How to easily file your German taxes

How to easily file your German taxes

Welcome to the world of the international adult. It is not just struggling to hold a full time job, speak a second laguage and naivgating oneself through a new culture, but also the joy of filing taxes in this world.

but no fear! the German tax system is rather easy to get through and with an average of 1.000 euro returns

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…it is definitly worth the hassle.

So sit back, relax, and let your friendly neighborhood expat guide you on the easy peasy tax return route

 

How to do your German Tax Return ( Steuererklärung)

First things first, make sure you have your Lohnsteuerbescheinigung ( tax summary, like a W2)  handy and have downloaded the latest copy of Elster

Ok, FYI there are ways to do your taxes by hand, however in this day and age I prefer the online option. Elster (ELektronische STeuerERklärung) is basically the dream tool.

Regarding this I have gathered for you a great guide:

  1. Print out the forms
  2. Sign
  3. locate a post office.
  4. Send them to your local Finanzamt
  5. Done!

Via the Elster method, it usually takes 1-2 months for processing to happen. However, you will have given them your bank data so one day your refund will automatically pop up in your account and voila! time to treat yo self

 

But but Aspen, my German isnt tax preparation reaadyyyyy

no fear kleines mäuschen, if you are not quite up to the challenege I would recomend you check out Steuergo .  This online tax assistance platform is directed towards expats and all in english ( yeehoo!)

but if you are a freelancer or have a bit more complicated tax situation I would recomend you see a Steuerberater. A Steuerberater is a tax preparer. Here in Germany it usually cost a couple hundred euros to enroll in their services, but they are very good at optimizing your return amount and naturally if you have a business, home, large family, multiple sources of income it can be in your best interest to have a profesional guide you along the German tax system.

You can easily search for a steuerberater by googling one in your zip code. There are always so many options, so it is not a tricky task.

 

 

Questions? Answers.

When is the tax deadline in Germany?

The deadline is May 31. However, if you missed it or were not able to find the time, extensions can easily be made. Also, in the German system, as an employee,  you are able to file your taxes from the previous four years. So if you miss out you can always do it next year without a penalty.

When will I get my money back?

I have been told typical procesing time is around 8-12 weeks ( or in some cases even 3 months) but if you have filed your taxes online this usually helps to speed up the process.

 

 

 

Moving to Germany, 2 years later

Moving to Germany, 2 years later

As many people have asked, and continually do so, I have finally decided to sit down and answer a why German post. Coming from Hawaii to Munich always seems to baffle people in conversation, and when the initial shock is over questions about the expat experience come up.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in California, raised in Hawaii and then moved back to Cali for a couple years for college. I would say Im not from either 100% but a good solid west coast mix.

 

What made you decide to move away from the US?

Have you ever been to California or Hawaii? paradise. ok you got me. However, economically it is a disaster.  At some point I found myself beginning to get trapped under mounds of debt and realized that having no health insurence was not a way I wanted to live my life. I was in dire need of some stability. So I packed my bags and searched for a new home with more opportunities and benefits.

 

How did you decide on settling in Munich?

I initially did some test runs in my search for a new home. I had some time in Geneva, Paris and London, but all the while I had a nack for visiting Munich and eventually fell in love with it.

 

Do you have family or live alone?

Most of my family is gone now ( one of the major reasons I left America) However, I did start out in Munich as an aupair but now I am a full fledged adult and live alone. On occasion I will visit my German family so I cannot say I am entirely out here alone and roughing it.

 

Was it easy making friends or adjusting to the culture?

HAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Oh boy is this the question. I could write a thesis on this bad boy, and have probably verbally done so many times. The German culture – in contrast to American- is a very hard nut to crack. In America it is easy to walk out and talk to any old Joe on the street and build an ever lasting friendship eventually. but no, not here. Germans are very reserved and very exclusive. You meet people basically only through other people and if you cant speak German at all it can be very difficult. I mean I must admit I have heard Munich is extra difficult regarding this and if I was in another city it may be easier..but I chose the hard route. All in all I cannot fully complain though, in a way I really appreciate it a bit more in comparison to the over friendly American style. I find here when you actually can get into a social circle, the friends you make tend to be far more loyal and valuable.

How do you cope with homesickness?

In all honesty I do not have so much homesickness as Munich feels to me more like a home than any other place I have previously lived. Sometimes though, when Ive had a hard day or want to cry from studying the language I will go get a Starbucks. It may be over price, under quality coffee but it does taste the same in every country.

 

How long did it take to learn German?

This is a pretty reletive question. First things first, German is extremely hard. Most expats I have met tend to avoid learning it. They find when everyone here speaks english it doesnt make so much sense but also I takes a loooootttttt of work and investment.  I was lucky. I chose to start my Munich transition as an aupair so I had some good time in between working hours to hunker down and focus on studying. I did sacrfice a lot of my free time to catch up from a life of single language living and many a times cried because learning German grammar is a night mare. Now I am about a B2 ( just under native speaker) my comprehension is about perfect but since I work in english my speaking is not soooo ideal.

 

Do you feel at home yet?

For the most part I can answer this yes. In my first year it was really hard and I often felt very alone and reminded I did not belong. I did not know the city well and was very shocked by the culture. Going into my second year ( and once I learned German) I began to feel more at ease. Now that the second year is nearly over I can say I am very well settled. I have a perfect flat, job, my language skills are blooming, the social situation is..almost solved.. all in all I am just about as cozy and content as an expat could be. I’ve come to find that calling somewhere home is not about being happy because everything alway being perfect, its about feeling happy when nothing is going right. It is always a struggle in some way or other to make it here but at the end of the day I find it always works out well for me. Some way or another.

Playing about Paris

Playing about Paris

What better way to begin your first eurotrip than with a trip to Paris?

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and no no, I’m no spring chicken when it comes to the euro game, but my Californian cousin S sure is. She planned to finally get out of the country with a three week trip to stay with me, and naturally we had to plan to do some traveling elsewhere.

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As  I have ( or havent) previously mentioned, I used to live in Paris. So for me, it was more of a revisiting my youth.

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but onward to the trip. It started out great, we even made a friend on the plane

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When we arrived in Paris it was sunny and divine. We met up with my friend N from London

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Pose pit stop

and headed straight to the Parisian Paradise that is LadurĂŠe

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my happy place

We had a marvelous afternoon tea and were in Macaron heaven

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take away treasures

We unfortunately were only in Paris for two days, so the rest of the time we ran around doing all the splendid touristy things and sight seeing.

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We ran around all the major monuments,

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Notre Dames

strolled by the Sein

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a little pop by the Moulin Rouge

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and ate in far too many cafes

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So many decisions, so little time

I must admit, I really do love the culture in that city. It can be very difficult at times(a reason I didnt stay) but as a visitor its nice to see how everyone moves so casually and in their own way. They seem to do what they want, when they want and dont care otherwise. The cafe life is much different as well.

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late nights in Montmartre

Going out is about spending time with people, not a focus on the eating itself. You enjoy your company, the view, the time. Theres no pressure or rush to do anything else but enjoy yourself.

Although our trip was brief, it was grand. And the perfect european introduction for S.

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Paris 101: Bread is life

As for me, I will be back very soon… as my macaron stash is getting low

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Laduree all day

 

 

Talkin bout Tel Aviv

Talkin bout Tel Aviv

Welcome to the  curiously cool city by the sea

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Oh, the bluemanity

Now I say curious because to be honest I do not know why I fell so quickly head over heels for this small, extremely expensive, not-so-aesthetic bauhaus city …but ohhh baby am I now in deep.

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bike city bitch, bike bike city bitch

To be honest I have so much enthusiasm right now that  I just have to break it down for you list style. So here are my tip of the top 5’s

  1.  Tel Aviv is small, Tel aviv is Big

It’s Incredibly small. I think between my explorations and running the half marathon I have the city basically all mapped out.

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toto we arent in western Europe anymore

It has a feel like Munich, where it has everything you need  for a city but at the same time all the conviences and social comforts of a small town atmosphere.

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Never ending hazy skys over the city

but then again I say big because once you are really out you can feel its strong heart and soul.In the evenings or late afternoons, the people start coming out and the bars and cafes are crowded with lights and laughter.

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It feels so exciting but so comfortable, and it seems everyone is always bumping into someone they know

 

 

3. The beach, the glorious, fabulouuuus beach

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Beach, please

Coming from freezing winter wonderland that is Bavaria, I was probably most excited by the heat of Tel Aviv. It was only around 20-25 degrees but the sunlight hit you just right.

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Cash me at the Carousel, Howbowdah

 

All around adults and children alike were playing sports, in the water, cruisin about

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or just soaking up sun.

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We were able to relax in minimal clothing and get some new freckles all in “winter”time…except no smoothies. FYI even if the coffee shops are air conditioned, they still apparently respect a no smoothie in the winter months rule

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Running away from my problems like

4.The cozy chill culture

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Perhaps it was because I have been in Germany too long, or perhaps its just the way it is, but withhold your potential comments about bias when I say, people there are just so so nice.

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Shalloommm sleepy time

The people I was hanging out with were so open and welcoming. I mean my host did know me and gave me free range of his flat (and bed), introduced me to friends, and even let me me finish his box of captain crunch at 1am- soo nice.

5. Houmous is youmous

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ok not just houmous, but food in general.

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Benedict’s Shashuka is off the hooka

The food there is so glorious. Fresh ingredients, mixed in peculiar ways with loads of unique flavour combinations and textures.It is just so busy but so delightful. Its not all Shawarmas and Falafel but Shakshuka, Sabih, salads and so much more. You get food and youre just like, what is this? but it doesnt matter what it is because once find out its delicious no more questions are ever asked…ever

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Baked potato, hardboiled egg, hummus, tahini, pickles eggplant and assorted garnished in pita. Wierd? completely. Tasty? 100%

 

Alright, I know 5 for now seems pretty slim for someone so “excited”, but believe me its hard to narrow down what I experienced for a post.There is just so much good I dont know where to end, so I had to after so little…also I still have to write about the marathon experience-aaaayyyyyeeee

Needless to say, I am already looking

to book another trip.

So, chill. We’ll be back for more.

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UnTelaVivable view

 

 

Playing around PĂźrschling

Playing around PĂźrschling

The snow season is upon us, and what better way to enjoy the outdoors than…

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Sledding!!

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I had to accept a kid sled because the adult one was too big for me ):

..and hiking!

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Luckily here in Bavaria they really know how to enjoy the wintery months, and have ways for everyone to do it. If your like me and have never skiied before and dont quite have the time, sledding or rodeln is the best way to enjoy sliding around in the snow without getting too messy.

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This past weekend we headed over to Unterammergau where the PĂźrschling trail is

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A great year round hike, that just so happens to be a great ski spot in the winter with a superb sledding path. ( you hike up and sled all the way down, how fun is that?!)

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We didnt have our own sleds,but luckily when we stopped for a prep coffee

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in the worlds cutest gasthaus,

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they were renting them out and our day was made.

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So with  a little extra pep in our step and stomped up that mountain

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and let me tell youu, it was an absolutely gorgeous hike.

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Fozen rivers lining the trail, fellow sledders speeding down the hill, giggling the whole way

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the sun was warm on our cheeks as the cold our nipped  our noses

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Now I must admit, we didnt quite make it to the top- after 3,5 km uphill in the shin deep snow the fun had turned to some serious work and we were ready for play

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Der alte Rodeln bär

so WOOOSHHH we headed down down down the slippery mountain face.

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ice ice baby

Ending up at the bottom soaking wet ( next time definitly bring snow pants) hands frozen but overal bursting with bliss. We then decided to quickly get warmed up with some scrumptious  steamy soup and a well  deserved alcohol free weißbier

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Pro tip: Always end with soup

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