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

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 applies, for example, to some countries in Africa, but also to 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 on certain income limits:

  • 90 % of worldwide income is from Germany or
  • Foreign income that is not taxed in Germany must not exceed the basic tax-free allowance (absolute limit). The basic allowance in 2019 was 9,168 EUR for single people and 18,336 EUR for married people.

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)

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