Authority-German on all sides: Stiftung Warentest helps to decipher the tax assessment notice, because mistakes can be expensive. With an objection they can be compensated.
Those who find errors should act quickly
Errors creep into a tax assessment quite easily. Not least because many jobs are involved. Employers, banks, health insurance companies and pension funds transmit data electronically to the tax office. Also with the uber-tragen there can be errors. Any inaccuracy can reduce or increase the tax burden. If it turns out too high, fast action is required. When the notice is in the mail, there is only one month to file an objection.
By the way: If the tax burden is lower because the tax office has made a mistake, taxpayers do not have to take action. They are not obliged to make the office aware of its own mistakes.
Tracking down errors with Elster
Those who have declared their taxes via the online tax office Elster with certificate find it easier to spot errors. Elster provides an overview comparison. It can be used to reconstruct deviations from the tax return line by line. Other tax programs are similarly convenient (test tax programs). Your own blunders are tricky: Forgotten expenses or incorrectly stated costs do not stand out in a comparative calculation if the tax office has assessed as reported in the declaration. The data transfer from the previous year can also lead to errors. If data is not updated, too much income or too little income-related expenses may be included in the return.
Practical: You can use "My Elster" to send your objection directly to the tax office electronically (all information on the Elster program is available in the free Elster special). If the notice is available, it is best to check it directly and to intervene in case of doubt.
On paper: On your own
All those who have submitted their declaration on paper will find it more difficult to reconcile it. You must know exactly what should be stated in the notice for the individual items as the respective sum. This becomes complicated, for example, when checking pension expenses or considered health costs, because the calculations here are not so simple. In the end, the only thing left to do is to compare the data from the paper tax return item by item with the tax assessment. In this way, taxpayers can at least rule out clerical errors and numerical errors and see whether the tax office has taken over all expenses. Who finds errors, does not come around an objection.
Your tax assessment – the most important facts in brief
If the data is transferred between the authorities without any errors?
Even if the tax refund turns out as expected, it is better to check all the figures in the notice. The notice contains not only the refund amount, but also subtotals from various items. They can be the basis for other benefits such as Bafog or daycare and after-school care contributions. If some of the items do not appear at all, the tax office usually explains the absence in the small print at the end of the tax assessment. It says what the tax officials have changed compared to the tax return and why they have deviated from the information in the calculation.
Do these "explanations" state that the tax office has overestimated the data?? In the clear text this means: It did not take the declared values as a basis, but the data, which communicated employer, health insurance company, pension insurer or other authorities. These can be incorrect.
How to check: Compare your information in the declaration with the values according to the notice and those certified by institutions and authorities. Find out who caused the error.
What you can do: If discrepancies arise from incorrect data transmission, clarify this with the authority or institution. They must inform the office of the new values.
Independent. Objective. Incorruptible.
Are the travel expenses for commuting to and from work correct??
Many employees exceed the lump-sum allowance for income-related expenses of 1,000 euros per year with their daily commute alone. For journeys from home to the first place of work, the shortest distance counts. Who drives however to the work a detour, in order to avoid a traffic jam, may also account for the longer distance. There is a flat rate of 30 cents per kilometer of one-way travel. If the tax office could not see why the longer distance was used, it may have taken too few kilometers into account. Also, service routes can easily fall under the table because the office has classified them as routes to the first place of activity. The journeys would have to be counted as other work-related journeys, i.e. as for business trips with 30 cents per kilometer of the outward and return journey with your own car (all details in the Special on commuting and taxes).
How to check: Under "Income-related expenses", you can see how many kilometers of distance were calculated for trips to the first place of work and whether "travel expenses" and "additional expenses for meals" were deducted for other trips to work.
This is what you can do: Describe where your first place of work was and how many days you worked away from home. In the objection, you can justify longer ways. Create an overview of your tax journey.
Were contributions to health insurance wrongly reduced?
Many health insurance companies reward health-conscious behavior and reimburse costs within the framework of a health program (see comparison of health insurance companies). If insured persons have previously borne the costs themselves, the tax office may not reduce the recognized basic contributions to health and long-term care insurance by the reimbursement received, according to the German Federal Fiscal Court (Az. X R 17/15). More about this in our Special Special Expenses.
How to check: Under the item "Special expenses" in the tax assessment, you can see whether the tax official has deducted a bonus from your recognized contributions to health and long-term care insurance as "contribution refunds".
You can do this: File an objection against your tax assessment with your tax office within one month. In your letter of objection, refer to the sample cases that are pending at the Federal Fiscal Court (see above). Cite for it also the associated, above-mentioned reference numbers of the Federal Fiscal Court.
Are the taxable capital gains correctly determined??
Capital gains above the flat-rate saver’s allowance are subject to a 25 percent final withholding tax. If the personal tax rate is lower than this percentage rate, investors only pay this lower rate on their capital gains. This may be the case, for example, if pensioners are entitled to an old-age relief amount. However, investors must have previously applied for the Guns-tiger-prufung in line 4 of their tax return in the KAP annex.
If the tax office is to check whether the lump-sum savings amount of 801 euros for single persons or 1,602 euros for married couples has been exhausted, investors must fill in line 5 in the tax return in the KAP annex. The tax office takes all interest income and then deducts the savers’ lump-sum amount. Only capital gains above this amount are taxed at the personal tax rate.
How to check: You can see whether the "Guns-tiger-prufung" is applicable if your investment income is included in the income calculation. The paid settlement tax is offset.
What you can do: You have not been subject to a tax credit check, although you would benefit from it? You can apply for this at a later date from the tax office.
Has the tax office correctly calculated the pension exemption amount??
Those who have retired for the first time in 2019, for example, will receive 22 percent of their pension tax-free. For each new pension year, the tax-free portion decreases until it is eliminated in 2040.
The tax office sets the pension exemption amount permanently in the year after the pension starts and only adjusts it if the pension changes, for example as a result of the new maternity pension (all information on this in the free special Taxes and Pensions). The amount is determined by when the first pension was drawn and how high the benefits were in total in the following year.
Once the free amount has been determined, it is not changed by the annual pension increases. The additional payments that are due from 1. July of a year, are completely taxable. Pensioners must declare all adjustments since the year in which the tax-free amount was determined in one sum in the declaration. However, this amount is also calculated by the pension insurer and electronically transmitted to the tax office.
This is how you check: Are your pension exemption amount and the fully taxable adjustment amount correct?? Ask for the "Notice for submission to the tax office" from the pension insurance company (Tel. 0 800/1 00 04 80 70). In it the fully taxable adjustment amount is shown.
What you can do: Get advice, for example from a wage-tax-help-association.
Does the old-age relief amount have the right amount??
From the year following the 64. If a taxpayer is born on or after his or her 15th birthday, he or she is entitled to an old-age relief amount for income from rent or capital gains, for example. The exact amount is determined by the tax office, the amount also applies in future years. Who about 2018 his 64. has celebrated his or her birthday, will receive an age-relief amount of 17.6 percent since 2019, with a maximum of 836 euros.
How to check: The amount is determined on the basis of your date of birth and is deducted from the "total income". As a married couple, you should check whether the tax office has allocated the respective income to the right partner.
What you can do: If the old-age relief amount is missing or if it is too low, for example because the office has allocated the income to the wrong partner, correct it.
Does the disability allowance bring a tax advantage??
Taxpayers with disabilities can claim a special lump sum. This is intended to cover their additional costs, for example, for care services or help in the home, without having to account for them individually. The amount of the lump sum depends on the degree of disability. Invoices for medication, disability-related travel expenses or home modifications can be declared separately by people with disabilities, because the lump sum does not include them.
How to check: The amount of your lump sum is in the extraordinary burdens. If your actual costs after deduction of a personal contribution, which you have to pay yourself, are higher than the lump sum? In that case, it is cheaper to account for the expenses individually. You can find out how high your own contribution will be with our calculator Reasonable Burden.
You can do: If you want to claim your actual or additional costs after the fact, request an itemized deduction in your appeal.
Has the ancillary costs statement been taken into account??
Taxpayers receive a tax bonus of up to 4,000 euros per year for household-related services and up to 1,200 euros for manual work in the house, apartment or on the property. It counts 20 percent of the bill – without material costs. This also applies to such services in the service charge statement for tenants and the house charge statement for owners who use their apartment themselves. It is allowed to submit it later, if it arrives when the declaration is already at the tax office, even after the deadline for objections has expired.
Alternatively, tenants and owners may deduct the costs in the declaration for the year in which the statement is received. Or they can make advance payments on operating costs or house fees in the year in which they paid them and deduct one-off expenses – for example, for handymen – in the year in which they received the bill (all details in the Special Household Services section).
How to check: What was taken into account is written under "Calculation of tax" as "reduction" for manual labor or for home-related services.
What you can do: Your service charge statement is still outstanding? Ask the office to leave the decision open until then. If the objection period is already over, apply for a change due to new facts.
This topic was published in July 2019. The most recent update was in July 2021. Previously posted user comments refer to an earlier version.