Clever change. Parental benefit is highest with tax class III for spouses. Thus, the future mother who receives the parental benefit should be in III at least seven months before the start of maternity leave, and her husband should be in V. © Stiftung Warentest / Rene Reichelt
Whether marriage, child, career or job loss – a change of tax class is often worthwhile. Read which tax class is the right one for you and what you need to bear in mind.
In new life situations change can be meaningful
Which tax classes are optimal for us? It’s not just newlyweds who are wondering this. Even if one spouse earns less or more than before or retires, a change can be useful. With the right class, married couples can even optimize wage replacement benefits such as parental allowance. While the tax class has definitive consequences for the amount of the parental allowance, it only determines the provisional deduction in the case of income tax. How much tax and solidarity surcharge will be due, is only determined after the tax return.
A change in tax class is quickly requested
The change of tax classes is quickly applied to the tax office. The change is stored by the authorities in Elstam, the database for wage tax deduction characteristics. Every employer has access to this information and can query the tax class of his employees in order to determine the wage tax due. Those who have changed their tax class should in any case inform their payroll office and check the payroll. "There are always problems with this," says Uwe Rauhoft, managing director at the Bundes-verband Lohn-steuer-hilfe-ver-eine BVL (Federal Association for Wage Tax Assistance). "Obviously, not all bosses work with a payroll accounting system that automatically calls up changes to the elstam data on a monthly basis."
There are six tax classes: I and II for non-married couples, for married couples the combinations III and V, IV and IV as well as IV+factor and IV+factor. The highest tax class VI is for side jobs subject to income tax.
When do non-married persons get wage tax class II??
Without a marriage certificate, you are in the I. You can only transfer to II if you live alone with your child in a household. Condition: The child is registered with you and you are entitled to the child allowance. With class II you have more net income, because 4,008 Euro relief for single parents are taken into account per year. For each additional child the amount increases by 240 Euro.
Tip: To change the tax class, just fill out the form "Insurance declaration for the relief amount". Where you can find this and how to proceed step by step, you can read in our tax class special for single parents. If you want to change more – for example, claim a free amount for your job expenses – then an "Application for Wage Tax Reduction" is necessary.
Where can I check which tax class is stored by me?
You can either request your Elstam data from the tax office or use "My Elster" in the Elster portal (elster.de) look.
Tip: You need a certificate for the retrieval. You apply for this in the online portal.
Independent. Objective. Incorruptible.
We want to get married. Do we have to change our tax classes?
After the wedding you are both automatically in tax class IV. After that you can combine classes III/V or IV+factor/IV+factor as you wish. The amount of income tax in tax class IV is the same as in class I. If you both earn the same amount, the IV/IV is usually optimal. However, if your income is different, you should use a tax calculator to compare whether the III/V or IV+factor/IV+factor is more favorable for you (see Our advice, above).
Tip: With IV/IV, you are not obliged to file a tax return if you received neither wage replacement nor sick pay. However, make a. Then you can still claim tax deductions – for example by costs for home-related services. This is the only way to get back excess tax paid. Which legal and fiscal advantages – in addition, obligations – with a marriage go along, lights up our special marriages.
When should we as a married couple switch to classes III and V?
You should change when one partner alone earns about 60 percent of the family gross income. The main earner then takes the III and has more net income, because he pays much less income tax than in the IV. The other partner with less income must then take V and has relatively high deductions. With III/V you can secure a high monthly family income, because the spouse with tax class III is entitled to tax-free allowances such as the basic tax-free allowance of 9,744 euros (9,984 euros in 2022), to which the spouse with V is actually entitled.
Attention: With the III/V you must submit a tax return. Taxes are often claimed in arrears. If it is more than 400 euros, the tax office may require advance payments for the coming year.
Tip: You can get even more net income in class III if you take into account allowances that your partner is entitled to – such as a severely disabled person’s allowance.
When is worthwhile for us as a married couple class IV+factor for both of them?
This is perfect for you if you want to avoid tax back claims. With IV+factor, the tax office calculates a factor based on your actual gross income in order to calculate the wage tax almost exactly.
Tip: This exact calculation is unsuitable if your income changes. Salary increases, bonus payments and premiums ensure that the factor no longer fits and the tax office demands more taxes after the tax return.
Does my husband have to agree to a tax class change??
Not in every case. Since 2018, you can change from class III or V to tax class IV – even without your husband’s consent. It comes then also in IV. In the past, this was only possible with a joint application.
Tip: If you want to change from IV to tax class III or V, you still have to apply for it jointly as a married couple.
What do I have to do as a wife to get more parental benefit??
You must have tax class III in time before the birth of the child. For the amount of the parental allowance – as with other wage replacement allowances – the previous net salary is decisive. This is highest in class III, because the wage tax is lowest. Your husband must then take the V and accept higher wage tax deductions. But you will get back the overpaid wage tax after the tax return. In order for the authorities to accept the change of tax class, you must meet these deadlines:
Parental benefit. You must be quick. As soon as you are pregnant, you should be in the new tax class III – at the latest seven months before the start of maternity protection, otherwise the parental benefit fund will calculate with the old one. You can find all the details on the subject of "parental allowance and tax class" in the free tax class special for parents-to-be.
Mother-protection-money. The more favorable tax class for higher benefits should apply no later than three months before the start of maternity leave. There is no guarantee of more money. The boss only has to accept the change if it makes sense from a tax point of view. However, a change to IV+Factor is always possible.
Unemployment benefit. Already in January of the year in which the unemployment begins, the more favorable tax class must apply. Later on, the employment agency will only accept changes that make sense from a tax point of view, e.g. to class IV+factor or to class III for higher earners.
Short-term unemployment benefit. As a short-time worker, you can switch before and during short-time work.
Sick pay. The new tax class must apply at least one month before the foreseeable beginning of the incapacity for work.
Tip: If the money is not enough to live on if the main wage earner with class V has less net income, you should both take tax class IV. If you have missed the deadline, a change to IV+factor is always possible.
What class do I take when my husband retires?
If you are still working, you should take wage tax class III.
Tip: Make a tax return. Then you benefit from the splitting tariff: your two incomes are added together and only then is the amount of tax assessed.