BITKOM – Almost 30 million Germans do their tax returns online

October 24, 2022

Many people put it off, but in most cases it is worth it – the tax return. In the meantime, the majority of taxpayers do it online. Most recently, this was the case for 54 percent of those who have already filed an income tax return – that is almost 30 million German citizens. A good fifth (22 percent) used “Elster”, the free tax programme of the tax authorities. 28 percent used a commercial tax software for the PC and four percent did their last tax return on their smartphone via a tax app. This is shown by a representative survey of more than 1,000 people aged 16 and over in Germany, which was conducted on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. “The electronic income tax return is a prime example of the digitalisation of administration,” says Bitkom CEO Dr Bernhard Rohleder. Currently, the digital way is becoming the standard, because the tax authorities will only accept paper returns in individual cases from the 2021 tax year. For many people, this means a change: Three out of ten (30 percent) German citizens who have already filed a tax return used the paper form most recently. Another 13 percent left the work to a tax consultancy. “Taxpayers can make use of a variety of digital solutions. Commercial providers focus particularly on user-friendliness and – unlike the Elster programme – also provide tax tips,” said Rohleder.

This year, 77 percent of people in Germany want to file an income tax return or have already done so. For nine percent of them, this is their first tax return ever. Overall, four out of five (81 percent) people in Germany have already filed an income tax return, among the younger ones between 16 and 29 years, it is 53 percent.

Submission deadline at the end of October – home office can be deducted as a lump sum

As in the previous year, the deadline for filing the tax return is extended again. Taxpayers who do not seek advice from a tax consultancy or an income tax association can submit their tax return for the tax year 2021 until 31 October 2022. For the coming tax years, the filing deadlines have also been extended and will end on 30 September 2023 and 31 August 2024 respectively. In the case of tax advice, the filing deadline for the tax year 2021 ended on 31 August 2022.

Due to the Corona pandemic, tax relief is again available, which encourages filing a tax return even on a voluntary basis. The fourth Corona Tax Relief Act has, among other things, extended the regulations on the home office allowance until 31 December 2022. Thus, taxpayers can deduct a flat rate of five euros per day (max. 600 euros per year), even if they work at the kitchen table, for example, and do not have a special home office. The “corona bonuses”, i.e. employer subsidies for short-time allowances, were also increased for the payment period from 18 November 2021 and remained tax-free for six months longer – until June 2022. The Federal Ministry of Finance has summarised all information on the changes in a list of FAQs.

Simplified tax return for pensions and annuities

The tax authorities provide the online portal “My Elster” for electronic tax returns. After one-time registration and postal authentication, the service can be used – without downloading and installing any software. For all those who receive a pension or annuity and submit an income tax return, there is the portal “einfachElster”, which is intended to make the submission much easier. Here, information that is already available to the tax office, such as pension income and data on health and long-term care insurance, no longer has to be entered into a tax return. Only questions on information such as donations, medical bills, disabilities or craftsmen’s costs have to be answered.
Note on methodology: The information is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. In the process, 1,006 people in Germany aged 16 and over were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative. The questions were: “Have you ever filed an income tax return?”, “How did you file your last tax return?”, “Are you filing an income tax return this year?” and “Is this your first income tax return ever?”.

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