Submission by January 31: help, property tax return! This is how you survive the bureaucratic madness

Anyone who has an income usually has to pay income tax.

Submission by January 31: help, property tax return! This is how you survive the bureaucratic madness

Anyone who has an income usually has to pay income tax. And if you own a property, you have to pay property tax. It's as simple as that – at least in theory. But because the old property tax is unconstitutional, it must now be recalculated for all properties in Germany. This is an immense effort: According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, 36 million properties and partial properties are affected.

For all of these 36 million houses, apartments, garages or wooded areas, the owners now have to submit a declaration to the tax office to determine the value of the property. This can get on your nerves: Since the tax authorities made the forms available at the beginning of July, owners have been desperate to fill them out, as numerous calls for help in online forums show.

Originally, the deadline for submitting the property tax return was October 31, 2022. But because filling out the digital forms is complicated for laypersons, the deadline was extended to January 31, 2023 without further ado. Shortly before Christmas, however, less than half of the property tax returns due had been received by the tax authorities. If you haven't made it yet, you have to hurry up.

What is to be considered? Here are the answers to the most important questions.

Anyone who owned a property on January 1, 2022. This not only affects people with a house or an undeveloped property, but also apartment owners. Because they own partial ownership of the land on which their apartment is located. And since a property tax return must be submitted for every "economic unit", every condominium is also affected.

The tax office at the location of the property is responsible (not at the place of residence, if that differs). A submission in paper form is generally not intended and is only possible in justified exceptional cases. To do this, you should contact the responsible tax office by telephone.

In principle, the declaration can be submitted electronically at elster.de, the portal of the tax administration. If you are not yet registered there, you should do so soon, as you then have to wait for the activation letter – and only then can you fill out the declaration.

In the eleven federal states that use the so-called federal model, you can also use the free website "Property tax declaration for private property" without an Elster account. This simplified service can only be used by private individuals. All owners in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse and Lower Saxony must use Elster.

It depends on which state the property is in, as the rules are not uniform. The file number or the tax number for the property tax is required everywhere. These can be found on the last property tax notice or in the letter with which the tax office informed you about the property tax return. You also need a number of land register data. Anyone who can no longer find their extract from the land register must apply for a new one or check whether the required information is made available online.

In the eleven federal states that use the federal model, you also have to state the type of property (e.g. single-family house), year of construction, living and usable space, number of garages and parking spaces and the standard land value. The standard land value can be found on the Boris page.

Less data is sufficient in five federal states: In Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse and Lower Saxony, the only additional data required is the living/usable area. In Baden-Württemberg you have to enter the standard land value instead.

First of all, the states themselves offer a number of online guides that can be found by googling. If you don't get along with the forms, filling aids and explanatory videos from the tax offices, you have several options.

As always, the most expensive is the tax consultant, who can of course also take over the property tax return, but will probably cost a three-digit amount. In this case, the cheaper alternative wage tax assistance association is not available, as the associations are not legally allowed to take care of the property tax.

The established tax software providers, who have developed their own programs for the property tax return, offer fee-based technical assistance, which costs 15 to 30 euros. The Finanztip consumer portal offers detailed, free help to fill in the form for Elster.

If you only knew. Politicians have promised that the new regulation should not be a general tax increase, so that the state does not want to take in more than before (currently it is 15 billion euros per year). But for the individual, the recalculation can result in a significantly higher or lower property tax.

The formula for the calculation is: property tax value x tax index x assessment rate = property tax. The tax office determines the property tax value based on the data submitted. The tax index is set by law. And the tax rate is determined by the responsible city or municipality. However, this can still change, as the municipalities only want to commit to possible changes by 2024. Because the new property tax has to be paid from 2025 – only then will the new values ​​take effect. Until then, the old calculation still applies.

Tenants do not have to fill out a property tax return, that is the responsibility of the owner. From 2025, however, tenants will also be affected by the consequences of the property tax reform. Because landlords can pass on the property tax to the tenants as part of the operating costs.

Sources and further information: Federal Ministry of Finance / Grundsteuerreform.de (overview of the federal states) / Elster / House Owners' Association

The article first appeared on 8/21/22 and was updated on 12/23/22

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