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I worked in Germany and come from a country outside the EU. How do I file a tax return?

20th May 2020

The rules for non-residents of Germany differ from residents. Filing a tax return may be more complicated if a person comes from a country with which Germany does not have an agreement to avoid double taxation.

This for example applies to some countries in Africa or even Afghanistan.

The basic rule for citizens from countries without an agreement states: taxes are paid wherever you are and for your entire income, including any rental income from your home country. Those who live and work in Germany for a shorter period (less than 6 months) are still subject to tax in their home country.

However, under certain conditions, people can be treated as subject to unlimited income tax in Germany.

Whether this is possible depends oncertain income limits
1) At least 90% of total worldwide income in a calendar
year is subject to German income tax
2) Foreign income that is not taxed in Germany must not
exceed the basic tax-free allowance which was 9,168 EUR
for single people and 18,336 EUR for married people in 2019.
This amount may change depending on the foreign country
and tax year.

The advantage is that you can use all personal tax benefits as well as a whole range of family-related benefits. These include the tax deduction of special expenses.

Allowances and special expenses can be for example:

  • single parent’s allowance,
  • children’s allowance,
  • flat-rate allowance for commuters,
  • professional expenses (e.g. business travel expenses),
  • two households necessitated by work,
  • extraordinary expenses (e.g. hospital charges).
I want to file a tax return