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As I understand, both husband and wife can have tax class 3. In which case it makes sense? class III = married and the spouse has no income or lower income

What is the meaning of lower income... how much lower income than other partner? Is there any example? Something like, One partner making 50K and other one 40K. Does it make sense to go for tax class 3 for both or it should be class 3 / 5?

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I'd never looked into this before, but after poking around a little I found this Tax Classes article which indicates:

When a spouse choosing tax class III other spouse automatically becomes V class. Such a model III + V is recommended to choose if spouse that chooses tax class III, has an income well in excess of the income of the spouse with the tax class V.

From same article:

Couples have various tax models, depending on the type of the family: • married and cohabiting spouses: IV + IV or III + V (of their choice);

None of the other resources I found suggested exceptions which would make III+III an option, but I don't speak German or know German tax law. Like US employer withholdings, these tax-classes only affect the pre-payment or withheld amount, not your total tax liability.

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    This is correct, you can choose 4/4 or 3/5. After filing your taxes there will be no difference to those two options, it only affects how much taxes are withheld when you get paid. You can use a calculator like nettolohn.de/rechner/splitting-veranlagung-steuer.html to check the impact (german ... fill yearly gross salary of both in the top row and leave the rest empty). For the given numbers of 40k and 50k the difference is less than 120€ for the whole year. The difference is much bigger if one of the two isn't working at all. – Flo Apr 26 '17 at 19:45
  • Thanks for your replies. I tried the tax calculator and found with class 3/5 combination, the tax withheld is less. So, we get bit more money than 4/4. However, if add up both salaries and try the total amount in as tax class 3, I get much more in hand than 3/5 or 4/4. So, just wondering if we can reduce tax withhelding if we go for 3/3. – user846316 Apr 27 '17 at 6:24
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    @user846316 as Hart CO has mentioned, it is not possible to get 3/3 - and anyway, the taxes you pay are the same in the end. With 3/5 you might get more money during the year, but you have to file your taxes and then you have to pay the difference. With 4/4 you will get a bit less during the year, filing your taxes is optional and you may or may not get a refund when you do file them. So depending on your spending habits, it might even be prudent to take the "wrong" tax class, file your taxes and use the refund for a vacation ;) – Sumyrda Apr 27 '17 at 15:20
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    When filing your taxes, both salaries will be added and divided by 2 (so both would pay taxes like they would make 45k, hence you drop a little bit because of the tax brackets). Despite the fact that you cannot get 3/3: even if you could .. you would have to pay back all that gains at the end of the year. The only possible way to pay less taxes is while filing your taxes - if you can deduct things like your commute or workclothes and such. More complicated tax options with a "Faktor" do exist, but all of this only affects how much is withheld - at the end of the year it will be the same. – Flo Apr 27 '17 at 18:07

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