I live in Germany, and I have recently gotten married.

Since this change affects my income taxes - I need to notify Finanzamt (tax office). Do I do it by some letter or by coming in and filling in some form? Can I do it online (I have signed up to Elster)?

While at it, do I have to notify anybody else (employer, Burgeramt (citizen office), health insurance company, etc.)?


The Finanzamt is in charge of the tax class (you can apply for a change using this form: http://www.formulare-bfinv.de/ffw/action/invoke.do?id=034003 ) and will notify the citizen office and your employer of your current status (might be a good idea to check with your employer anyway). I don't think it's relevant for health insurance, nor should it be for most other agencies and companies. Many contracts require you to notify the other party of things like address changes, but I don't think this typically includes family status.

As for which tax class to choose: married people should generally both choose class IV if they have similar incomes, otherwise the person who earns more should choose class III and the other class V (other combinations are not allowed). But note that the difference is really only relevant in regard to the taxes automatically deducted from your salaries. If you do an Einkommensteuererklärung, the net result will be the same.

  • I still think this question would be better fitted at expats@SE, but this answer is targeting the "personal finance" portion of the question, so +1 on that. – littleadv Apr 7 '14 at 13:43
  • Thank You very much for the answer! Do I know what is enough difference in incomes to be wise which class to choose? E.g., It would be a big difference in salaries if one has 5.000 and the other one has 1.500 brutto, also if one has 10.000 and the other one has 5.000. Is there any rule when to decide to choose classes III and V or is it up to us how we'll decide? And will we get some money back after filling in this Einkommensteuererklärung? – shadyyx Apr 7 '14 at 13:59
  • @shadyyx: the rule of thumb is to choose the III/V combo if the difference is 30% or more. And yes, if you file the Einkommensteuererklärung you will almost always get something back, such as when you have tax class IV with significant difference in salaries. Additionally you can claim some tax-exempt expenses (which, ironically, includes expenses for tax advisors and software). – Michael Borgwardt Apr 7 '14 at 14:15
  • Interesting! Thanks again. Are there some conditions under which I will be paying off more taxes after this Einkommensteuererklärung? And am I able to influence them or it completely depends only on my income? My girlfriend (after choosing class V) will have monthly about 200€ less (netto) and she is very afraid of this...I should have (after choosing class III) around 300€ more (netto) and I am afraid that I'll have to pay something back (instead of me getting back). Are there any rules (laws) that common employee may understand and follow? – shadyyx Apr 7 '14 at 14:22
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    @shadyyx: I wouldn't dare make authoritative statements on that... It is certainly possible that you have to pay back additional taxes, but usually only when you misrepresented something (e.g. failing to register a status change after a divorce). One noted disadvantage of the class III/V combo is that the person in class V can end up getting very little netto, so it should really only be done when you're prepared to have a single joint household budget instead of two personal ones. If you're still uncertain, maybe you should hire a tax advisor, just for an hour of Q&A. – Michael Borgwardt Apr 7 '14 at 14:46

If you don't have private health insurance, and one of you is earning little, you can also inform the insrance company to get a free family insurance.

btw, the examples with 5000 and 10000 don't make sense unless you know if it is per month or per year ;)

  • Thanks. 5000 as well as 10000 per year would be a damn small salary. Neverminds. What can be considered as earning little? Is there any rule in laws? – shadyyx Apr 8 '14 at 7:37
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    @shadyyx: see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Familienversicherung - the current limit is a total income of 395 EUR per month, 450 EUR if it's a "Minijob". – Michael Borgwardt Apr 8 '14 at 9:29

After visiting the Finanzamt at the beginning of May 2014, it is important to notice that foreigners (or even Germans) that have married abroad of Germany need to notice the Burgeramt in first place while bringing the correct papers (officially translated to German).

After noticing the Burgeramt, both spouses get immediately (and automatically) tax classes 4/4.

It is also Burgeramt who notice Finanzamt and the employers in the end.

After that the spouses can apply for a tax class change at Finanzamt personally (which then notifies the employers). I have also heard that after switching to 3/5 or 5/3 (from default 4/4) this switch has to be repeated each year (but have no idea whether this is true or not).

  • I dont' think you have to repeat it. Rather, you can change it only once a year if I remember correctly. – Pieter Naaijkens May 13 '14 at 18:52
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    You don't have to repeat it, but if you're having something other than IV/IV, you have to declare your income tax every year! If you do that - because you have to or you want to - at the end your taxes will be the same no matter what classes you chose as you will get a refund. This becomes important if you're planning kids and want to apply for Elterngeld. In that case, it it always useful for the one that takes more Elternzeit, to go in class III regardless of income! – Thomas Aug 12 '16 at 5:14

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