Saturday, May 30, 2009

German tax forms for the employed / angestellte

Here are the two forms the tax office / Finanzamt on Mehringdamm told me I needed to fill out as a full-time employee without any other income:

The general tax information form

Anlage N

The general tax information form, 2008ESt1A, has 4 pages.

The Anlage N, 2008AnIN, is only 3 pages. And since I didn't have anything to write-off: no car, no business trips, no home office, no double households, I really just filled out half of the first page.

I found the Anlage N quite easy to fill out. To make things simple, Anlage N refers to specific lines on your tax statement / Lohnsteuerbescheinigung, which is the equivalent of the American W-2 form.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

German Tax Vocabulary Glossary

Verdienstabrechnung = salary statement

Bruttogehalt = gross salary

Gesamtbrutto = gross total
Steuerbrutto, laufende Bezuege = gross tax / regular pay
Lohnsteuer aus monatlichen Bezuegen = monthly salary tax
Solidaritaetszuschlag = solidarity charges for rebuilding East Germany
Rentenversicherungsbrutto = gross pension insurance; amount of your salary that is used for the rest of the calculations related to your insurance
Rentenversicherung = pension insurance fund
Arbeitslosenversicherung = unemployment insurance

Freiwillige Krankenversicherung = health insurance
Freiwillige Pflegeversicherung = longterm care insurance

Auszahlungsbetrag = what you put in your pocket

Anlage AUS = tax form for foreign income declaration

Anlage N = salary income in Germany

Saturday, April 4, 2009

German Tax Help

People have told me to go to the Finanzamt in my district and ask for help filling out all the forms. I only wish that ELSTER, the German e-filing site, was available in English.

But in case they don't help me, I plan to ask for help at two local tax help groups: the Lohnsteuer-Beratung Berlin or the Lohnsteuerhilfe Berlin-Brandenburg.

The Lohnsteuer-Beratung Berlin has online information in English and, according to Toytown's boards, has English-speaking tax preparers. The flat cost is 92.33 € a year and 12.67 € entrance fee for the first year, so the total for this year's tax return would be 105 €.

The Lohnsteuerhilfe Berlin-Brandenburg only has information in German on its website, but the cost seems to be on an attractively-priced sliding scale. Since I only worked in Germany since August, my 2008 taxable income is quite low, and the cost for me would be 56 euros + 8 euros for the entrance fee, so the total would be 64 euros...unless they include the money I made in the US for 2008...

After my visit to the Finanzamt, I will first try ELSTER with an online translation tool before asking for professional help.

American Taxes Filed!


Today I finally filed my taxes after two weeks of research and playing around with Turbo Tax. After this, I feel like I could be a tax preparer!

In my personal case, filing the the foreign tax credit, Form 1116, would have given me a tax liablity, whereas filing the foreign income exclusion, Form 2555, I got a small refund. So try it both ways! Even though the general wisdom I have seen is that the foreign income exclusion usually lessens your tax liability than the foreign tax credit.

I found a great great article from a professional tax expert about the Foreign Tax Credit. He explains the form in simple terms, using an example to fill it out. The site on which I found it is ACA, American Citizens Abroad, and they have a host of practical articles on taxes and other bureaucracy.

Now I just have to prepare my German taxes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paperwork for Renting an Apartment: the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung

One of the documents you need to rent an apartment is the mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung from your last landlord, proving that you paid your rent on time.

Instead of buying a standard form from a stationery store (as shown above), ask your landlord to copy my example below and fill in the blanks as they apply to your case:

Landlord's name
Landlord's address

City, date

Betreff: Bescheinigung zur Mietschuldenfreiheit

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

hiermit bestätige ich, dass your name ab dem day. month year an der o.g. Adresse gewohnt hat und regelmäßig pünktlich den Mietzins vollständig entrichtet hat.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Landlord's signature

Landlord's name

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Comdirect Changed their Mind!

Someone called me from Comdirect on Monday and told me that they will open my account as soon as I send them the W-9 from the IRS, the Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification. Because I have the possibility of opening a securities account with Comdirect, they may have to report my earnings to the IRS.

Yes, German bureaucracy, I will fill it out!

They will open my account immediately, and I should receive my cards and passwords in the mail in a week. So opening an online checking account with Comdirect has taken me approximately a month and a half. Of course, it took me a while to gather all my documents to fax them. But still, it was not as easy as applying for an America-based online checking account, which takes all of 20 minutes.

Hopefully, everything goes well, and I still get my sign-up bonus!

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Findings on American Taxes

Even if I qualified for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, my investment income would not be excluded. I have to report income, earned or through investment, made anywhere in the world. If my investment income is greater than $1500, then I need to file Schedule B.

If the German tax I pay is more than the American tax I should have paid, then that excess could be credited back against my American tax payment (for example, when I move back to the States).
If I were single and had gross income of less than $8200, then I am not required to file, no matter where I lived.

Unfortunately, I make a bit more than that. So I should file the 1040, then claim a credit / deduction for my German income tax paid via the foreign tax credit form. I think.

To get more clarity, I ordered Publication 54, Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, from the IRS. Free delivery to Germany!