Now, the party really starts...
So, you have gone through the process of getting started as a freelancer in Berlin , how the German tax year differs from your home country and what is due when and of course, you have a pretty strong idea what it takes to be Keeping the Finanzamt Happy . Well, we assume you have and if you haven’t be sure to head to those links above to make sure you do know - as we are about to head into some much deeper subject matter.
In Germany, it is often noted by expats that the system relies much less on taxpayers being able to use electronic systems for taxation management. Many users from the UK, US or Australia are also used to very simple, one page tax declarations that are inclusive of both added tax declarations and yearly tax declarations. However, here in Germany, there is a much different process. The government has a portal called ELSTER (ELektronische STeuerERklaerung = electronic tax return). Since its release in 1999, there are many other electronic platforms with which you can use to generate tax summaries. We are going to explore ELSTER in this article however, as it is the most comprehensive and direct way for individuals to submit their filings. The submission of filings are extensive protocols, and forthcoming on the Kontist blog will be more in depth and step-by-step processes to do this. In this article, we will explore the initial points of familiarisation with the tool that are highly necessary as foundational knowledge.
Of course, this process can be particularly daunting for non-English speakers - indeed. Often it can be hard enough to navigate a dinner order, let alone a highly nuanced system of specific terms and nation-centric taxation rules. That said, if you are serious about your freelancer future here in Germany and committed to managing your own tax affairs diving right into ELSTER is likely going to be the best in terms of creating a galvanised knowledge of the systems and the language relating to them. The other benefit of ELSTER is that is is free. Some people make take issue with a seemingly clunky interface, but that extraction of information is very thorough and lends itself to submitting a comprehensive, mistake free tax returns. You may not think you need this foundational knowledge, in which case, you would be surprised to hear stalwart expat freelancers stating they wish they had taken the time to fully understand what the system is, its purpose and things you will need readily available. These are the keys to building a knowledge bank, and staying compliant with tax laws and regulations at all times, and you’ll find the foundational knowledge brings you a much more successful, stress-free and efficient result.