Registering with the tax authorities

If you intend to work in Germany, you are probably wondering if and when you should get in touch with the tax authorities regarding your tax matters. Our answer to this would normally be: only when you (may opt to) file a tax return. With the following questions and answers, we provide an overview of the procedures for the withholding of wages tax and how taxpayer identification within the tax system is ensured:

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What is a tax identification number (IdNr.)?
What do I need to do if I take up employment? What information does my employer need?
How can I get a tax number as an employee?

What is a tax identification number (IdNr.)?

The tax identification number (IdNr.) is an identification number for tax purposes for people living in Germany. It will remain valid throughout your lifetime and across all federal states (Länder).
An identification number is issued to individuals who are registered with their main or sole place of residence with the relevant local registration authority in Germany. Persons not registered but liable for tax in Germany will also be issued with an identification number by the competent local tax office.

The Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, abbreviated as “BZSt” in Germany) will notify you about your identification number in writing. Please retain this document (sample letter) for your records.
For further information on the identification number, please refer to the website of the Federal Central Tax Office (BZSt).

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What do I need to do if I take up employment? What information does my employer need?

If you have an employment relationship from which you receive income, your employer is obliged to withhold wages tax from your wage or salary payments and to report and pay this tax to the local tax office.
In order to withhold an appropriate amount of wages tax according to your personal circumstances (e.g. family status, children), certain types of information about employees (such as tax class or any allowances) are stored and made available to employers electronically upon request (abbreviated as “ELStAM” in Germany). For the download of this information, your employer will need your tax identification number and your date of birth as well as the information whether this is your main or secondary employment. Quoting the tax number is not required.

Detailed information on the parameters for withholding wages tax and making any modifications can be found in the information booklet on wages tax (in German).
Note: Should you not be registered with the relevant local registration authority in Germany yet, the parameters for withholding wages tax cannot be made available to your employer electronically. In this case, a paper certificate for the withholding of wages tax can be issued. Please contact your competent local tax office.

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How can I get a tax number as an employee?

As a rule, your competent local tax office will issue a tax number once you have filed your first tax return.

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