I working and living in Germany the past 2 years. Recently I heard colleagues discussing about tax returns, something I have never had to worry about before in my life.

Obviously, I have to do my tax return too. What is the best option for doing my taxes in Germany as an expat? "Best" is loosely defined but by that I mean an option which is less costly with not too much administrative overhead and credible/competent in the sense that it can get the most of the taxes returned.

Any previous experience?

  • 1
    In Germany, for normal employees without rental property or special circumstances, you are not required to file a tax return. This is because the mechanisms make sure that you always pay more taxes than you need to (theoretically, it could be exactly right, but it's practically impossible). So you can just do nothing - and lose the overpaid money. That is not a good idea; just an info for your understanding.
    – Aganju
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 19:48
  • 3
    In the USA, everyone fears tax returns - it's an opportunity for the IRS to catch you out. In Germany, everyone loves tax returns - it's an opportunity for you to get money back from the state.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 20:14

1 Answer 1


It depends a lot of the complexity of your tax situation.
If you just get a salary, and that's it, you can download and print the standard forms, fill them manually, e-file online, and mail them in. It is not too complicated; but for someone unfamiliar with it, the first time can be tough.

Next best (cheapest) alternative is to buy a tax software, there are many on the market (I have been using Steuersparerklärung from Akademische Arbeitsgemeinschaft and like it; but I have no market overview, it might be cheap or expensive). Those softwares allow even beginners to have an easy way to file. Most softwares allow up to 5 filings; maybe a colleague is willing to share his with you.

If this is still to difficult (which could be), or if you have a more complex situation; you should consider paying a professional in the first year, and make sure to get a copy from all filed papers, so you can do it yourself the following years - having an example makes it much easier.

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