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In what period can the income tax return be filed?

The type of assessment and the submission date depend, among other things, on your income. You can find the individual submission deadlines here.

Income tax law distinguishes between the mandatory and the application assessment

  • Mandatory assessment: you must submit an income tax return without being asked to do so.
  • Application assessment: You can voluntarily file an income tax return in order to get back excess tax levied (e.g. wage tax) from the tax office.

If you are not an employee, you are obliged to file an income tax return with your tax office if the total amount of all your income exceeds the basic tax-free amount.

As an employee, you are obliged to file an income tax return with your tax office in the following cases, for example:

  • You have the tax class combination 3/5 or tax class combination 4/4 with factor and both spouses/life partners draw wages.
  • An allowance has been taken into account for you when deducting income tax and your wages exceed € 11,600 in 2019 or € 11,900 in 2020 or € 12,250 in 2021 or, in the case of spouses/life partners, € 22,050 in 2019 or € 22,600 in 2020 or € 23,350 in 2021.
  • You receive wages from several employers at the same time.
  • You receive wage replacement benefits subject to the progression proviso of more than € 410 per year (e.g. unemployment benefit, parental benefit, sickness benefit, short-time allowance, compensation for loss of earnings or insolvency benefit).
  • You receive other income of more than 410 euros per year in addition to your salary.
  • If you receive investment income for which no capital gains tax has been withheld, you are always obliged to submit a tax return.

If you are not obliged to file an income tax return, you can, however, apply for an income tax assessment for the purpose of refunding excess tax withheld (e.g. wage tax) (application assessment). Through the application assessment, you can claim your deductible costs as tax-reducing and receive your overpaid tax back from the tax office. In this case, you must file your return with your tax office within four years of the end of the calendar year in which the wages were received. You have until Dec. 31, 2021, to file your income tax returns for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 with your tax office.

An application assessment may be particularly worthwhile if:

  • the employment relationship has not been continuous for the entire calendar year;
  • You and your spouse or civil partner are assigned to tax class 4/4;
  • Income-related expenses (e.g. travel expenses to your employer), special expenses or extraordinary burdens have been incurred for which no tax allowance has been taken into account in the wage tax deduction procedure;
  • the tax class or the number of child allowances has changed in your favour during the year;
  • withheld capital gains tax is to be credited.


In the following video, the tax office of the future explains the filing deadlines for employees simply and quickly.


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