Stay with Scholarship
If your research stay in Germany is based on a scholarship, you may, under certain circumstances, be exempt from taxation under German income tax law. The preconditions for tax exemption on scholarship in Germany are:
- The scholarship is paid from public funds or awarded by a public or non-profit agency (provided that it is recognised under German law) or by international inter- or supra-governmental institutions of which the Federal Republic of Germany is a member.
- The scholarship is awarded for the purpose of promoting research or for academic or artistic educational or professional development.
- The scholarship does not exceed the amount needed to carry out the research task or to cover living expenses/training needs.
- The scholarship is granted in accordance with the regulations of the donor.
- The scholarship does not stipulate quid pro quo or the employment of the recipient.
We recommend you discuss this matter with the organisation that has awarded the scholarship. Furthermore, you should enquire whether the scholarship paid in Germany is subject to taxation in your own country.
Stay with Employment Contract
If your research stay is based on an employment contract in Germany and will last more than 6 months, your globally earned income and assets will, as a rule, be subject to taxation in Germany.
Your employer, the university, will deduct income tax (equivalent to tax on wages) from your salary at source and pay it to the tax authorities. The amount of the tax depends on factors such as income, marital status and tax class.
Any person registered in or subject to taxation in Germany is assigned a tax ID number for tax purposes. You will receive this number by post within a few days of registering at the Residents' Registration Office or Immigration Office. It is valid for life.
Citing your tax ID number and your date of birth, your employer will contact the tax authorities to request what is called your ELSTAM information, i.e. the information required to calculate the correct tax deduction. You can refer to your income tax statement to view your current ELSTAM data.
Double Taxation Agreement
In order to avoid a situation in which foreigners are liable to pay tax both in Germany and in their own countries, double taxation agreements have been concluded with many countries. They regulate in which country you have to pay tax.
The "Finanzamt Düsseldorf-Süd" is the tax office to contact about matters relating to double taxation for employees of the University of Duisburg-Essen. This office will review your application and confirm your tax class. If you have any other questions, please contact the "Finanzamt Düsseldorf-Süd" for advice.
Please find out if you are required to file a tax return.
At the end of each calendar year, you may apply for an income tax adjustment (“Lohnsteuerausgleich”) at your local tax office. This may entitle you to a partial refund of the tax you have paid. The necessary documents can be obtained online from the Federal Ministry of Finance or your local tax office (“Finanzamt”) or town hall (“Rathaus”). You can also file your tax electronically, using a system called ELSTER (“elektronische Lohnsteuererklärung”).
If you have already returned home, you have the option of filing your tax return from your own country. It should be filed with your former local tax office by 31 May, but no later than 31 December of the following calendar year.
Often, it is worth paying a tax accountant to help you complete your tax return.
An unusual feature of the German tax system is its state-collected Church Tax. Under certain circumstances, religious communities can have the tax authorities collect Church Tax on their behalf. In the case of the major churches, the state collects Church Tax (8-9 percent of your Income Tax) together with Income Tax by deducting it directly from your monthly salary. This is why you are asked to state your religious affiliation when you register at the Residents' Registration Office or Immigration Office. Please enquire at the Residents' Registration Office whether Church Tax applies to you.
Help and Documents
Useful information on taxation in Germany
Visit the website of the Federal Ministry of Finance for a list of the countries that have signed double taxation agreements with Germany.
On the website of the Finanzamt Düsseldorf-Süd you will find further information about taxes and contact details.
The Tax Information Centre of the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern offers a hotline for questions concerning taxes in Germany.