3 Min.

What are Special Expenses (Sonderausgaben)?

One of the most popular terms in tax law is special expenses (Sonderausgaben). Special expenses include various costs of things that you buy in private life. However, unless they are income-related expenses or operating costs, these expenses reduce the tax that you are required to pay. There is a wide perspective when it comes to issues of special expenses in tax law, which can matter look more complicated. Here is a deeper look into the topic for better understanding.

What are special expenses (Sonderausgaben)?

In principle, special expenses can only be claimed on your tax return if they were incurred for personal use and cannot be deducted as income related expenses. These expenses can only be claimed during the tax year in which they occurred.

Special expenses can be divided into 2 categories: Provident expenses (Vorsorgeaufwendungen) & other special expenses.

Provident expenses

Provident expenses (Vorsorgeaufwendungen) include, but are not limited to, costs for retirement provisions, supplementary pensions, other pension expenses such as basic and nursing care insurance, and contributions to the Riester pensions. These contributions can be claimed on your tax return.

Other provident expenses include:

  • Statutory retirement contributions
  • Agricultural insurance
  • Professional care insurance
  • Rürup pensions
  • Statutory health insurance
  • Private health insurance
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Employment and disability insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Riester pensions

Other special expenses

Some examples of other special expenses include:

  • Alimony payments
  • Church tax
  • Childcare costs
  • Costs for your or your spouse’s vocational training
  • Tuition fees
  • Donations

Sonderausgaben in der Steuererklärung ansetzen

Lump Sum (Pauschale)

There is a general lump sum for special expenses which currently amounts to 36 euros for singles and 72 euros for married couples filing a joint tax return. This lump sum is automatically taken into account by the tax office, meaning it doesn’t have to be applied for separately.

In order to benefit from this lump sum you have to file an income tax return. In order to claim expenses exceeding the lump sum, you should indicate them individually on your tax return and provide proof if necessary with supporting documents.

Church Tax (Kirchensteuer)

Church tax is deductible as a special expenses. This includes church tax that is paid forward from your salary by your employer and church tax paid in a religiously diverse marriage.

Initial Educational Expenses (Erstausbildung)

Up to 6,000 euros per calendar year can be claimed for initial education expenses. This can include:

  • Tuition fees
  • Course fees
  • School fees
  • Literature
  • Study materials
  • Travel expenses
  • Printing costs

The general deduction is 30 % of the tuition fees in a recognised private school in Germany, EU and EEA countries. The maximum special expenses are limited to €5,000 a year per child.

Donations (Spenden)

Donations are voluntary benefits that are given to charities, relief organisations, but also to political parties or independent voters' associations. Income tax donations are also tax-deductible