Today (31 July 2019) the revised “general deadline” for tax filings in Germany (tax year = calendar year 2018) expires. 

The good news:

  • The “general deadline” was extended by two months, now ending on 31 July. Previously the  deadline was 31 May (for tax filings for 2017 or earlier years).
  • Moreover, the “extended deadline”, applicable for taxpayers that file respective tax returns through a tax advisor or tax lawyer, was extended by two months as well. It now ends 14 months after the end of the respective tax year / calendar year. (Previously, i.e. for tax filings for 2017 or earlier years, the deadline was after 12 months, i.e. 31 December of the following year).

Example (new “extended deadline”): Taxpayer Andy Thom, originally from Scotland, has worked as a tennis coach in Berlin and Hamburg in 2018 and earned EUR 60,000 from students (business expenses not yet reflected). Andy must file an income tax (Einkommensteuer) return and, due to relevant turnover exceeding the thresholds for “small entrepreneurs”), his VAT (Umsatzsteuer) return for 2018. He might also have to file a trade tax (Gewerbesteuer) return. Andy has engaged the local German tax advisor Tommy Doll to take care of the tax filings. When are Andy’s tax filings due?

As Andy has engaged a tax law professional and assuming that Andy’s tax office is duly informed on the engagement of Tommy Doll, the relevant deadline is not 31 July 2019, but the last day of February 2020. That 29 February 2019 is a February which will further extend the deadline to the Monday thereafter. Hence, Andy’s tax advisor must file not later than on 2 March 2020 electronically Andy’s annual tax returns for 2018.  

The bad news:

  • If the extended deadline is missed, the tax authorities must assess penalty payments, unless another deadline extension is successfully applied for. It should be demonstrated that it was reasonably not possible to meet the deadline. The respective provisions (Section 152 German Fiscal Code) have become much stricter.

The ugly news:

  • The tax office has the right to shorten the statutory deadline and request from certain taxpayers an earlier filing (e.g.: as of 31 May or 30 August for the previous year). Here we have a new weapon for the tax administration to put pressure on slow or “difficult” taxpayers. Not good.