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First of all, it must be clarified whether an income tax return is due at all, because not every taxpayer is required to file a return. If you answer at least one criterion with “yes”, an income tax return must be filed.

  • You are self-employed.
  • You operate a photovoltaic system on your own home and feed your electricity into the grid and you have not applied for the option for so-called hobby.
  • You have received wages from several employers at the same time, for example because you had two jobs (this does not apply if it is a mini-job).
  • In addition to your wages/salary, you have earned additional income from which no wage tax has been withheld (such as rental income or pensions) and this additional income exceeded 410 euros in the year.
  • You received wage replacement benefits, for example unemployment, short-time worker, sick or parental benefits and these were in total higher than 410 euros in the year. This regulation is particularly important because of the Corona pandemic, because many employees have received short-time allowance and must therefore now submit an income tax return for the year 2020 uand 2021!
  • You are married and one partner is taxed according to tax class five, six or the factor method.
  • You have claimed an allowance, for example for income-related expenses, and your income exceeded 11,900 euros in 2020 for singles or 22,600 euros for married couples (from 2021: 12,250 euros or 23,350 euros).
  • You have received investment income, such as interest or dividends, for which no final withholding tax has yet been paid, for example in the case of foreign accounts.

If you are not required to file an income tax return, you may file the return voluntarily (so-called application assessment). This is particularly worthwhile if refunds are expected because many expenses can be deducted. If the taxpayer is requested by the tax office to submit an income tax return, he must do so. By when the income tax return must be at the tax office depends on whether you:

  • are obliged to submit a tax return,
  • submit it voluntarily
  • or the tax office requests you to submit a tax return.

Those who are required to file a tax return should, in principle, mark July 31 of the following year thickly in their calendars. The return for the previous year must be received by the tax office by this date. Since July 31 falls on a Sunday this year, you have until August 1, 2022 to submit the income tax return for 2021 to the tax office. However, the deadline can also be extended upon request. To do this, a simple letter to the tax office is sufficient, explaining why the tax return can only be prepared later. This may be the case, for example, due to prolonged illness. If a lawyer, tax advisor or income tax assistance association is commissioned to prepare the tax return, the deadline for submission is generally the last day of February of the second subsequent year. This means that the income tax return for the year 2020 can actually be submitted until the end of February 2022 if a consultant is engaged. Incidentally, there is a special rule for income tax returns relating to 2020 because of the Corona pandemic: if the 2020 income tax return is prepared by an advisor, it must reach the tax office by the end of May 2022 at the latest. The BdSt is currently lobbying for the deadline to be extended to the end of August 2022. Taxpayers who are not required to prepare an income tax return can voluntarily submit a return to the tax office. There are four years for the voluntary tax return. This means that the tax return for 2020 must be received by the tax office no later than December 31, 2024, and the 2021 tax return must be received by December 31, 2025. If the tax office requests the submission of the income tax return, the taxpayer is obligated to submit it. The tax office sets the specific deadline for submission on an individual basis. Employees and trainees usually need three forms: The main form (so-called jacket form), in which the basic data such as name, address, tax number, etc. are entered. In the annex N, the salary and the expenses related to the occupation (so-called income-related expenses) are noted. In addition, the annex “Vorsorgeaufwand” is important. Here, among other things, the contributions to health and long-term care insurance are to be entered. Anyone who submits their income tax return on paper forms from 2020 onwards can dispense with some of the information because a large amount of data (e.g. on wages, contributions to health, long-term care and pension insurance, wage replacement benefits, pensions, etc.) is already available to the tax office (so-called eData). These eData fields therefore no longer need to be filled in by the taxpayer. The lines in the forms are marked accordingly. However, anyone who wants to make sure that all the information is recorded correctly can still enter the data. In any case, it is important to know your own tax ID. The tax ID was sent to every citizen by mail in 2008. If the letter has been lost, one should contact the Federal Central Tax Office or the tax office in one’s place of residence. For employees, the annual income tax certificate received from the employer at the end of the year or when leaving the employment relationship is particularly important. The certificate lists, among other things, the wages paid, the contributions to health and pension insurance, but also the short-time allowance paid. The certificate is very helpful because the amounts listed can often be transferred directly to the tax return. In addition, all documents proving the costs incurred should be collected. Corresponding invoices, receipts and bank statements serve as proof for the tax office.

Income-related expenses

Income-related expenses are all costs that are related to the profession. These include the costs incurred to get and keep a job, i.e. application costs, training costs or travel costs from home to work and more. The income-related expenses are entered on the form – Annex N. → Employee lump sum: There is an employee lump sum of 1,000 euros per year for income-related expenses, which is automatically taken into account by the tax office. It is therefore worthwhile to only declare the costs if the expenses amount to more than 1,000 euros per year. Home office lump sum: Anyone who worked in a home office in 2020 and 2021 can claim a lump sum of 5 euros per day for the days on which they worked exclusively in a home office. The flat rate is limited to 120 days per year and thus amounts to a maximum of 600 euros. The home office lump sum must be entered in Annex N under income-related expenses. In the Incomerelated expenses ABC the most important items are briefly explained.

Special expenses:

Special expenses are the second area of deductible expenses. These are private expenses that – although they are not work-related like the income-related expenses – are nevertheless recognized by the tax office. These include pension costs such as contributions to health and long-term care insurance, pension insurance as well as donations to certain organizations or the costs of a first degree. The special expenses are entered on various forms: contributions to pension, health and long-term care insurance must be entered in the Pension Expenses annex. Other special expenses such as church tax, donations, maintenance payments or expenses for a first degree course belong in the annex special expenses. Parents who have paid daycare or after-school care fees, school fees or health insurance contributions for their children must report this in the Child annex. → The special expenses lump sum of 36 euros (singles) and 72 euros (married couples and civil partners) is automatically taken into account. However, many taxpayers can easily prove higher expenses.

Extraordinary expenses:

Certain expenses may be taken into account as extraordinary expenses. These include, for example, medical expenses, such as doctors’ fees, co-payments for medication, dentures, glasses, prostheses and cures; maintenance costs or catastrophic damage due to storms, severe weather or floods. The tax office only accepts extraordinary burdens if a certain amount – the reasonable personal burden – is exceeded. This is calculated in each individual case on the basis of income, marital status and the number of children. Details can be found in Section 33 of the German Income Tax Act (EStG). The extraordinary burdens are entered in the annex Extraordinary burdens. Information on a disability or the lump-sum care allowance can also be entered here.

Tax reductions:

The tax office participates in many craftsmen’s work, renovations and services around the household, such as expenses for wallpapering or painting the apartment, maintenance of the heating system or cleaning help. The tax reduction for household-related employment, services and craftsmen’s services is applied for in the annex household-related expenses. There are three categories: Household-related services, household help on a mini-job basis and craftsman services. For the tax return for 2020, there is even a further tax reduction. This applies if the owner-occupied apartment or house is renovated to make it more energy efficient. Such renovation costs are entered in the Energetic Measures annex.

  • Household-related services

If you hire a domestic helper for activities that you can usually do yourself in the household, the legislator subsidizes 20 percent of the expenses up to a maximum of 20,000 euros. This means that household-related services can save up to 4,000 euros a year. This includes, for example, costs for cleaning the apartment, the costs for a janitor or garden maintenance work. But beware: household-related employment relationships between close relatives, spouses and partners in a registered civil partnership are generally not recognized.

  • Mini-jobbers in the household

The costs for a mini-jobber in the household (average monthly 450 per month), the state will contribute 20 percent of the expenses, up to a maximum of 510 euros per year. But beware: household-related employment relationships between close relatives, spouses and partners in a registered civil partnership are generally not recognized.

  • Craftsman services

Craftsmen’s costs reduce tax: Anyone who has modernization or renovation work carried out by professionals can deduct 20 percent of a maximum of 6,000 euros. This results in a tax advantage of up to 1,200 euros per year. However, only the labor and, if applicable, travel costs are accepted for tax purposes. The taxpayer must bear the material costs himself. These may not be entered in the tax return. Important: The prerequisite for the tax bonus is that the invoice from the craftsman or service provider is paid by bank transfer; cash payments are not accepted for tax purposes. Invoices and account receipts documenting the corresponding payments serve as proof. By the way: Tenants are also allowed to declare the costs for household-related services, mini-jobbers or craftsmen in their income tax return. The details of household-related services can be found in the tenant’s service charge statement or in a separate certificate from the landlord. Tax bonus for energy-efficient renovation Anyone who has their owner-occupied four walls refurbished by a specialist company to make them more energy efficient will receive a tax subsidy for this: the scheme applies to all energy-related refurbishment measures started after December 31, 2019. For example, the insulation of walls, roof surfaces or floor ceilings, the renewal of windows or exterior doors, the renewal of a heating system or the optimization of existing heating systems are subsidized. In addition, expenses for so-called energy consultants can also be deducted. The advantage of this bonus is that both labor and material costs can be claimed. The prerequisite for the tax reduction is that the beneficiary property must be more than ten years old at the start of the energy-saving measure. A maximum tax reduction of 40,000 euros is granted for the beneficiary property. The subsidy is spread over three years: in the calendar year in which the energy-saving measure is completed and in the next calendar year, 7 percent of the expenses (i.e. a maximum of 14,000 euros per year) can be deducted from the tax liability in each case, and 6 percent of the expenses (i.e. a maximum of 12,000 euros) in the third year. The granting of the tax reduction requires that you have received a certificate from the specialist company or the energy consultant. Submit this certificate together with the Energetic Measures annex to your income tax return to your tax office. Save taxes with your studies? That’s possible! Certain expenses in connection with your studies can be deducted from your taxes. The basic rule is that only the student himself can claim the costs of his education. To do this, he or she must prepare his or her own income tax return. Tax-deductible items include, for example, expenses for books, stationery, the computer, the costs for the revision course or the semester abroad. Anyone who starts a course of study directly after graduating from high school is in the first degree program for tax purposes. Expenses for a first degree are recognized as special expenses and entered in the special expenses annex. However, this is only worthwhile if the student earns his or her own income, e.g. as a student assistant, and it is not a mini-job. On the other hand, studies following a completed vocational training or after completion of a bachelor’s degree (i.e. a master’s degree) are considered as second studies for tax purposes. This is more advantageous, because these expenses may have an effect even if the student does not earn any income of his own. The expenses are income-related expenses and are entered in Annex N. Especially for students who have high expenses for their second degree but do not earn any income or only work as a mini-jobber, it is often worth the effort to file an income tax return and possibly have losses determined for the future. These losses can then help mitigate taxes when students start their careers.

Details are available to students and the parents of studying children in “BdSt INFO-Service Nr.4 – Steuer und Studium”.

Every year, millions of Germans face a major task: they have to prepare their tax return for the past year. For many, it is a tiresome task. But the effort is worth it, even if not everyone is required to file a tax return. According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2016 around 88 percent of employers who submitted their tax returns received a tax refund. This averaged 1027 euros. Refunds of between 100 and 1000 euros (58 percent) were particularly common, it said. There are different ways to file a tax return. For more complex tax cases, it is usually worth going to a tax consultant. But for most employees, taxes are not that complicated. You can also do your tax return yourself. One of the most frequently chosen forms is the official and free version of the tax authorities: Elster (electronic tax return). Elster stands for Electronic Tax Return and this is exactly what the German tax authorities have been pursuing with the project since 1996. Elster is effectively a kind of online tax office through which you can make and submit your income tax return. Until now, taxpayers could choose between two ways if they wanted to use Elster: It was possible to submit the return via the income tax software “ElsterFormular” or web-based via “MeinElster”. The “ElsterFormular” program is no longer available to taxpayers. It was last usable for the 2019 tax year. This means that you can only prepare your income tax return for 2020 – which you regularly file in 2021 – via “MeinElster”.

“MeinElster” for your tax return

“MeinElster” is a free portal. It allows you to complete your income tax return online and file it paperlessly. This saves you from downloading, installing and updating extensive programs. All you need is an Internet browser to enter your tax data. “MeinElster” can be used on any terminal device. So not only via your laptop or PC, but also via tablet and smartphone. However, you can only use it after you have registered with an electronic certificate (for more information, see point 3).

Registering with “MeinElster” for the first time

Before you start with your tax return via “MeinElster”, you have to create a user account via the website of the tax management program. The registration consists of several steps: in the course of the one-time registration you need to create not only a password, but also a certificate file. You can think of this file as an electronic key, which you need to identify yourself and log in. In doing so, you have four options:

  1. Certificate file: This is free and you do not need any additional hardware. You will receive an activation code by mail.
  2. ID card: You register and log in with your ID card in the future. To use this type of legitimation, you need a card reader and the “AusweisApp2” developed on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
  3. Security stick: Here you identify yourself with a security stick on which a certificate is stored. The stick costs 49.11 euros as a one-time purchase and you need to download the “ElsterAuthenticator” software for identification.
  4. Signature card: A signature card is a card with a digital certificate issued to a person or organization. With this option, you also need to download the “ElsterAuthenticator”. A signature card costs 50 to 150 euros to purchase. A list of which signature cards are currently approved for authentication can be found here.

The tax offices recommend the certificate file for private individuals – i.e. option 1. If you decide to use the certificate file, the first step when registering on Elster is to select whether you want to register as an organization or as an individual. After that, you enter your personal data. Elster In the timeline (on the left) you can see where you are in the registration process. After you have submitted your data, you still need to confirm your e-mail address. To do this, click on the link in the e-mail you received shortly after sending your data. You will then receive a second e-mail with your activation ID and the activation code by mail. You then use this data to create the certificate file, which you download and save on your terminal device. Each time you log in, you will then not only have to enter a password at “MeinElster”, but also upload your personal certificate file. If you use your ID card to legitimize yourself, there is no need to send the activation data and you can complete the registration including certificate creation without waiting.

Instructions: Doing the Elster online tax return yourself

As soon as your registration was successful, you can start with your tax return. Unfortunately, “MeinElster” is not always self-explanatory. Below you can see step-by-step instructions on how to file your income return via MeinElster. Step by step to the tax return for 2020:

  1. Login: Once you have logged in to “MeinElster”, click “Select new form” on your home page. In the next step, you can select the year for which you want to file your tax return. Click on “Continue”.
  2. Data Transfer: If you have done a tax return before, you can speed up your tax return on the next page by transferring data from the previous year. If not, click the blue button “Continue without data transfer”.
  3. Investment assistant: Next, you can decide whether you want to do your tax return with an investment assistant. The wizard will ask you various questions. Based on your answers, Elster will make suggestions as to which attachments (jacket sheets) you are likely to need. However, you can also continue the tax return without an attachment wizard.
  4. Select attachments: If you decide to do the tax return without an attachment wizard, you can also make the selection yourself afterwards. Simply place a check mark next to the attachments you need. In any case, this is the tax return form and, for employees, Annex N. Many people also need the pension expenses annex and the child annex. Riester savers also need the annex AV.
  5. Declaring the tax: Next, start filling out your tax return. To do this, check the Income tax return box on the form’s home page (above) and go through the individual points step by step. Good to know: Via “MeinElster” you can create tax returns for yourself as well as for another person.
  6. Final check: After you have completed your tax return, check all the information. While the plausibility check will show some of the most common and careless errors, by no means all of them. You should have entered your income-related expenses, special expenses and extraordinary expenses in full in order to save taxes. Tip: Any costs for helpers in the household or handicraft costs you enter in annex household-related expenses. Up to 20,000 euros for helpers in the household and up to 6,000 euros for wage, travel and machine costs for craftsmen in the household are recognized. 20 percent of the invoice amount directly reduces your tax.
  7. Non-binding tax calculation: Before you send off your tax return, you can carry out a non-binding tax calculation. You can find this under the “Check” tab at the top left. If you have filled out your tax return correctly and there are no errors, a green check mark will also light up there.

In a final step, you submit your return online to the tax office. Since you have already identified yourself with your certification file and a password when logging in, you can send your tax return electronically without a signature. You will then receive a message about the successful transmission with date and time.

Electronic voucher retrieval: this is how it works

Since 2014, you have been able to make a document retrieval on the Elster portal for years starting in 2012. This automatically retrieves some data and then transfers it directly to the tax return – so you do not have to enter it manually. These include:

  • Wage tax certificates sent by the employer
  • Wage replacement benefits (for example, unemployment benefit, sick pay, parental allowance)
  • Notifications of receipt of pension benefits
  • Contributions to health and long-term care insurance
  • Pension expenses (for example, Riester or Rürup contracts)
  • Contributions for capital-forming benefits (VWL / VL)

The advantage: With automatic document retrieval, you not only save time, but also avoid annoying typing errors. However, if you want to use the electronic voucher retrieval, you cannot do so automatically. Instead, you must register for the service in the Elster portal after successful registration (under 3) or confirm it (under Manage forms & services certificates). According to the tax authorities, the document call is then available to you one day after successful approval at the earliest. You can retrieve the data around the clock, seven days a week and repeatedly.

Simple calculation: compare prices + voucher = bargain

Appeal your tax assessment with Elster

Taxpayers who disagree with their tax assessment can appeal against it. This is usually possible within one month. You can file an objection in the traditional way by letter, but now you can also do so online via the Elster portal. You can find the “Objection” form under “Forms & Services”. If an objection is not sufficient to defend yourself against a tax assessment, the only option is usually to go to court. However, you cannot submit this via the Elster portal, as the Münster Fiscal Court has determined. The Tax Court rejected the complaint as inadmissible (Ref.: 7 K 2792/14 E) because the plaintiff had not filed it in the correct form. The requirement was a handwritten signature or a qualified electronic signature to identify the signatory beyond doubt. With the Elster portal, only the electronic certificate is required when logging in, which does not meet these requirements.

More on the subject of taxes

Due to the Corona Panedmie, many employees have been working in a home office for a long time. They can now claim this on their tax return. But will the home office allowance now become a tax trap? The tax office is now examining this information particularly closely. We explain what you need to know about this in the video. Linux Mint Mate Download.

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