Filing for German Tax Refund

I just got my German tax refund (from Bremen) and it was shockingly large. I know a lot of foreigners do not bother to file taxes, but it really can be quite easy and it can be well worth it. I had many people tell me not to bother, since it is not required (they always take enough; you never underpay, in my understanding). The circumstances surrounding an expatriate’s stay in Germany differ widely, so I’m sure some people get basically nothing and some get a windfall. But in my case (and Tiffany’s), it was possible to speak to a person at the Finanzamt who told us exactly how to fill out the forms.

In Bremen, there was a man at the  Finanzamt who a fellow researcher at the university recommended. I imagine I could have walked into the office, as I guess Tiffany did in Göttingen, and found somebody to help. The man spoke some English. He looked at my information and pointed at which pieces of information from my forms went into which blanks on the empty form. I went home, completed the form, and came back the next day to submit everything. My bank account information was on one of the forms so my refund came as a direct deposit. Unfortunately, it can take several months to get paid. Mine took about 5 months, I think. But it is a good idea to keep the German bank account open for a while anyway until all of the surprise deposits and withdrawals, due to turning off utilities and such, cease.

This was a quick post, but I just want to implore you to file your taxes if you are living in Germany. It can really pay off. It was well worth the 1-2 hours total that I spent on it. I met a lot of people who told me not to bother filing, but I’m glad I did.

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