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So in 2019 I spent 6 months working in Germany, moved out, and then spent 6 months working in Thailand (completely different companies). My family lives in Germany long-term, I have most of my stuff there, so I'm still registered in their house though.

How does it look like with the taxes? I've been paying taxes in Germany, paying taxes in Thailand, but now I'm being told to file my income from Thailand on my German tax return - what for? How does it work?

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Please see the following only as a opinion and not as tax advice. I highly recommend you to contact a German tax professional.

According to Sec. 1 para 1 German Income Tax Act ("GITA") you are subject to unlimited German Income Tax, as long as you have your residence (Sec. 8 German Fiscal Code ("GFC")) or your habitual abode (Sec. 9 GFC) in Germany. As you mentioned you are registered with your residence in Germany, so you are subject to unlimited German Income Tax with your income in 2019, including you income earned in Thailand (or any other income).

You are probably also subject to (un-)limited taxation in Thailand. Whether you are limited or unlimited subject to income taxation in Thailand is a question that i can't answer you (i know nothing about the tax system in Thailand). To mitigate the potential double taxation there is a double taxation agreement between Germany and Thailand, whether this is applicable to your situation depends on which kind of income you earned in Thailand. The most likely case is that your income stemming from Thailand is exempt from taxation in Germany. However this is subject to further clarification.

As you can see this is a complex situation, i want to emphasize again that it is probably a good choice to contact a German tax professional.

Hope this helped to get a first overview.

Kind regards,

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In addition to @Mr.TaxOpinion's answer:

I've been in a similar situation (Germany/Italy, though), and I found speaking to the tax office very helpful. They cannot and will not give you tax advise, but they have to and will explain to you:

  • what conditions apply to you in order to "use" the double taxation treaty
  • what documentation you need to produce, and
  • where to fill in what into their forms.

(And don't forget, while a tax advisor gives advise, you anyways stay responsible for your tax declaration)

For my German/Italian working experience:

  • The German tax office first asked me to fill in a form that they use to find out whether you are subject to unlimited/unlimited income taxation.
  • Double taxation treaty -> foreign income is not taxed again in Germany.
    I highly recommend that you read the one relevant for you: They are all listed at the federal ministry of finances web site.
  • This is subject to the condition that I needed to attach proof that the foreign income was properly treated at the foreign county. (In my case, the Italian income was subject to 0 % income tax, and I submitted pay slips stating this together with the text of the law and a [non-official] translation into German.)
  • However, the foreign income did enter the calculation of total income (Progressionsvorbehalt), so it had to be listed in the income tax declaration.

My experience here is also that this is likely sufficiently compley that the tax officer at the service line will refer you to someone else (possibly the tax office to whom you "belong"), and they in turn will tell you that they'll have to look up details themselves ("Could you kindly call again mid of next week"), but that communication "mode" worked well.

When consulting a tax advisor on such questions, I'd ask for an approximate quote beforehand. Also, you can ask the chamber of tax advisors who is specialized on such questions of German/Thai income tax (there are also search engines on the web).

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