As an employee or civil servant, you receive a monthly statement of your salary or remuneration. It contains information about your taxable salary, your wage tax deduction (Lohnsteuerabzug), solidarity surcharge (Solidaritätszuschlag) and any church tax. For employees, social security contributions (Sozialversicherungsbeiträge) are also deducted. This data is summarised annually for the entire calendar year in the electronic income tax statement (elektronische Lohnsteuerbescheinigung). After the end of the calendar year (at the latest by the last day of February of the following year), your employer must, according to § 93c paragraph 1 of the German Fiscal Code (Abgabenordnung), have transmitted your electronic income tax statement to the competent tax authority - the tax office of the place of business - in accordance with the officially prescribed data set. For authentication, he needs a certificate which he applies for in the ElsterOnline portal. At the same time, they must provide you with a printout of your income tax statement.
Note: If your employment relationship ends within the year, you will receive your income tax statement correspondingly earlier. If you were employed by several employers during the year, you will receive an income tax statement for each employment relationship.
Every year, the Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesfinanzministerium) publishes the specifications and models according to which your wage data are transmitted to the tax office (Finanzamt). Most employers use these official forms for:
- Your wage tax registration (Lohnsteuer-Anmeldung) (your employer must register your due wage tax with the tax office and pay it by the 10th of the following month)
- Transmission and printout of your electronic income tax statement (annual balance of your wage account)
- the special income tax statement without automatic payroll accounting (besondere Lohnsteuerbescheinigung ohne maschinelle Lohnabrechnung) (for employers who employ workers in their private household as part-time employment)
Why do I need the income tax statement?
Your income tax statement is an important tax document and your certificate of how much wage tax (Lohnsteuer) you actually paid in the past calendar year. The Income Statement is the basis for your income tax return (Einkommensteuererklärung). Your employer is liable for the correct deduction of wage tax and for the correct certification and transmission of your wage data to the tax authorities.
If you decide to submit your tax return electronically and use, for example, the convenient tax tool from wundertax, you simply take your income tax statement and transfer the data into the appropriate fields.
If you do your tax return in the traditional way with paper tax forms, you do not have to submit the income tax statement together with your tax return. This is because this data is already available to the tax office as so-called e-data through the transmission of your employer. Since 2019, the tax authorities have also waived the requirement for you to transfer the data from your wage tax certificate to Annex N of your tax return. In Annex N, you can therefore concentrate entirely on your deductible income-related expenses (Werbungskosten), e.g. your expenses for commuting to work, work equipment (Arbeitsmittel), maintenance of two households (doppelte Haushaltsführung) and home office days. You enter your social security contributions in the Pension Expenses Annex (Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand). They belong to the special expenses (Sonderausgaben) and reduce your taxable income.
Tax ID and eTIN
Your employer uses your tax identification number (steuerliche Identifikationsnummer) for the electronic transmission of your income tax statement to the tax office. This ID has been issued by the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) since 2008. Every citizen receives one - even newborns receive their identification number by post shortly after birth. It is valid for life and serves to simplify communication in all tax matters.
If your employer does not have your tax ID, he uses the eTIN, which is a classification feature for payroll tax purposes. The eTIN also serves to identify you. It was created in the course of the introduction of the electronic tax return and is formed from your surname, first name and date of birth. The eTIN may only be used until 2022. Then it will be completely replaced by the tax identification number. For your tax return, you need your tax ID (Steuer-ID) or the eTIN so that your competent tax office can assign you. You will find your tax ID or eTIN in the top left-hand corner of your income tax certificate or in your last tax assessment notice.
This is what the income tax statement for 2020 looks like
Here you can find the sample for your income tax statement 2020. The information that the wage tax statement must contain is regulated in § 41b EStG (Einkommensteuergesetz).
In the left-hand column of your certificate, you will find your electronic wage tax deduction characteristics, or ELStAM for short, in addition to the address and tax number of your employer. These characteristics determine the amount of your wage tax deduction and are stored at the Federal Central Tax Office. Since 2013, the ELStAM have replaced the paper wage tax card (Lohnsteuerkarte) and are therefore also referred to as the "electronic wage tax card":
- Name, address and date of birth of the employee
- Your tax identification number (tax ID)
- eTIN (electronic transfer identification number)
- personnel number
- tax class (Steuerklasse)
- Number of child allowances
- Church tax characteristics
- Tax-free annual amount (steuerfreier Jahresbetrag) (if you have applied for tax-free amounts when deducting income tax)
- Additional annual amount (Jahreshinzurechnungsbetrag) (e.g. if you have several low-paid jobs at the same time).
In the right-hand column you will find, among other things, information on:
- Duration of employment
- periods without entitlement to wages (e.g. parental leave (Elternzeit) or unpaid leave of at least five consecutive working days)
- taxable gross wages (Brutto-Arbeitslohn) including taxable benefits in kind (steuerpflichtige Sachbezüge)
- withheld wage tax, church tax and solidarity surcharge
- contributions to statutory pension insurance (gesetzliche Rentenversicherung) and to occupational pension schemes (berufsständische Versorgungseinrichtungen)
- contributions to statutory or private health insurance (gesetzliche oder private Krankenversicherung)
- contributions to social or compulsory nursing care insurance (soziale Pflegeversicherung oder Pflicht-Pflegeversicherung)
- contributions to unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung)
- (seasonal) short-term work benefits (Kurzarbeitergeld), maternity allowance (Mutterschaftsgeld), compensation for loss of earnings under the Infection Protection Act (Verdienstausfallentschädigung nach dem Infektionsschutzgesetz), tax-free top-up amounts and supplements for partial retirement as well as tax-free supplements from your employer to (seasonal) short-term work benefits
- pension payments (e.g. retirement pension or widow's/widower's allowance)
- tax-free employer benefits (e.g. tax-free allowances for travel costs or relocation costs in case of maintaining two households)
- severance pay (Abfindung) or remuneration for several years of work (Vergütung für mehrjährige Tätigkeit) - both if it is taxed in one go and if the fifth method (Fünftelregelung) is applied
Tax tip: You can still apply for the one-fifth method for severance pay in your tax return!
In addition, various capital letters must be shown under number 2 of the certificate for certain conditions:
- Capital letter F: tax-free collective transport to the first place of work
- Capital letter S: the employer has calculated the wage tax from a miscellaneous payment (e.g. Christmas bonus) and has not included the wage from previous employment relationships in the same calendar year
- Capital letter M: if an employee has been provided with meals during an activity away from home or in the context of maintaining two households, these are meals to be assessed as remuneration in kind
- Capital letter FR: for cross-border commuters living in France and working in Germany, e.g. FR2 for employers based in Rhineland-Palatinate
Number 15 in the income tax statement is particularly important in times of Corona and short-term work: Your employer must enter your short-term work benefits and his supplements to the short-term work benefits here, because these benefits are subject to the progression proviso (Progressionsvorbehalt). This also applies to the other wage replacement (Lohnersatzleistungen) benefits entered under item 15.
You can tell from some of the information in your certificate that you are obliged to file a tax return. For example, if the capital letter S has been entered or you have received a severance payment according to the fifth method or you and your spouse have chosen tax classes 3 and 5.
You can find detailed information on the compulsory tax assessment (Pflichtveranlagung) in this article.
Why should I keep my income tax statement?
We recommend that you keep your income tax statements until you retire. It is possible that the calculation of your pension contains errors. In this case, the income tax statements are your proof of the amount and times of your payments - especially in case you no longer have all the social security reports from your entire career. It is best to file your income statement together with the tax assessment for the respective calendar year.