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Which expenses can I claim as special expenses in my income tax return?

Certain expenses listed exhaustively in the law can be deducted as special expenses from the total amount of income if they are neither business expenses nor income-related expenses. They are either deductible without limitation (e.g. church tax paid) or within the framework of maximum amounts staggered according to marital status (e.g. pension expenses = insurance premiums of a pension nature, expenses for own vocational training, school fees, expenses for additional old-age provision).

With the so-called Retirement Income Act (Alterseinkünftegesetz), a change in the system for the taxation of retirement income and the deduction of special expenses for retirement provision expenses (e.g. contributions to the statutory pension insurance) took place as of 01.01.2005. Since 2015, the maximum amount of old-age provision expenses that you can deduct as special expenses is based on the maximum contribution to the miners' pension insurance. In the case of married couples/life partners who are assessed jointly, this maximum amount is doubled. In the case of taxpayers who are entitled to an old-age pension without or largely without their own contributions (e.g. civil servants, judges, members of parliament), the maximum amount is reduced by a fictitious total contribution to the statutory pension insurance (employee and employer's contribution)

Since the system change, contributions can only be deducted as special expenses on a pro rata basis during a transitional phase. The deductible portion of the expenses has increased by 2% per year since 2005 (60% deductible). From 2025 onwards, 100 % of the contributions can be claimed as special expenses. In the case of employees, the amount calculated in this way must be reduced by the tax-free employer's contribution to statutory pension insurance.

The actual contributions to private and statutory basic health and long-term care insurance have been fully deductible as special expenses since 2010. The contributions to the remaining other pension insurance (e.g. liability insurance, unemployment insurance, contribution shares for "comfort benefits" in health insurance) are taken into account - together with the contributions to health and long-term care insurance up to the following maximum annual amounts:

  • for entrepreneurs or self-employed persons: up to € 2,800
  • for employees and civil servants: up to € 1,900

Employees and civil servants are entitled to a lower maximum amount because they are entitled to reimbursement of medical expenses in whole or in part without having to pay their own expenses (e.g. civil servants) or because tax-free benefits are paid for their health insurance (e.g. employees).

Contributions to basic health and long-term care insurance are also fully deductible to the extent that they exceed the aforementioned maximum amounts. In this case, however, the deduction of the contributions to the remaining other provident insurances does not apply.

Maintenance payments to the divorced or permanently separated spouse can be deducted by you up to the amount of € 13,805 per year as special expenses; for the recipient, the maintenance payments are subject to income tax as other income (so-called limited real splitting). An application is required for the deduction; the recipient must have agreed to the application. Since 2010, contributions to health or long-term care insurance for the divorced or permanently separated spouse/life partner are also deductible.

Since 2012, you can deduct private childcare costs as special expenses for children who have not yet reached the age of 14. Two thirds of the expenses are deductible, up to a maximum of € 4,000 per (household) child.

Expenses for the promotion of charitable, benevolent and ecclesiastical purposes as well as contributions to political parties can also be taken into account as special expenses. In addition to many other purposes, the promotion of sport, education, nature conservation or development aid are recognised as charitable purposes.

In principle, donations are deductible up to an amount of 20 percent of the total income of the donor. Special maximum limits apply to donations to political parties. In addition, there is a tax reduction in accordance with § 34g EStG for donations to political parties and independent voters' associations amounting to 50 per cent of the expenditure, up to a maximum of € 825/1,650 each (single persons/spouses).

 

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