Steuerberater fees more than my tax refund

79 posts in this topic

Hi Guys,

 

I feel i need to vent my frustration and see if any of you have had similar experiences or any advice.

 

I contacted a Steuerberater recommended through a friend of a friend. We arranged a meeting (which we agreed, upfront, would cost €180- fine). The very first thing i said to him (after the pleasantries of course) is that i wanted to use this meeting to determine if it was worth taking the exercise further, i.e. if the tax refund was likely to be more than his fees. He assured me that the fees were regulated and as we went through my additional expat expenses, he suggested it worth doing.

 

I sent through all receipts (flights home, mortgage payments, maintenance costs for flat in UK, rental income etc, etc) for the last three years 2007-2009. Now i get a bill for considerably more than i am told to expect as tax refund (which is also of course unsure until it gets processed). I notice that the flights back home are not once mentioned in the forms, he now tells me that they are private & therefore not tax dedeuctible. The fact that they were private was discussed in the first meeting, which begs the question why did he ask for all the receipts etc.

 

Very disappointed. Not sure if i just got a raw deal here, or if this is a general experience of expats here.

 

The Netherlands is looking more & more attractive... they seem to have a fairly progressive approach in taxing expats with the 30% ruling.

 

:angry:

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to be fair, to determine with any level of certainty the worth of him providing the service would have entailed him doing your tax return..

 

I can understand you being annoyed though.

 

We joined a steuerverein thing and as far as I know if we get less back than we paid them in fees, it' tough :-(

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It's true that there are set fees for everything, but with a mortgage, rental units and rental income to account for, you tick quite a few boxes on the fee sheet.

 

Are you freelance or a salaried employee? The former can deduct the accountant's cost as business expenses; the latter, not so much (since a recent unfavorable court decision).

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Ours told us it was not worth it, would end up losing the return and paying extra(just a few bucks), so we didn't file. And she didn't charge us. Guess we lucked out.

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Salaried employee i'm afraid... :(

 

 

to be fair, to determine with any level of certainty the worth of him providing the service would have entailed him doing your tax return..

Point taken... but that's kinda why i agreed to the €180 consultation at the start, and why did he then tell me to go to the trouble of pulling out all my flight receipts for the last three years, only now to tell me they are not relevant?

 

Did anyone have any luck claiming back travelling home expenses? Any clues as to things an expat might have forgotten to claim for? I'm not sure my guy would have really thought of everything.

 

Thanks guys.

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Expenses traveling home are only relevant if "home" is still your primary residence (or Lebensmittelpunkt in German) and you're claiming doppelte Haushaltsführung. If you're just visiting family or friends, it's a vacation and isn't deductible.

 

You could try to claim one or more of the trips as checking up on your rental property or (if you had a change of tenant) interviewing potential tenants, but there's no guarantee that they'll allow it.

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You should have gone to a Bilanzbuchalter/in working for a Lohnsteuerhilfeverein like ADL.

 

You can deduct traveling home expenses if you are renting out the property in your home country and you go there to "check" on it.

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We worked with the lohnsteuerhilfverein.It was a yearly fee I think 16 euro. Then a sliding scale fee, I think based on income. But we had great service. We will use them in the future as well.

 

We actually got better advice from them, then the tax lady my mother in law was trying to refer us tooo. She too said we could write off things that were not possible to write off, in my case the integration course.

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Hi

I used a steuerberator as well and it went pretty smoothly. I have a second house in Ireland which is rented and he is not interested in that house at all. He said that I should fill a tax return in the country where the income is collected and therefore also were the expenses are deducted. I thought that this sounded a little strange but I followed the expert.

I have the standard deductions, home office, child care, language courses etc and nothing overly extravagent. My costs were the same as yours but that ammount was per year. The first time that I used him was for 2006 through to 2008 (so 3 years) and it cost about 580 Euro for the Steuerberator (3 years of returns for me and my wife handled as joint returns).

In relation to investment property, did my Steuerberator give me the correct advice?

Thanks

Weeble

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I did know a Middle Eastern colleague who was able to claim lots of (already paid) income tax back for visits to his wife and children, costs for sending money back and forth to dependents.

 

You can claim for certain relevant educational/training visits abroad if the courses cannot be sourced easily within Germany - that much I do know. You'll need receipts for any courses, residential stays and any books you purchased.

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We worked with the lohnsteuerhilfverein.It was a yearly fee I think 16 euro. Then a sliding scale fee, I think based on income. But we had great service. We will use them in the future as well.

 

We actually got better advice from them, then the tax lady my mother in law was trying to refer us tooo. She too said we could write off things that were not possible to write off, in my case the integration course.

 

Am I reading this right SJ, you're not offsetting the cost of your integration course?

 

It's been a few years since I studied with a German organisation but when I did I always offset the cost of the course against our income. I'm currently studying with the (British) Open University and have offset those course fees against our German taxes for the last 4 years.

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I think the point about training / education is that it needs to be connected to professional purposes. You can't just put any old training you happen to have done per se on there. However, this is the sort of thing that (erm, speaking for myself as one who does their own return) I would indeed put on my tax return and wait for Finanzamt to challenge it later and try and convince them it had indeed served that purpose ;) .

 

Sounds here as if the adviser has, if not "gone native" then is protecting their own interest.

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In former time you could deduct German classes even for your non working wife, I know because I did it. But some years ago that changed and it is not possible anymore.

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Am I reading this right SJ, you're not offsetting the cost of your integration course?

 

It's been a few years since I studied with a German organisation but when I did I always offset the cost of the course against our income. I'm currently studying with the (British) Open University and have offset those course fees against our German taxes for the last 4 years.

 

Yes, some educational courses are tax deductible, but not the integration course. That is what we were told. They said it was a private expense, as it did was not done for work or student fortbildung.

 

We tried, had the receipts and everything. I am still waiting on the bamf to get my 50% back. They are sure quick when they want money from you, but damn slow when they need to pay you :)

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I think the point about training / education is that it needs to be connected to professional purposes. You can't just put any old training you happen to have done per se on there. However, this is the sort of thing that (erm, speaking for myself as one who does their own return) I would indeed put on my tax return and wait for Finanzamt to challenge it later and try and convince them it had indeed served that purpose .

 

Sounds here as if the adviser has, if not "gone native" then is protecting their own interest.

 

I'm not sure that they're that fussed about actual purpose. I've been doodling about with OU doing random courses that take my fancy (bug biology, humanities, overview of the EU etc etc) and have successfully claimed the costs each year. They did refuse the first OU German course I listed saying that I could easily study that here. We countered with an appeal saying that course was part of a planned degree from an English university and, as such, a German equivalent couldn't be substituted. They then allowed the cost of that course and didn't query the two further German modules that I took with the OU and offset on our German taxes.

 

I originally studied German with Inlingua and we offset those costs too although it wasn't a defined 'integrations course'. It did however fit the bill of claiming costs for the non-working wife as mentioned by (I think) Krieg upthread somewhere.

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Yes, I'm sure you can really spin it as you like :) . Also thinking about it more, maybe the integration course is treated differently? If you have taken the state subsidy for doing it, then perhaps not entitled to a second state subsidy (ie. tax relief) on top? You've already got your benefit.

 

Edit - That's one of the many good reasons not to go down the "engaging with the state" route for the integration course imho. If you are are earning income, the tax relief is not far short of the subsidy. Waste of time chasing the subsidy, avoids being on the state's radar as "needy immigrant", no obligation like the subsidised students have (having to attend, do the exam etc etc).

 

@serenajean below - just idle speculation but that that "that's a private cost" could maybe interpreted as "that's your bit because you already got a portion from the state".

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I am wondering if it is treated different because you get money back. So I write off 945 euro. But then I get 50% back as well. I could try again this year with the final amount paid about 450.

 

But she made it seem as though the integration course is private expense and not tax deductible.

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You should find a new Tax Advisor using recommendations from friends or contacts in your area.

 

Some tax advisors prefer to avoid conflict or challenge from the FA, so they are extra cautious when they should be more aggressive. Some try to fight for every deduction to the point of venturing into some "grey" areas, with "grey" being a euphemism.

 

Someone in their 50s or 60s, with an established clientele and a good relationship with the FA might not be the person to fight for the best deal from the FA.

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Hello,

 

My situation is pretty similar to that of the OP.

 

I am moving back to France after three years spent in Germany and in the process of doing so my landlady, a Steuerberaterin, suggested she go over my taxes. I told her that it would make sense for 2010 (been out of work and paid over 1000 euros to have the flat completely repainted, not to mention moving expenses) but that I didn't want to bother with 08 and 09 since I only had my salary and no deductibles apart from my Hafplichtversicherung. She insisted she would "get money back" and that I should let her do it. To cut a long story short yesterday I get 765€ bill for 07/08/09 and the grand total of my return is 180€. The issue here is that, I feel, she willfully mislead me. She is using the Kaution hostage and I have had to agree to have part of the bill withheld from my deposit (300€). At no point in the process did she offer a quote for her services. I had done 07 myself and got 900 euros back since I had moved from France and I cannot believe an experienced Steueuberaterin could not, right off the bat, tell me that it would not be worth my while. She plainly took advantage of the fact that my German is mediocre and I only have myself to blame for being stupid and naive. The fact that she used the deposit to threaten me leaves me a bad taste in the mouth. As far as I know I should be getting my deposit minus the 300 back. I'm not going to lie, I want to wiggle out from paying the rest. Any thoughts or advice much, much appreciated.

 

Thank you.

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