Deadline: Is there the perfect time to file your tax return?

This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days.

Deadline: Is there the perfect time to file your tax return?

This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days. Afterwards it will only be available to read at Like stern, Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

If taxpayers are hoping for a tax refund from the tax office, they can now get started with their declaration for 2023: Since the end of February, the tax office has had data from employers, health insurers, pension funds and other third parties. Taxpayers can now access and adopt these, at least if they submit their return online with a tax program or use the tax administration's Elster portal.

“That’s really practical,” says tax advisor Martin Schöning. “Taxpayers then only have to add their tax-reducing costs so that a tax refund is within reach.” The effort to fill everything out carefully can be well worth it: Most recently, employees received an average of 1,095 euros back.

But if you now dare to go straight to the declaration and submit it immediately, you may have to expect that the responsible clerks will take a little more time than usual. This is due to the growth opportunity law. This contains incentives to encourage companies to invest more and innovate. But it also includes some new tax rules, most of them for 2024, but some also for the 2023 tax year.

The Bundestag had already passed the Growth Opportunities Act in mid-November. However, the Federal Council blocked the law, so it had to go to the mediation committee. Now a slimmed down version is up for vote. This is scheduled for March 22nd.

Whether the Federal Council gives its OK this time depends on the CDU and CSU union. It makes its approval dependent on the withdrawal of a measure that is not included in this legislative package: the abolition of agricultural diesel subsidies. Until no agreement is reached in the legislative process, tax offices could postpone processing the 2023 tax returns. “Many tax officials will probably leave the tax returns they have received until April,” says tax expert Schöning. "There are still some questions unanswered."

Hopefully there will be answers and decisions by the time the first taxpayers have to submit their tax return for 2023. But who does the tax obligation actually affect? The majority of taxpayers have no choice. The tax office suspects that they do not yet know their income and that taxes are outstanding or that their advance payments were set too low overall. This includes, among others, traders and self-employed people, but also employees who earn something on the side or who are taxed with a factor according to tax classes 5, 6 or 4. The tax office definitely wants a tax return from you.

The general deadline for everyone who has to submit has been postponed several times in recent years. Compared to the previous year, it has now slipped forward by a month. The tax return for 2023 must be received by the tax office by Monday, September 2, 2024 at the latest. This applies at least to all obligated persons who take care of themselves. If you prepare your tax return with the help of a tax consultancy office or a tax assistance association, you will have longer. In this case, the deadline for submission is June 2, 2025. Only in exceptional cases can the tax office request an earlier submission.

“Those who are not obliged to file but rather file voluntarily can approach their tax return more calmly,” says tax advisor Schöning. You can still settle accounts with the tax office up to four years later: For the tax year 2023, the deadline is December 31, 2027. Accordingly, voluntary filers can still submit their tax return for 2020 until the end of 2024.

Open laws, different deadlines: the perfect time for filing a tax return is individual. Taxpayers don't need to rush too early, but they shouldn't take too much time either - the tax office monitors deadlines closely.

If you want to submit your tax return later than specified, you can apply informally to the responsible tax office, ideally with an alternative submission date. “Tax officials only grant extensions of deadlines in justified exceptional cases,” explains Martin Schöning. “The delay must not be your own fault.” Reasons such as illness, longer stays abroad or outstanding documents may be considered.

If the tax office agrees to the later date, it will not respond to the application at all. It usually tacitly agrees. It usually only responds to an application for an extension of the deadline if it rejects it or brings forward the later submission date requested by the taxpayer. If documents are still missing, the tax office can, in case of doubt, issue a provisional decision and correct it subsequently.