Best tax declaration and return software 2023 for expats in Germany

The fastest way to do your taxes in Germany without speaking German. A review of Taxfix, Wiso, Smartsteuer, Wundertax, Sorted.


This post was last updated on January 24, 2023
View of an office laptop background with a metallic pen and a Tax Time note pad reminder attached to it

Who has to file a tax declaration in Germany?

The deadline for the tax declaration (Steuererklärung) for the fiscal year 2022 is the 2. October 2023 source. Tax declarations done with the help of a tax consultant can be submitted by the 31. July 2024. The tax declaration has to be submitted to your local Finanzamt. Use Finanzamt Suche to find your responsible tax authority.

A tax declaration is mandatory in the following cases:

Employees don't have to do a tax declaration in Germany unless they received benefits that count as Entgeltersatzleistungen. These include:

  • Unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld) but not Hartz4.
  • Short time allowance (Kurzarbeitergeld).
  • Parental allowance (Elterngeld).
  • Sick pay (Krankengeld) is paid by your health insurer.
  • Compensation for loss of earnings due to Corona.

A more complete list of benefits that have to be declared is here.

Self-employed have to do a yearly tax declaration.

Capital gains from German banks or traders are usually directly submitted to the Finanzamt.

Rental income from assets in Germany has to be filed.

Other incomes might have to be declared as well.

Employees might get some tax back and usually profit from handing in a tax declaration (Steuererklärung).

How to file your tax returns in Germany

These are your options to file your taxes:

  1. Use tax software. This article is reviewing the best tax software, including online services.
  2. Join a tax club (Steuerverein). This only works for income tax for employees.
  3. Use a tax consultant. Recommended for self-employed who have to pay business tax and value-added tax but not necessarily for small businesses (Kleinunternehmer) which might do as well with tax software. A list of tax consultants can be found on www.steuerberater.de.
  4. Use the official free Elster software. This software is only available in German and is not as convenient to use as most of the other tax software in this article. I do not recommend this option unless you know what you are doing.

What files do I have to submit to the tax authority in Germany?

You can submit your files online via tax software or tax online service. No paperwork is requested and you don't need to hand in any invoices or other files beforehand but the tax authority might request some files afterward as proof.

You need a certificate from the tax authority to submit your tax return. This can be requested through the official Elster software and takes several days. We point out some tax services in this article that handle this for you or can do without.

German tax software in English for freelancers and employees

Wundertax

Wundertax says that doing the taxes with their service only takes 17 minutes on average and you can try it for free with no upfront costs and only pay when submitting the tax declaration.

Website: *www.wundertax.de

Price: starting at 35.- Euro for one tax declaration.

  • ✅ English support.
  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required source.
  • ✅ Suitable for small businesses and freelancers.
  • ✅ For employees.
  • ✅ For students.
  • ⛔️ The software calculated a wrong tax return in a 2022 test but Wundertax claims that the error has since then been fixed source.

Sorted

Sorted aims to be a complete solution for small businesses which includes features like registering a new business, and invoicing and you can speak to one of their tax consultants against an additional fee for more complex situations.

Website: www.getsorted.de

Price: starting at 98.- Euro per year

  • ✅ English support.
  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required source.
  • ✅ Suitable for small businesses and freelancers.
  • ✅ Businesses with international clients.
  • ✅ For employees.
  • ✅ For married partners with children.
  • ✅ Registering at the tax authority is possible.
  • ✅ You can do your invoicing through Sorted.
  • ✅ You can speak to a tax consultant for an additional fee.
  • ⛔️ Mixed reviews about their customer support: it took Sorted weeks to answer my request submitted through their websites chat (I am not a customer) but other expats like their service source.
  • ⛔️ Business tax declaration (Gewerbesteuer) is not included in the starter package and costs extra.
  • ⛔️ Income from other countries is not included in the starter package and costs extra.

Steuergo

Steuergo offers a clear interface and is available in English and many Eastern European languages.

A tablet with the Steuergo website user dashboard

Website: *www.steuergo.de

Price: starting at 35.- Euro for one tax declaration

  • ✅ English support.
  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to submit taxes source.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to fetch data from the tax authority source.
  • ✅ For married partners with children.
  • ✅ For self-employed and freelancers source.
  • ✅ Good reviews source.

Smartsteuer

Smartsteuer is a relatively complete online tax service and has English forms and support.

Website: *www.smartsteuer.de

Price: starting at 40.- Euro per year for five tax declarations

The interface of the Smartsteuer tax software
  • ✅ English support.
  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to submit taxes source.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to fetch data from the tax authority source.
  • ✅ For married partners with children.
  • ✅ For self-employed and freelancers.
  • ✅ Customer support answered my question in a day.
  • ✅ Among the best English tax software in a Finanztip review.

Best overall tax software in the German language

I personally use the Wiso web version to file my taxes. It has a very clear user interface and tips to fill out the forms. Where possible sensitive values are preset or there is an autocomplete for fields.

In my opinion Wiso web is the best and most complete solution for anybody who understands sufficient German and doesn't mind the occasional Google search to find out what goes where.

Website: *www.buhl.de

Price: starting at 36.- Euro per year

The interface of the Wiso tax software displaying a form
  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices but has dedicated Mac and Windows versions.
  • ✅ Very comprehensive.
  • ✅ Nice forms with autocomplete.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to submit taxes source.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to fetch data from the tax authority source.
  • ✅ For married partners with children.
  • ✅ Customer support answered my question in a day.
  • ✅ Full support for self-employed and freelancers.
  • ✅ Very good reviews.
  • ✅ Free option to get relevant data directly from your German bank account.
  • ✅ Great customer support by phone, also on Saturdays.
  • ✅ Check by a real person is possible, automatic plausibility check by the software is included.
  • ⛔️ German language only

Register for the *Wiso web version here.

Options if I want to speak to an expert

Employees can join a tax club (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) where a person can help them fill out their income tax returns. Search the website of the federal association of tax clubs to find a tax club near you.

A local tax consultant (Steuerberater) can be found at www.steuerberater.de. A Steuerberater is not cheap but recommended for self-employed with substantial revenue and who have to pay business and value-added tax. The fees are regulated so you can use this tax consultant fee calculator to get an idea of the costs.

Zasta

Zasta is a less expensive option if you want to speak to a tax consultant but want to go through an app. Zasta does unfortunately not work for self-employed.

Website: www.zasta.de

Price: starting at 50.- Euro for a tax consultant session

  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ Tax calculation in 3 minutes.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to submit taxes source.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to fetch data from the tax authority source.
  • ✅ For married partners with children.
  • ⛔️ German language only.
  • ⛔️ Not for self-employed.

ExpressSteuer

ExpressSteuer is for employees only and is an easy way to let a real tax consultant do your tax declaration. The fee is 20% of your tax return. Answer a few questions and let their software estimate the amount of your tax return. You can then decide to continue with a tax consultant.

Website: *www.expresssteuer.de

Price: 20% of your tax return.

  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ Tax declaration is done by a real person.
  • ⛔️ German language only.
  • ⛔️ Not for self-employed.

German tax declaration for students

Steuererklärung Student

This is the service for you if you are a student and want to get taxes based on your study costs back. This works retrospectively for 4 years. Steuererklärung Student is only for students.

Website: *www.steuererklaerung-student.de

Price: starting at 35.- Euro per tax return

  • ✅ No installation, works on all devices.
  • ✅ Plausibility check.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to submit taxes source.
  • ✅ No Elster certificate is required to fetch data from the tax authority source.
  • ✅ Receipt checklist.
  • ⛔️ German language only.

Prices last checked 03. January 2023. Prices are not guaranteed. Please check the websites for prices.

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