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Your guide to tax deductions in Germany for 2021

Filing your tax return in Deutschland? Find out which expenses are tax deductible. Plus, learn about a practical tool designed to make your 2021 tax return a breeze.

7 min read

From after-lunch power naps to meetings in sweatpants and a 30-second commute from your bed to your desk—working from home has some advantages. And now, thanks to some recent changes in the tax code, employees who work from home can benefit from brand new tax deductions on their 2021 tax return! Read on to learn about the updates, what you can claim for 2021, and which tools will help you file with confidence this year.

Why should I file a tax return in Germany? 

Let’s be honest—filing your taxes can be a pain. Like many of us, you’ve probably put “file my tax return” on the back burner, or even thought about skipping it altogether.

However, employees can deduct a variety of expenses from their taxes, and by doing so, could qualify for a hefty tax refund. According to the Federal Statistical Office,  in 2017 over 87% of all unlimited income taxpayers (those with a permanent residence in Germany) who filed a tax return received a refund. And the amount is nothing to sneeze at—the average refund that year was up to €1,051! This means that filing a voluntary tax return could definitely be worth your while.

Plus, thanks to brand new tax deductions for your 2021 return, your refund could be even higher this year. There’s never been a better reason to roll up your sleeves and start adding up your expenses. 

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When is the deadline for submitting my 2021 tax return? 

Want to submit your tax return voluntarily, but worried about meeting the deadline? Don’t stress—you now have until December 31, 2025.

However, there is a catch. If you received more than €410 of so-called “wage replacement benefits” (Lohnersatzleistungen) as an employee in 2021, such as unemployment benefits, sick leave benefits, or parental leave, filing an income tax return isn’t optional—you’re obligated to do it. This also includes pandemic-related government benefits such as short-time work benefits (Kurzarbeitergeld). In this case, you’ll need to file your income tax by July 31, 2022, if you’re doing it yourself. If you use an accountant to file for you, the deadline can be extended. 

What can I deduct from my taxes? 

From your commute to paper clips and even account maintenance fees for your bank account—here’s a handy list of deductions you may be able to claim:

  • Work-related deductions: You’ll be able to declare any work-related expenses on your tax return, as long as you weren’t reimbursed by your employer. These include work equipment such as office supplies and work-related books or literature, expenses related to job applications such as postage and photocopies, as well as training courses, language classes, travel expenses, or professional relocation costs. You can also deduct bank account maintenance fees from your taxes—a lump sum of €16 per year can be claimed, regardless which month you opened your account.
  • Commuting expenses: Work-related deductions also include the cost of commuting to work. You can deduct 35 cents per kilometer for every working day—but only for the one-way distance. Didn’t drive to work? No problem! The means of transport makes no difference, so you can deduct commuting expenses even if you cycled or walked to work.
  • Internet and telephone: If your job requires you to use your private internet, telephone, or smartphone, you can deduct these costs at a flat rate of 20% per month as work-related expenses—up to a maximum of €20 per month.
  • Home office costs: Work-related expenses also include expenses for your home office. For example, you’re allowed to deduct a portion of your rental costs. Note that there were some changes here for 2021, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
  • Household-related services: Did you hire a plumber or electrician? Do you employ a house cleaner? If so, you can deduct these costs from your taxes—provided you were given invoices and paid via bank transfer.
  • Insurance costs: When filing your tax return, you can declare both your and your employer’s share of social security contributions—this includes your health insurance, long-term care insurance, unemployment insurance, and pension insurance. In addition, you can also declare a proportion of your private liability insurance, if you have one.
  • Special expenses: Do you have children? If so, you can claim childcare costs of up to €4,000 per child. And if you donated money to charities in 2021, you can also deduct these from your taxes.

For work-related expenses, a lump sum of €1,000 generally applies. This means you can deduct up to €1,000 of work-related expenses from your taxes without providing any proof. If you already know that your total will stay below this amount, there’s no need to file any work-related expenses.

Do you have a home office in a separate room at your residence? Then as an employee, you can even deduct up to €1,250 for all related costs—provided there is no other work space for you provided by the company. If you’re self-employed and mainly work from home, you can save even more by deducting the full costs of your home office! 

But remember, a desk in your living room, bedroom, or guest room doesn’t count as a home office. Your home office must be in a separate area with a door that can be closed—and private use must be kept to a minimum.

What exactly is the Home Office Lump Sum?

If your workplace at home is your kitchen table or the desk in your bedroom, don’t fret—there’s another tax deduction just for you. With the new “Home Office Lump Sum” credit, you can claim €5 for every day you work from home—for a maximum of 120 days for the 2021 tax return. You can even claim this deduction if you chose to work from home voluntarily without receiving instructions from your employer to do so. 

But this deduction also has its pitfalls. You can collect both the “Home Office Lump Sum” credit and deductions for work expenses—but if your work expenses don’t exceed €1,000, your “Home Office Lump Sum” will simply be added to your work expenses, thus preventing you from receiving any extra tax credits. Plus, you can’t claim commuting expenses on home office days, so you can’t claim double savings here. This means that it’s all the more important to carefully go through our checklist, so that you can take all relevant expenses into account. Need help? Read on to discover how Taxfix can help you file your 2021 tax return the easy way. 

File your tax return with Taxfix

When it comes to filing your taxes, you can now say goodbye to paper returns for good. Starting in 2013, digital filing got simpler with Elster—a government-run online tax-filing system. However, this system isn’t designed to help you maximize your refund—and that’s where Taxfix comes in. Their app guides you step-by-step through your tax declaration, asking relevant questions every step of the way so that you get the full refund you deserve.

The best part? Thanks to our partnership with Taxfix, N26 customers can now save money on their next tax declaration. Instead of paying the full price of €39.99, N26 customers benefit from a discount of up to 50%. This way, not only can you complete your return the fast and simple way—you’ll save money while you do it!

Want to save on more than just taxes? As an N26 customer, you’ll regularly snap up new and exciting N26 Perks—special deals from partner brands that you know and love. Save on groceries delivered to your doorstep by Gorillas, rent electronic products at a discount from Grover, or get up to 50% off the digital insurance package that’s right for you with Clark.

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Your money at N26

Whether it’s tax season or not, N26 is here to support you in managing your finances. Add hashtags such as #workcommute, #officesupplies, or #insurance to categorize your work-related expenses, and easily find them when tax time comes around. 

And once your well-deserved tax refund arrives, why not start saving for your next goal with N26 Spaces sub-accounts? It’s the easiest way to put money aside. With personal spending insights from Statistics and time-saving tools like automated transfers, you’re sure to manage your money with ease. Find the bank account that’s right for you.

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