. In the case of farmers , these deadlines have been postponed to September 30th and March 31st due to the different marketing year .

With the law on the modernization of the taxation procedure ( BGBl. 2016 I p. 1679 ) these periods were extended by two months. An income tax return for 2018 must be submitted by July 31, 2019 if you are required to submit it, and by February 29, 2020 if you are supported by a tax advisor.

The deadline for filing a voluntary tax return (application assessment) was two years until 2007 in accordance with Section 46 (2) No. 8 EStG old version. Since the abolition of this regulation at the beginning of 2008, the general deadline for assessment according to Section 169 (2) No. 2 AO, which is four years, applies .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Wage and income tax. Tax return: Average refund was € 1,027. Federal Statistical Office , accessed on July 15, 2020 .
  2. Number of electronic tax returns submitted in Germany by 2020. Statista , March 4, 2020, accessed on July 15, 2020 .