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Your guide to tax deductions in Germany for 2023

Filing your tax return in Deutschland? Find out which expenses are tax deductible. Plus, learn about a practical tool designed to make your 2023 tax return a breeze.

10 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 2023 tax return! Read on to learn about the updates, whether you need to submit your return in 2024, what you can claim for 2023, and more. We’ll also show you some practical tools that will help you with your return. 

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 2019, over 88% 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 €1,095! This means that filing a voluntary tax return could definitely be worth your while.

Plus, thanks to brand new tax deductions for your 2023 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 2023 tax return? 

Want to submit your tax return voluntarily, but worried about meeting the deadline? Don’t stress — you now have until December 31, 2027.

However, there is a catch. If you received more than €410 of so-called “wage replacement benefits” (Lohnersatzleistungen) as an employee in 2023, such as unemployment benefits, sick leave benefits, or parental leave, filing an income tax return isn’t optional — you’re obligated to do it. In this case, you’ll need to file your income taxes by September 2, 2024 if you’re doing it yourself. If you use an accountant to file for you, the deadline can be extended until June 2, 2025. 

What expenses 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 30 cents per kilometer for every working day — but only for the one-way distance. From the 21st kilometer, it’s 38 cents. 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. Starting in 2023, however, your home office needs to be the center of your entire professional activity — as long as that’s the case, all costs you incurred are deductible without any restrictions. Alternatively, you can make use of the annual lump sum (Jahrespauschale) of €1,260.
  • 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.

What non-business expenses can I deduct from my taxes? 

You may be asking yourself if you’re able to deduct costs that are related to your private life rather than your working life. There are in fact several costs that are tax deductible that aren’t necessarily business expenses. Here’s a list of the most important ones: 

  • Household-related services: Did you hire a plumber or electrician? Do you employ a house cleaner? If so, you can deduct these costs up to a certain amount from your taxes — provided you were given invoices and paid via bank transfer.
  • Do you have children? If so, you can deduct up to €4,000 per child in childcare costs. And, if you donated any money to charitable organizations in 2023, you can claim these on your taxes as well. 
  • Personal liability insurance: The entire costs for personal liability insurance are tax deductible. 
  • Work-related moving costs: Did you need to relocate for a job? If so, then you can deduct these costs as work-related expenses. As a single person, the flat rate is €886 in 2023. The condition is that the move needs to save you a total of one hour or more in your work commute. With our moving cost calculator, you can add up all your moving expenses to figure out if you’re above the deduction threshold. 
  • Moving costs for private reasons: If your move has nothing to do with your job, you can still claim these costs as household expenses — and get back up to €4,000!
  • Capital gains such as interest and dividends: If you earned capital gains in 2023 — with an easy-access savings account or ETFs, for example — you can benefit from the saver's allowance (Sparer-Pauschbetrag) of €1,000. Up to this amount, you don’t pay any withholding tax on your capital gains. If you didn’t set up an exemption order, you can claim back all taxes you already paid.

Can I deduct my GEZ payments from my taxes?

The broadcasting fee, which was called the GEZ until 2013, usually isn’t tax deductible as a private individual. If you have an office in your apartment, you can deduct a portion of your broadcasting fees as income-related expenses. However, your office needs to be recognized by the tax office in order to claim this deduction. 

Another special case is if you have a second home because your family home is too far from your place of work. If you pay broadcasting fees for this second residence, you may claim up to €1,000 in additional expenses for running two houses — in which broadcasting fees are included. 

Can you deduct water and electricity costs from your taxes?

As a rule, you can’t deduct the costs for electricity and water from your private apartment. However, if you worked from home, these costs can fall under the home office lump sum (we go into more detail about this below). And, if you choose to claim an office in your apartment, you can also deduct a proportion of the electricity, water, and heating costs as work-related expenses. 

Did you work from home in 2023 and don’t plan to do so in 2024? Then you may be asking yourself how you can save on your energy and gas bills. If so, then check out our blog for tons of tips and tricks, as well as how to save on your water and electricity costs. 

For work-related expenses, a lump sum (Werbungskosten-Pauschale) of €1,230 generally applies. This means you can deduct up to €1,230 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? Starting in 2023, you can deduct all the costs you incurred as long as your home office is the center of your entire professional activity — regardless of whether you’re self-employed or work as an employee. Or, you can simply claim the annual lump sum (Jahrespauschale) of €1,260 — it’s the same amount as the home office lump sum and it means you can avoid itemizing all of your expenses.

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 “home office lump sum” credit, you can claim €6 for every day you work from home — for a maximum of 210 days for the 2023 tax return, meaning up to €1,260. You can even claim this deduction if you chose to work from home voluntarily. 

But this deduction also has its pitfalls. You can collect both the home office lump sum and deductions for work expenses — but if your work expenses don’t exceed €1,230, 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 2023 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. Travel across Germany on the cheap with FlixTrain, redecorate with Westwing, or find the insurance package that’s right for you with Clark and receive an Amazon voucher worth up to €150.

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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 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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