How much income tax do you pay in Germany?

Navigating the tax system is an essential aspect of living and working in any country. In Germany, income tax is determined by various factors, including your marital status, social situation, and income level. Understanding the tax bracket or Steuerklasse you fall under is crucial, as it directly influences how much income tax you pay.

For married individuals, there’s a potential benefit of paying lower income tax. Join us as we delve into the intricacies of income tax in Germany and explore how different tax categories can impact your financial situation.

Hard facts about German income tax

In Germany, income tax plays a significant role in the financial landscape, impacting both citizens and foreigners alike. Let’s delve into some key aspects of German income tax that every taxpayer should be familiar with:

What is a Tax Bracket?

Every taxpayer in Germany is assigned a specific tax bracket, known as “Lohnsteuerklasse.” This bracket is instrumental in determining the amount of income tax an individual needs to pay.

Einkommensteuer, or income tax, is the tax collected by the German government based on an individual’s annual earnings and other relevant factors, such as their family or marital status. At the end of each financial year, taxpayers are required to submit their income tax declaration.

Who Must Submit German Income Tax Declarations?

If you fall under tax brackets 3 or 5 or receive social indemnities, you are obligated to submit an income tax declaration in Germany.

Where to Submit Your German Income Tax Declaration?

The income tax declaration can be submitted online in Germany via the website However, it’s important to note that the website is currently available only in German. If you are not confident in speaking German, seeking the assistance of a tax advisor or “Steuerberater” may be a wise decision. You can easily find one by searching for “Steuerberater English + your city” on Google.

Navigating the German income tax system can be complex, but with a basic understanding of tax brackets and the submission process, you can ensure compliance and effectively manage your tax responsibilities.

Tax in Germany

How much income tax do I have to pay in Germany?

If you find yourself wondering about the income tax rates in Germany, you’re not alone. The German income tax system is structured in a way that correlates your taxable income with the applicable tax rate. Moreover, being married or in a civil partnership can provide notable income tax advantages.

The top income tax rate in Germany is 42% and applies in 2023 to incomes ranging from €62,810 to €277,826. Those earning more than €277,826 are taxed at the highest tax rate of 45% (also known as the wealthy tax). Approximately 4 million Germans currently pay the top tax rate.

Let’s take a closer look at the two scenarios:

Scenario 1: For unmarried individuals or those not in a civil partnership, the maximum tax rate of 45% applies only if your annual income exceeds 277,826 euros.

Scenario 2: Married couples or those in a civil partnership can benefit from a higher threshold. The maximum tax rate of 45% applies to combined incomes exceeding 555,652 euros.

In summary, the German income tax system follows a progressive model, wherein higher income brackets are subject to higher tax rates. For those with marital status considerations, there are potential tax advantages that could significantly impact the amount of income tax payable. As always, consulting with a tax advisor can help navigate the complexities of the tax system and ensure you optimize your tax position in Germany.

Understanding Your German Tax Bracket

In Germany, your tax bracket, known as “Steuerklasse,” plays a significant role in determining the income tax you pay. Let’s explore the different tax brackets and their implications:

Tax Bracket 1

If you are single, permanently separated, or divorced, you fall into tax bracket 1. As a single taxpayer, you are subject to the highest income tax rate in Germany, approximately 42% of your salary.

Tax Bracket 2

Designed for single parents who live alone, tax bracket 2 offers tax relief to support their financial situation.

Tax Bracket 3 and 5

Married or civil partnership couples can choose tax bracket 3 if one partner does not work or earns significantly less than the other. The other partner then comes under tax bracket 5. If both partners earn similar amounts, tax bracket 4 may be more favorable for them.

Tax Bracket 4

For married couples and civil partners, tax bracket 4 allows them to benefit from the income splitting system. This means the partner earning more pays the income tax rate of the one earning less, resulting in potential tax savings.

Example: Peter and Sophie, who paid 41% and 30% income tax respectively as singles, get married and both pay 30% income tax after opting for tax bracket 4. Please note that this is a simplified example, and the actual income tax calculation is more complex.

Tax Bracket 5

Jobholders who are married or in a civil partnership and whose partner falls under tax bracket 3 belong to tax bracket 5.

Tax Bracket 6

Tax bracket 6 applies to individuals with a second job or multiple employments.

Tax in Germany

Can I Change My ‘Steuerklasse’ in Germany?

Absolutely! If your marital status changes due to marriage, divorce, or other circumstances, or if you start a new job, you can apply for a change of ‘Steuerklasse’ (tax bracket) in Germany. Additionally, if the tax office has categorized you in the wrong tax bracket, you have the right to request a change.

Here’s how you can change your German tax bracket:

  1. Obtain the Application Form: To initiate the process, fill out an application form called “Antrag auf Lohnsteuerklassenwechsel” (Application for Tax Bracket Change).
  2. Visit Your Local Tax Office: It is recommended to visit your local tax office (Finanzamt) in person to submit the application. Explain that you wish to change your tax bracket by saying, “Ich möchte meine Lohnsteuerklasse wechseln” (I want to change my tax bracket).
  3. Bring Relevant Certificates: To ensure you get classified into the correct tax bracket from the start, take all relevant certificates with you to the registration office (Bürgeramt) when you first register.

By updating your ‘Steuerklasse,’ you can optimize your income tax situation based on your current circumstances and potentially benefit from tax advantages based on your marital status and other factors. It is essential to keep your tax status up-to-date to avoid any potential issues with your tax returns and ensure accurate taxation in Germany.

What married couples must know about tax brackets in Germany

As a married couple living in Germany, understanding the tax brackets is crucial to optimize your tax situation. The tax brackets for married couples differ based on their respective income levels, and the implications can significantly impact their tax liability. Let’s explore two common scenarios:

Scenario 1: Income Disparity – Tax Brackets 3 and 5

If one spouse, let’s call them person A, earns significantly more than the other, person B, or if person B does not earn any income, then the tax classification will be as follows: person A will be in tax bracket 3, and person B will be in tax bracket 5.

Scenario 2: Similar Income Levels – Tax Bracket 4

In the case where both spouses, person A and person B, earn approximately the same amount, they will be placed in tax bracket 4. This tax bracket falls under the income splitting system.

It is essential to note that the difference in income tax between married couples and single individuals is quite substantial in Germany, leading to some controversy. Single individuals often end up paying much more income tax compared to families, which can be perceived as unfair.

However, there is a tax advantage for married couples. If you are married, you can benefit from a ‘Steuerfreibetrag,’ which allows you to earn around 20.700 Euros tax-free (2023). On the other hand, for single individuals, the tax-free threshold is approximately 10.908 Euros before income tax applies (2023).