Handed in my tax return for 2004 this morning. W00t for not procrastinating! *cough* (The deadline is tomorrow—31 May 2005.)
I was there shortly after eight, just after the IRS office opened, and managed to get number A06, and A03 was currently being served, so I didn't have to wait long.
The lady who looked over my return gave me a hint which will probably result in a bigger refund: since I don't pay church tax1 and the amount of donations for religious purposes is greater than the maximum allowed (5% of income), I could enter a fictitious church tax of 9% of my income tax (the amount that people in one of the two main churches would pay) and subtract that amount from the "donations for religious purposes" item; that way, I get to claim a bit more money as a deduction. (Besides the 5% you can deduct for "religious purposes", you can also deduct 5% for "charitable purposes", and the receipt you get from the church each year splits up the tithing 50/50 into those two categories, so you can basically claim all of your tithing as a tax deduction each year.)
She also recommended that I apply for Mutterschaftsgeld from my health insurance; that's money that mothers get paid after they had a child. Ordinarily, it only applies to mothers who had been working (and hence, paying into health insurance) before they became pregnant, but the tax lady said that you can also apply for a one-time payment if the mother had not been working. So, why not.
And now, six weeks or so and we'll get money back; probably about €1000 according to the program we used to do our tax return.
1 If you belong to one of the two main churches in Germany (Evangelical-Lutheran and Roman Catholic) (and possibly others? not sure), then you pay a "church tax", which your employer deducts from your salary along with the other taxes and pays to the state, who passes the money on to the church.
As in, probably, most churches, those two churches have members who are members in name only and never go to church, but in Germany, that number may be smaller due to the fact that some people have a financial incentive to leave the church officially in order to avoid paying church tax. (Though I think that if you do so, you also lose benefits such as being able to have your child confirmed or having a church wedding—which are probably, I'll guess, the two biggest reasons why non-religious people remain in those churches. Confirmation because it's a big thing for most youth and they get lots of presents, especially money, and church weddings because many people like the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it, especially compared to the low-key civil ceremony in registry offices.)