Filing tax returns

Whether you are required to submit tax returns or want to file voluntarily ‒ perhaps because you are expecting to receive a refund of excess wages tax paid ‒ after the end of the calendar year you may have to tackle your taxes. With the questions and answers in this section, we hope to give you some practical guidance.

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Tax return with ELSTER

Can I submit my tax return online?
Where can I get the tax return forms?
For what period do I need to file my income tax return?
When do I need to file my tax returns?
To which local tax office must I submit my income tax return?
Can the staff at the tax office help me prepare my tax return and advise me?
Who can help me prepare my tax return?

Can I submit my tax return online?

All types of tax returns may be filed electronically with the German revenue administration.

For some persons, filing tax returns electronically may even be required by law. In particular, those earning income from agriculture and forestry, from commercial business activity or from self-employment must submit income tax returns electronically. In such cases, VAT and trade tax returns, too, must be submitted electronically. For more information on the obligation to file electronically, please visit the State of Hessen’s portal "Service Hessen".

You may file your tax return via the free portal for electronic tax returns, ElsterOnline, or you may use tax software available on the market.

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Where can I get the tax return forms?

If you are not required to file electronically and do not voluntarily file electronically, either, visit the website of the federal revenue administration's form server (in German) to obtain tax return forms online. The tax return needs to be completed, personally signed and sent to the competent local tax office.

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For what period do I need to file my income tax return?

In Germany, the tax year is the same as the calendar year, i.e. a tax return must be submitted for the elapsed calendar year.

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When do I need to file my tax returns?

Submission deadlines depend on whether you are required to submit or whether you file your tax returns voluntarily. Another factor is whether you prepare your tax returns yourself or take them to a tax professional, i.e. a qualified member of the tax advisory profession in Germany, to have them prepared.


If you are required to submit:

If you prepare your tax return yourself, tax returns up to and including calendar year 2017 must be submitted by 31 May of the following calendar year. As from calendar year 2018, tax returns must be submitted by 31 July of the following calendar year. If electronic tax returns are transmitted with authentication, 31 July of the following calendar year will also be the submission deadline for any tax returns as from calendar year 2016.
If you hire a tax professional (i.e. a qualified member of the tax advisory profession in Germany) to prepare the tax return, your tax return must be submitted in Hessen by the 28/29 February of the second following year.


If you are not required to submit (“assessment upon application“):

Should you not be obliged to submit tax returns, but may still want to file an income tax return, it must be submitted to your tax office by the end of the fourth year following the year in which the tax has arisen (for example, a tax return for 2017 may be submitted by 31 December 2021).

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To which local tax office must I submit my income tax return?

As a rule, the income tax return must be submitted to the local tax office responsible for your place of residence at the time of filing.

Find your competent local tax office online (via on the portal “Service Hessen“) by entering your family name, your postcode and selecting the type of taxpayer information relevant for you.

Alternatively, you can find the contact details of all tax offices in Hessen via “Service Hessen“ or the Federal Central Tax Office‘s tax office search (in German).

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Can the staff at the tax office help me prepare my tax return and advise me?

You may find that most of what you are asked to provide is basic information and does not require special knowledge of tax law. Nevertheless, if you are not sure about what to fill in the form, our staff at the tax offices will be happy to help. However, they cannot provide any assistance in tax matters. In this case, please consult a tax professional, i.e. a qualified member of the tax advisory profession in Germany.

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Who can help me prepare my tax return?

Under the provisions of the Tax Consultancy Act, only persons and associations expressly authorised by law to do so are permitted to provide tax advice or prepare tax returns.

This includes tax consultants, associations dedicated to assisting members on wages tax matters (Lohnsteuerhilfevereine), lawyers, auditors and certified accountants. Besides, certain persons and associations are authorised to provide restricted assistance in tax matters. For example, employers may assist their employees on wages tax matters.

In order to find a suitable tax consultant for your needs, you can refer to the tax advisers' online directory of the Federal Chamber of Tax Advisers (Bundessteuerberaterkammer). You may further refine your search by selecting a particular professional qualification, area of specialisation, industry experience or specific language.

The Chamber of Tax Advisers Hessen also provides an online directory (in German).

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