Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Nothing's certain in this life but death and...

Filed my taxes this morning -- just in time before the deadline (31 May here in Germany). Though as a couple of people have pointed out, the deadline is mostly for those who still have taxes outstanding; those who are due for a refund the government is more than happy to hang onto their money for longer. (A co-worker said he even filed taxes a year late one year, and they didn't mind at all.)

Stella came with me this morning to sign the form as well, then left while I filled in the form while I waited. (I had a print-out with me from my tax software, but wanted to use the official forms, not least because then I don't have to worry about taping the sheets together or making sure the print-out meets their official specifications.) I just got done in time: the number Stella pulled for me was A 71, and they were at A 69 when I was done.

This year, I asked the lady behind the desk how the thingy with the fictitious church tax works; the past couple of years, they did it for me, but too quickly for me to remember, and I wanted to be able to enter the appropriate values myself.

Basically, what's up is that while there's no state church in Germany per se, there are some churches which are more state-y than others; in particular, the Roman Catholic church in Germany and the various Protestant churches organised under the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland: for those denominations, the government collects a "church tax" (Kirchensteuer) which it then passes onto the churches. (This church tax is a reason for a fair number of people to leave the church they were raised in, while some others stay in the church, and keep paying the tax, just until they get married, so that they can have a church wedding, and then leave.)

So basically, if you belong to a church for which the government does not collect church tax but you donate to the church, you can claim up to the equivalent amount (9% of your income tax) as a fictitious church tax.

This comes in handy because what I pay to the church regularly surpasses the limits of what you can deduct (you're allowed to claim 5% of your income in donations for "scientific, charitable [mildtätig], and cultural purposes" and another 5% of your income in donations for "church-related, religious, and non-profit/charitable [gemeinnützig] purposes". So if you pay 10% in tithing plus other offerings, you're over the 10% total donations, but if you can move a couple of hundred euros from one of those numbers to the "church tax" line, you can deduct a bit more. (The LDS church in Germany conveniently issues a receipt for your donations certifying that half of your tithing will be used for scientific, charitable, and cultural purposes and the other half of your tithing, plus any other offerings you make (e.g. fast offering) will be used for church-related, religious, and charitable purposes, thus enabling you to claim more as a deduction than if the entire amount were listed as being for one or the other purpose.)

Our tax software said we could expect about €950 back.

Every now and then I consider applying for a reduction in the amount of taxes they deduct from my paycheck each month, so that we'll get a lower refund at the end of the year but will have more money in our bank account month by month (not to mention reducing the amount of the interest-free loan to the government), but I've never got around to it so far. (Partly because each time I took home the appropriate form, it seemed too formidable for me to look at it carefully.)

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