For your income tax return you will need the general tax form Mantelbogen (for your name, address, bank details) and a varying number of additional tax forms (= Anlagen), depending on what kinds of income you had, if you:
were an employee you will need Anlage N.
were self-employed then Anlage S (for freelancers) or Anlage G (for all other self-employed).
for your health insurance payments you'll need Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand (see instructions below in yellow area, self-employed just ignore the word Lohnsteuerbescheinigung and fill it in anyway).
have a kid/kids you'll also need Anlage Kind (see here).
had income from outside Germany while being resident in Germany you'll need to also fill in Anlage AUS (see here), but Anlage N-AUS (see here) if you had employee income from outside Germany while being resident in Germany. EU/EEA rental income is never declared, see here
had rental income you'll need Anlage V (see here).
expect to get some Abgeltungssteuer you paid on your German bank interest income back because your individual tax rate will be under 25%, and for foreign interest income, you will need Anlage KAP (see here).
financially supported parents/spouse you'll need Anlage Unterhalt (see here).
had speculative income e.g. if you sold a house/apartment that's not your primary residence less than 10 years after you bought it, you'll need Anlage SO.
Any income you had prior to moving to Germany, or after moving away from Germany, fill in gross total into line 98 (for 2012: line 99) of Mantelbogen ESt 1A only!
If you're self-employed, you will have to keep all invoices for 10 years, within that period the Finanzamt can come along any time and do an audit (=Betriebsprüfung).
--> Self-employed, turnover under 17,500€: scroll down to turquoise section for self-employed Kleinunternehmer. Mandatory electronic submission from 2012. From 2013 completely electronic.
--> Self-employed, turnover over 17,500€, charges 19% VAT in all his/her invoices: scroll down to green section. Mandatory electronic submission from 2012. From 2013 completely electronic.
The Elster software is just a collection of the same tax forms that are available on paper, so if you really want to, you can of course use the instructions to fill in the tax forms in Elster and submit electronically.
You can do the electronic submission with Elster in two ways:
1. tax returns for income tax (Einkommensteuer), VAT (Umsatzsteuer), self-employed tax (Gewerbesteuer).
2. monthly/quartely tax announcements for VAT (Umsatzsteuer) and income tax of your employees (Lohnsteuer)
It is quite easy to use (if you know some German). I would advise using it only for tax announcements (point 2 above), since there you only have to fill in a few fields.
For tax returns you are better off using a commercial software with a ELSTER plugin like Taxman, where you get some tax counselling within the program, and then the commercial software uses its ELSTER plugin to send the data to the Finanzamt.
How to use ElsterFormular:
1. you first choose what kind of form you need (see above for choices).
2. let's assume you need it for a monthly VAT announcement which you have to do every month before the 10th of the month, so choose "Steuer(-vor)anmeldungen Umsatzsteuer"
3. an official looking tax form opens, called "Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldung"
4. go into the tax number field (Steuernummer).
5. type in the first digit of your tax number, and in the pop-up window choose: Bundesland (e.g. Bayern, if you live there), your Finanzamt (e.g. München II), type in your tax number
6. click on "Angaben auf Gültigkeit überprüfen", so that the software checks whether the tax number you put in exists, then click on OK.
7. now you are back in the official form, with your tax number and Finanzamt fields correctly filled in.
8. in the field "Unternehmer" put in your details.
9. at the right choose for what month you want to announce your VAT (e.g. Mai)
10. now fill in the net sum amount you TOOK IN in the past month, in the field "Steuerpflichtige Umsätze - zum Steuersatz von 19 v.H." (field 81). Let's assume received payment for 3 of your invoices of 1000 euro (plus 190 euro for the 19% VAT) each, so you fill in 3000 in this field. The software then calculates the VAT 3000 * 19% = 570 euro.
11. Now click in the menu at the top of the page on "Seite 2" to go to the invoices YOU PAID in the last month.
12. fill in the sum of all VATs (not the net amount!) from the invoices you paid last month. For example, if you paid invoices worth 2380€ gross, the VAT is (2380€ - 2380€ / 1,19) = 380€. Fill in the 380 into the field 66
13. Now you will see in field 83 the difference between the VAT you took in (Umsatzsteuer) and the VAT you paid (Vorsteuer), and this difference is the amount you will have to pay to the Finanzamt before the 10th of that month by bank transfer.
14. Now send the data electronically to the Finanzamt, by choosing in the menu "Datenübermittlung=data transfer", the entry "Steuererklärung an das Finanzamt übermitteln = send to Finanzamt".
15. in the pop-up window choose the second option "Datenübermittlung ohne Authentifizierung" = data transfer without a certificate. Click on OK.
16. a confirmation window appears, telling you that it will now transmit the data to the Finanzamt and are you sure you want this. Click on "Ja".
17. it then does a plausibility check on your figure. Most of the time you can ignore the comments the program now brings at the bottom of the page. Just click on "Weiter" = go on.
18. It now transfers your data to the Finanzamt, and brings a confirmation pop-up window. Just click on OK again.
19. Now the printing page pops-up. You get a pdf summary version of your filled in Umsatzsteuervoranmeldung, which you can save and print. This print-out will be your proof to the Finanzamt that you did your announcement in time (i.e. before the 10th of the month).
plus other forms, e.g. Anlage Kind if you have a child/children (instructions here), Anlage AUS if you had income from outside Germany, but Anlage N-AUS if you had employee income from outside Germany, ...
You can either fill them in on your computer within the 45 minutes they give you for each page on each form and then print them out, or print them and fill them in by hand.
You cannot save what you fill in, except as an XML file (icon with floppy disk and XML). You can later import that XML file to pick up where you left off (icon with XML and red arrow).
Make a copy of your filled in and signed tax forms and of all documents you will submit, so that you have something on hand if they get lost and to consult later on.
If you submit the forms in person, take the copy along and let the person from the Finanzamt stamp the first page of each form with their entry stamp
(= Eingangsstempel). That way you will have proof of what exactly you submitted.
line 1: make an X in the box to the left of "Einkommenssteuererklärung"
line 2: your tax number (if you already have one, if not leave empty)
line 3: your personal identity number (if you already have one, if not leave empty)
line 4: name of your Finanzamt
line 6: your phone number (you are not obliged to give it!)
line 7: your surname, your date of birth
line 8: your first name
line 9: your street and street number
line 10 : your postal code, town=???, Religion=VD (this means no religion, hopefully you did not register for any of the kinds for which you have to pay church tax, e.g. RK= roman catholic or EV = evangelisch=lutheran)
line 11: your job title, e.g. Software engineer
line 12: if you are single put nothing, otherwise: married since / widowed since / divorced since / living apart from wife/husband since
line 13-17: same details for wife
line 18: your bank account number, Bankleitzahl
line 19: your IBAN (International bank account number, starts with DE for German accounts)
line 20: your BIC/SWIFT code = international code of your bank
line 21: name of your bank
line 22: put an X in the box to the left of "Kontoinhaber"
line 23: put an X in the box to the left of "Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand" and an X in the box to the left of "Anlage AV" (if you paid for Riester)
line 24: put in your eTIN number from the Lohnsteuerbescheinigung
line 25: put in the sum of all unemployments benefits, parent allocation, illness payments, etc. you got in that year
line 26: explain times of unemployment and attach certifications to prove them
line 27: tells you to attach certification for Vermögenswirksame Leistungen to the income tax return, put a cross in if you got them and attach the certifications in paper form
Now go to the second page, by clicking on the icon for "page 2" at the top of the window.
You will get another 45 minutes to fill in that page.
top of page: fill in your tax number (leave empty if you haven't been assigned one yet)
line 31: address of your workplace / days of work per week / how many days you took off for illness and vacation
line 32 (always fill in!): how many days you worked in that year / simple distance between your flat and your workplace / of which kilometres travelled in employer's bus shuttle / of which kilometres travelled with public transport, motor cycle, bike, car pool / fill in a 1 if you are disabled
line 33: total cost of your public transport tickets (no air plane or ferry tickets)
line 34: total costs you had to keep your job or apply for a new job for which you haven't been reimbursed by the employer, e.g. training costs, stationary, postage to mail job applications, bank account costs, travel costs to training or job interviews
lines 35 to 38: same as above for wife
line 39: church tax paid / church tax reimbursed to you
line 40: what you gave to charity (attach paper proofs)
line 41: what you gave to charity (if these proofs are in electronic format)
line 42: your rate of disability (e.g. 50%)/ an X if you're blind or totally helpless
line 43: special expenditures incurred, e.g. illness costs or divorce costs / total costs incurred / how much of them you expect to be reimbursed for by e.g. health insurance
line 45: put an 1 in the box to certify that you did not have interest income over 801€ that year (1602€ if you're married)
line 46: write for example: Hilfe im Haushalt (=cost for cleaning woman) / total cost
line 47: write for example: Pflegehilfe (=cost for person helping with nursing an invalid) / total cost
line 48: write for example: Handwerker (costs for handymens' work, EXCLUDE costs for the spare parts they used) / total cost
line 3: your tax number / an X in the box to the left of Stpfl. if this is your form N, in the next box if it's your wife's
All the following amounts should be copied from your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung:
line 4: your eTIN / any other eTINs you got from other Lohnsteuerbescheinugungen
line 5: fill into box your tax class (e.g. 1 if you're single)
line 6: first column: your gross income / second column: gross income that was taxed according to tax class 6, i.e. before you presented your employer with a Lohnsteuerkarte
line 7: the wage tax you paid
line 8: the solidarity tax you paid
line 9: the church tax you paid
line 10: if your spouse is of another religion that has to pay church tax, how much they paid
lines 11 to 16: ignore if you are not a Beamter who is shortly before/of pension age or a Beamter's widow or orphan
line 17: amount of compensations you got, e.g. when you were fired
line 18: wage tax you paid on these compensations / solidarity tax you paid on these compensations
line 18: church tax you paid on these compensations / church tax your spouse paid on these compensations
line 21: wages you got that are tax free according to a double tax treaty: country / amount
attach paper proof
line 22: tax free wages if you worked outside Germany in one of the cases stated in the Auslandstätigkeitserlass: country / amount
line 25: fill in if you were a Grenzgänger, e.g. lived in Germany but worked in Luxembourg, Switzerland, ...
line 26: tax free income from a privileged task, e.g. trainer for a non-profit sports club
line 27: fill in what you have in section Nr. 15 of your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung (wages paid for Kurzarbeit, ...)
line 28: Insolvenzgeld you got if your employer went broke, in accordance with the certification you got from the "Agentur für Arbeit"
line 29: other income you got, e.g. unemployment benefits, parenting allowance, illness payments ...
line 30: explanation for times you did not work, attach paper proof
click on icon for "page 2":
top of page: your tax number, surname, first name
line 31: an X in 1st box if you used your own car to drive to work, in the second box if you used the car the employer gave you / number plate of car, e.g. B-GH-5686
lines 32 to 35: workplaces: address / days per week worked / days off for illness or vacation
lines 36 to 39: workplace mentioned in line : ___ (i.e. insert 32, or 33, or 34, or 35) / how many days you went there that year / simple distance between your flat and your workplace / simple distance km done in own car/employer's car / simple distance kilometres travelled in employer's bus shuttle / simple distance kilometres travelled on foot, with public transport, motor cycle, bike, car pool, ... / what you paid for public transport (e.g. bus), no flight or ferry costs here! / fill in a 1 if you are disabled
line 40: what you have in line 17 of your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung / what you have in line 18 of your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung
line 41: professional association for which you pay membership fees / total amount
Expenditures you had to keep your job (don't put in those your employer reimbursed you for!)
line 42 and 43: stationary, copies, .. used for your work / total amounts
line 44: room you use only to work in in your private flat / costs
line 45: training costs: say which courses / total cost
line 46: air plane and ferry costs to get from your flat to your workplace
lines 47 to 49: other costs, e.g. for applying for a new job, bank account fees, moving costs ... / field 53: total of lines 46 to 49
line 50: total travel costs incurred because of job
line 51: of these travel costs above, reimbursed by employer
line 52: days when you were on a job trip inside Germany of more than 8 hours
line 53: days when you were on a job trip inside Germany of more than 14 hours
line 54: days when you were on a job trip inside Germany of more than 24 hours
line 55: if you travelled outside Germany for your job: attach a separate page and list all those trips; calculate the total extra subsistence costs according to this list (for 2013) and this list (for 2012) and fill in this total amount.
in field 54: total of lines 52 to 55
line 56: amount your employer reimbursed your for these additional subsistence costs from lines 52 to 55
You have to go "home" at least every 2 months if it's in Germany, but it can be at longer intervals if it's outside Germany.
line 61: city of your workplace, e.g. if your job is in Munich: Munich
line 62: reason for keeping up 2 households / from date / to date
line 63: if you do keep up two households, put an X next to "Ja" / in which city,
e.g. if you work in Munich but keep a furnished flat in Nuremberg (or Rome or Bangalore) where for example:
- you keep your family, or
- live by yourself whenever you are there (just a room in your parent's house does not count)
this is called your "home", put in: Nuremberg or Rome or Bangalore / since date
line 64: costs with public transport for first and last time you travel "home"
line 65: costs with own car (0.30€/km) or motor cycle/scooter (0.13€/km) for first and last time you travel "home"
line 66: costs calculation for the distance: costs for all the trips "home" in between the last and first time you went "home" (not with company car or air plane or ferry): kilometres of simple distance (i.e. half of kilometres to go there and back again) x 0.30€/km = ....
line 67: costs for all the trips "home" in between the last and first time you went "home", what you spent if you took public transport (without air plane or ferry costs)
line 68: fill in the either the amount from line 66 or 67, whatever is higher
lines 69 to 71: only fill in if you are disabled
line 72: air plane and ferry costs to get "home" (attach paper proofs e.g. tickets, boarding passes, ...)
line 73: costs of flat at workplace city, e.g. rent + utilities. Attach rental contract and proofs of payment
lines 74 to 78: costs for additional subsistence for the time (but only within the first 3 months of taking up the job!) you stayed in the workplace city (they are done just like lines 52 to 56)
line 79: How much your employer reimbursed you for your expenses for keeping up 2 households
line 80: if you got Vermögenswirksame Leistungen, put in the number of certifications you have for that (i.e. how many Anlage VL you will attach).
first column is for you/husband if you're married, second column is for the wife:
- in line 4: pension contribution you paid (from section 23 of Lohnsteuerbescheinigung = certificate of wage tax deduction which you get from employer every year)
- in line 8: employer's part of pension contribution (from section 22 of Lohnsteuerbescheinigung)
- in line 12: contribution to the public health insurance (if you have one) (from section 25 of Lohnsteuerbescheinigung)
- in line 15: contribution to public nursing insurance (if you have one) (Pflegeversicherung) (from section 26 of Lohnsteuerbescheinigung)
click on icon for "page 2":
- in lines 31 and 32 fill in the values the private health insurance (if you have one) will send you in a letter titled "Bescheinigung über Vorsorgeaufwendungen nach §10 Abs. 1 Nr. 3 EStG" for health & Pflegeversicherung, which will be considerably less than you actually paid, because you are only allowed to claim 100% in the tax return what a "basic" insurance, which is comparable to public insurance cover, would have cost
- line 35, field 354: put in difference amount for health insurance that is not "basic", i.e. if you paid 1,200€ per year, and only 960€ corresponds to "basic", then fill in the difference of 240€ here. Also put in what you paid for Anwartschaften.
- line 36, field 355: put in difference amount for nursing insurance above "basic".
- line 44, field 370: unemployment insurance contribution (from line 27 of Lohnsteuerbescheinigung)
- lines 46 to 50: any other insurances you have, e.g. personal liability insurance in line 48
You will be allowed to claim all you paid for "basic" health&nursing insurance in any case, but all other insurance only up to an allowance of 1,900€ per year if you're an employee or 2,800€ if you're not (allowance includes what you paid for "basic" health&nursing). For an explanation read the second half of this post.
Basically, the rule for filling in this form is to look in it for the mention of "lt. Nr. ?? der Lohnsteuerbescheinigung" and then to look for that section in your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung and see if you have an amount there. If yes, transfer it to the tax form.
at top: you fill in your surname, first name, tax number and identification number
for the rest let the institution with which you have a contract for which you want to receive or already receive Vermögenswirksame Leistungen fill it in to certify to that contract and attach the whole filled in and signed paper form to your tax forms.
Tax return for the self-employed Kleinunternehmer (freelance or gewerblich=Gewerbetreibende)
you took in a maximum of 17,500€ in the last year, and
you expect to take in less than 50,000€ in the current year.
To be a Kleinunternehmer you just have to have earned at most 50,000€ in the year for which you're doing the tax return (and 17,500€ in the year before that) no matter from which self-employed activities (freelance or gewerblich) the money came from.
The important thing here is the format of your invoices.
As a Kleinunternehmer you are not allowed to mention and calculate VAT in your invoices.
If you do have identified VAT (= Umsatzsteuer) in your invoices, you owe the Finanzamt that VAT and have to pay it to them, even if you had a turnover of 17,500€ or less.
See here for a good example of an invoice of a Kleinunternehmer.
Beware: In the year you go above 50,000€ turnover, you will owe the Finanzamt VAT on all of that, even if you did not put it into your invoices and did not get this extra VAT from your customers, see here.
As a Kleinunternehmer you don't have to do monthly/quarterly Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldungen (VAT announcements) – since you don't owe the Finanzant any VAT.
You also just have to fill in the 1st page with sections A and B of the tax form Umsatzsteuererklärung USt 2 A.
If you are a German resident, then the Grundfreibetrag (was 8,004 in 2013 and 2012) is tax free. If you had no other income (e.g. foreign income or income from interest or rents) to take you above the Grundfreibetrag, then you will not have to pay income tax (= Einkommensteuer).
If you remain below the Kleinunternehmer turnovers and did not identify the VAT (= Umsatzsteuer) in your invoices, then you will not have to pay Umsatzsteuer.
line 1: make an X in the box to the left of "Einkommenssteuererklärung"
line 3: your tax number (if you already have one, if not leave empty)
line 4: your personal identity number (if you already have one, if not leave empty) and your wife's (if you're married)
line 5: Finanzamt ....., ?? Str.??? (your local Finanzamt)
line 7: your phone number (you are not obliged to give it!)
line 8: your surname, your date of birth
line 9: your first name
line 10: your street and street number
line 11 : your postal code, town=.........., Religion=VD (otherwise you will have to pay church tax, if you unwisely already registered for it and have therefore had it deducted by your bank from your capital interest, put it into the form "Anlage KAP", line 51, field 82!) and read this post on how to officially leave the church so as to not pay church tax in the future
line 12: your job title
line 13: if you are single put nothing, otherwise: married since / widowed since / divorced since / living apart from wife/husband since
line 14-18: same details for wife
line 19: if you're married: an X to the left of "Zusammenveranlagung"
line 20: your bank account number, Bankleitzahl
line 21: your IBAN = International bank account number, starts with DE for German accounts
line 22: the BIC/SWIFT code of your bank
line 23: name of your bank
line 24: put an X in the box to the left of "Kontoinhaber"
lines 31 to 40: put an X in the box to the left of which Anlagen (i.e. other tax forms) you will attach
line 97: if you moved to Germany during the year: period from ... to ... that you lived in Germany
line 98: if your wife moved to Germany during the year: period from ... to ... that she lived in Germany
line 99: sum total of all your gross family income during period before you moved here
line 108: put an X in the box if you/your wife have a bank account outside Germany
line 109: put in the date and sign
See here for a good explanation of what kind of books a Kleinunternehmer has to keep, in short a simple profit and loss calculation on a piece of paper (even hand-written) is enough ( see this template). Attach this profit and loss calculation to your tax forms when you submit.
Then fill in the amount you calculated as your profit into line 4 of the Anlage S (if you're a freelancer) or Anlage G (if you're a Gewerbetreibender)
When doing the profit and loss account, you have to use the gross cost from the invoices of articles you bought and put that as expenditure.
So, basically, as a Kleinunternehmer you act just like a end-user normal citizen and ignore VAT altogether.
If you took in less than 17,500€ you do not have to submit in addition the Anlage EÜR (which is just a elaborate, formal profit and loss account).
However, even as a Kleinunternehmer you should have a look at these instructions for filling in form EÜR to give you an idea what the German Finanzamt accepts as income and business expenses, they are the same for Kleinunternehmer. You can of course just fill in the form Anlage EÜR voluntarily and fulfill the profit/loss calculation requirement that way.
You have to submit the Anlage S if you were a freelancer who does not have to pay Gewerbesteuer, i.e. the Finanzamt recognised you as being in the catalog of privileged freelance trades (engineers, lawyers, architects, journalists, translators, ...).
- line 4: "your job description" and your profit or loss
If on the other had you were not in the above catalog of privileged trades, you would have had to also pay Gewerbesteuer and submit the Anlage G instead of the Anlage S.
If you are not a freelancer, then you are a Gewerbetreibender and have to fill in Anlage G.
Fill into Anlage G:
at the right: a cross next to "zur Einkommensteuererklärung"
line 1: your surname
line 2: your first name
line 3: your tax number
line 4: what exactly you do to earn money and your profit or loss
You only have to fill in the form Gewerbesteuererklärung and pay Gewerbesteuer if you had more than 24,500€ profit from those non-freelancer activities (which also means that you exceeded the 17,500€ turnover and that it was therefore the last year that you were still a Kleinunternehmer!), look below in the green area for instructions how to fill in the Gewerbesteuererklärung.
your turnover was more than 17,500€ in the year before the one you are doing this income tax return for, or
your turnover in the year for which you are doing this tax return for was over 50,000€
then you have to charge VAT, do monthly/quarterly Umsatzsteuer-Voranmeldungen (= VAT announcements) and forward that VAT to the Finanzamt monthly/quarterly.
There are some tasks for which you don't have to pay 19% VAT but if you claim to be one of those exceptions you had better be prepared to have a special Umsatzsteuerprüfer from the Finanzamt descend upon you and ask to see all the supporting documentation to prove why you think you don't have to pay, see here for a some examples for tasks that don't carry VAT.
The following instructions are for the standard self-employed who have to charge 19% VAT in all their invoices.
How to fill in the Mantelbogen: see instructions above in the turquoise-shaded area
How to fill in the Anlage S or Anlage G: see instructions above in the turquoise-shaded area
You only have to submit a Gewerbesteuererklärung and pay Gewerbesteuer if you have more than 24,500€ profit a year from those non-freelancer activities.