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Tax returns in Germany — what are the deadlines in 2024?

Not sure exactly when you’ll need to submit your tax return? Learn everything you need to know about the 2024 submission deadlines.

4 min read

Every year, tax season returns like clockwork, but knowing whether you need to submit a return, or when you need to submit it depends on a number of factors. We know it’s not always easy to keep track of everything when it comes to taxes. That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know about your tax return submission deadlines for 2024.

Voluntary tax returns — is the deadline fast approaching?

Unlike those who are self-employed, employees don’t usually have to submit a tax return in Germany. However, you can submit one on a voluntary basis. One reason to do this is if you’d like to deduct some expenses to receive a tax refund.

Luckily, you don’t have to stress about submitting your voluntary tax return right away — you have four years until it’s really due. So for this calendar year, the deadline is December 31, 2027. 

If this isn’t the case for you and you’re required to submit a tax return, you’ll want to read on, as your situation will be a little different. 

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Reasons you might need to file

As we mentioned before, employees generally aren’t required to submit a tax return. But there are a few exceptions that we’ll need to break down before we get to individual deadlines.

Who can submit a voluntary tax return?

Filing a voluntary return makes sense for employees with higher expenses who might get part of their income taxes refunded by deducting these costs. 

If your work-related deductions exceed the lump sum of € 1,230 per year, it’s worthwhile to file a voluntary tax return. Work-related expenses include advanced training, account maintenance fees, postage for applications, and work clothing.  

Another factor is special expenses. If you paid for childcare or tuition fees, you can deduct these costs from your taxes. Alimony payments to your ex-partner as well as donations and personal insurance costs are also considered special expenses.

Did you hire someone to work in your home or to do household repairs? If so, you can claim household-related expenses in your tax return and probably get some money back. 

In what situations am I required to submit a tax return?

A lot can happen in a year. Maybe you spent some time looking for a job. Perhaps you couldn’t work for a few weeks because you were sick — or maybe you had a child. 

If any of these circumstances apply to you, you probably received wage-replacement benefits. This may include unemployment, sick pay, or parental benefits. Reduced-hours compensation (Kurzarbeitergeld) also counts as a wage-replacement benefit. If you received more than €410 in 2023 from this type of benefit, you have to submit a tax return. You can find more reasons here (in German).

The tax office may also ask you to submit a tax return, even if none of these scenarios apply to you. You can find out how to submit a tax return in our guide.

Mandatory tax returns — when do I need to file?

If you’re required to submit a tax return for the 2023 calendar year, you have until September 2, 2024. You can submit your tax return electronically via the official Elster portal. If you don’t have an account yet, register for one as soon as possible because registration codes come via post for security reasons.

If you are an employee and don’t have any other income, you can also submit a paper tax return. But remember to factor in delivery time. If the return is received after September 2, 2024, it will be considered late and a penalty will apply. 

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Tax return extensions

Compared to the voluntary submission deadline of four years, September 2, 2024 can feel quite tight. But if you need more time, you can apply for an extension to postpone the tax return submission deadline:

  • Simply send an informal letter to your tax office. Make sure you state the reasons for the extension — for example, if you’ve been sick, or required documents are missing. Just be sure you don’t apply for an extension right before the submission deadline.
  • If you work with a professional tax advisor, you’ll get an extension, which would make your new deadline June 2, 2025. But think about whether you really need that much time, because tax professionals can be quite expensive.

How long do you have to submit voluntary returns retroactively?

As you have four years to submit your voluntary income tax return, you can also submit your returns for 2020, 2021, and 2022 retroactively. The deadline for the 2020 calendar year is December 31, 2024. It’s important that the tax office receives the documents before midnight. Otherwise, you’ll miss the deadline and the tax office won’t accept your return. It’s best to put the tax return deadlines in your calendar or write them down so you can give yourself enough time.

Your money at N26

Tax deadlines can be quite tricky to keep track of, on top of every-day expenses like rent, gas, electricity, and internet bills. N26 Rules is the practical way to automatically move your money between your main account and N26 Spaces to set money aside for the things that matter most to you. Real-time push notifications keep you informed about each transaction so you know exactly when a payment has been made or received. Still don’t have an N26 account? Find the bank account that’s right for you and take control of your finances right away.

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