If the refund is lower than you thought or you are even obliged to pay more money, the feelings of shock and horror can be great. However, sometimes errors sneak into the tax notice (Steuerbescheid). Read this article to find out what you can do about it.
What exactly does such a tax notice look like?
The basic structure of a tax notice is always the same. First of all, the letter provides information on whether it is a provisional (vorläufig) or final (endgültig) tax notice. A provisional disclosure (Vorläufigkeitsvermerk) is usually applied if no corresponding court decision has yet been announced concerning a tax law issue.
In due course, the tax liability of the citizen is listed. This is determined by the tax office. The tax liability is divided into income tax (Einkommensteuer), solidarity surcharge (Solidaritätszuschlag) and, if applicable, church tax (Kirchensteuer).
The last section, the "Explanatory Notes" (Erläuterungen), explains how the tax office came to its decision.
Always check your tax assessment
It is estimated that every fifth to seventh tax notice contains errors so it is not unlikely that your own notice also contains errors. Look at the agent's explanations which can reveal which items have been recognised and which have not. You can see at which points the tax office deviated from the stated data. However, in general, numerical typos or wrong commas can have serious consequences.
If an error has crept in or you do not agree with the explanations of the taxman, there are several ways in Germany that enable you to challenge the tax notice.
Raise an objection (Einspruch einlegen)
After receiving the tax notice, you have one month to file an appeal. First of all, writing an informal letter that informs the tax office, even without mentioning any reasons, that an objection has been made is sufficient. Later, this letter can also be withdrawn without fear of consequences.
Appeals must always be made in writing. This is governed by Paragraph 357 (1) AO (Abgabenordnung). It must be possible to deduce from the letter who lodges an appeal. This means that you need to clearly write down your name and address.
The legal route
An objection can be granted and will then be amended accordingly or it will be rejected on justification. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can take a lawyer and go to the tax court.
The task of the Finanzgericht (Federal Finance Court) is to decide in the first instance on all complaints against tax authorities in tax and customs matters. In addition, the financial court also adjudicates on disputes when it comes to child support.
Note: If a particular issue is still unclear, it is advisable to apply in writing for the "Ruhe des Verfahrens". It is referred to an ongoing procedure of the Federal Finance Court with the file number. As soon as the Federal Finance Court has decided, you will receive a letter from your tax office. It will state how the verdict has been cancelled and the tax notice will be adjusted.
What to do if there is a back payment? (Steuernachzahlung)
If the going gets tough, the required amount should be transferred first, even if the result is still open. This is especially advisable when dealing with smaller amounts. The background is that interest is still being charged on the amount if, for example, an objection is not granted. They can also avoid missed payments.
By the way, if you have applied for "Aussetzung der Vollziehung", the required amount does not have to be transferred for the time being until the case has been clarified. This variant is helpful when it comes to very large sums.