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Taxation in Germany

German Tax Guide: German Tax categories and german tax law in english


 

 

Taxation in Germany

This Tax German Guide will give you a short overview to the German tax law an tax categories:

Table of contents:

 

Tax Service:
German Tax Return in english ...

 

 

German Income Tax

Unlimited income tax liability

Persons with domicile or habitual abode in Germany are subject to unlimited income tax liability with their world income.

Limited income tax liability

Individuals with neither residence nor habitual abode in Germany may be subject to limited income tax liability if they earn income in Germany, e.g. income from renting real estate located in Germany.

Under certain circumstances, an application for unlimited tax liability can be made. If this is the case, the regulations for income tax of individuals resident in Germany apply.

Tax rates

A basic personal allowance of the taxable income is not subject to taxation. For single taxpayers, it is € 8,130 and € 16,260 for married taxpayers.

The base tax rate is 14 %, rising progressively to 42 % for a taxable income of € 52,882/€ 105,764 (single/married taxpayers). From a taxable income of € 250,731/€ 501,462 (single/married taxpayers), the tax rate is 45 %. These are the so-called limit tax rates, i.e. the average tax burden is significantly lower.

Solidarity surcharge

To finance the reunification of Germany a surcharge is levied from all taxpayers on their PAYE, income, withholding and corporation tax.

The assessment basis is the income tax or corporation tax.

The solidarity surcharge is currently 5.5 % of the relevant assessment basis.

Example:
Income tax 5000 €
Solidarity surcharge 275 € (5.5 % of 5,000 €).

Types of income

There are seven types income:

  • income from agriculture and forestry
  • income from trade or business
  • income from self employment
  • income from employment
  • income from capital assets (including capital gains)
  • rental income
  • other income (e.g. income from a pension)

Calculation of income

Income tax is calculated based on the taxable income. Taxable income is derived from total income from the seven types of income and several additions and reductions.

Income rom farming and forestry, trade and business and self employment are calculated by deducting the operating expenditures from the operating revenues. Operating expenditures are expenditures arising from the company or self employment.

Income from employment, rent and leasing and other income are determined via the revenue from the respective type of income less all expenditure intended to acquire, secure and maintain the income (so-called work-related expenses).

Income from capital assets is subject to special taxation.

Further information is available:

Depriciation allowances

Capital assets of a company can be subject to depreciation or a reduction in value. To account for this, an operating expenditure is posted with a profit reducing effect when calculating the company’s profit. This is referred to as allowance for wear (AfA). For capital assets which are subject to continuous losses of value, partial value depreciation must be implemented.

For fixed assets, the following types of depreciation are conceivable from a certain value:

  • straight-line depreciation
  • declining-balance depreciation
  • special depreciation

Straight t depreciation is an even distribution of the purchasing or manufacturing costs over the use period.

Declining-balance depreciation is a distribution of the purchasing or manufacturing costs in decreasing annual amounts.

In the year of purchase or manufacturing of a movable fixed asset, special depreciation of up to 20% is possible.

Only straight-line depreciation is possible for buildings.

Straight-line and declining-balance depreciation cannot be claimed at the same time. However, the method can be changed from declining-balance to straight-line depreciation.

Further information is available:

Losses

Positive and negative income can be offset within a single type of income and between individual types of income (compensation for loss) when determining the total income.

The Income e Tax Act (Einkommensteuergesetz) contains some exceptions to offsetting losses. For example, losses from private sales transactions or negative income related to overseas transactions are excluded from the general compensation for losses.

In addition to compensation for losses, a limited loss can be carried forward or back to calendar years before and after the loss is incurred.

Tax reliefs

When determining the basis of charge for the income tax (so called zu versteuerndes Einkommen) certain expenses of the taxpayer in excess of operating expenses and work-related expenses may be deducted. The deduction is partly restricted.

So-called special expenses (Sonderausgaben) are, for example:

  • provident expenses = insurance premiums with provision character
  • expenses for additional retirement savings
  • donations

So-called extraordinary financial burdens (außergewoehnliche Belastungen) are, for example:

  • own expenses which the taxpayer inevitably incurs; e.g. own costs for illness
  • expenses of taxpayer for maintenance and professional training of another

For each child of the taxpayer, a

  • tax-ree child allowance as well as
  • an allowance for care, educational or professional training requirements of the child
    may be deducted from the income, if deduction of the allowances is more favourable than the entitlement to child benefit, quod vide Family assistance .

Other tax reliefs include:

  • Tax relief for overseas income (offsetting foreign taxes)
  • Tax relief for expenditure for employment or services in or around the household

Children

Expenses for the maintenance and professional training of children are taken into consideration through

  • child allowance
  • allowance for the care and educational
  • allowance or professional training needs of a child,

or

  • the child benefit.

The ax office checks in favour of the taxpayer whether the child benefit or the deduction of the above mentioned allowances is more favourable for the taxpayer.

In addition a tax deduction for child care up to an amount of 4.000 Euro for every child is possible.

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Tax obligations

General registration and declaration obligations

The fiscal registration and declaration obligations can largely be fulfilled electronically. All main forms for this are available at www.elster.de .

Annual tax return

After the end of a calendar year, an annual tax return must generally be submitted to the tax office. The deadline is May 31 of the following year.

Example:
Tax return 2011
Deadline for submission = 31 May 2012

In exceptional cases, a later deadline can be agreed with the tax office.

Your personal taxation determines which tax returns you must submit.

Advance tax payments

For individuals, income tax must seldom be paid in advance.

Advance payments of income or corporation tax are generally specified for entrepreneurs.

For new companies, the advance payments are calculated based on the statements (predicted profit) of the entrepreneur, and during current operation, based on the results of the last assessment. In the event of changes, you can apply for an adjustment of the advance payment amounts at any time.

In general, the deadlines for the advance payments are March 10, June 10, September 10 and December 10.

VAT return

Depending on the turnover level, VAT must be reported and paid to the tax office each month or each quarter. The amounts calculated by the entrepreneur itself are due on the 10th of the following month.

Example:
VAT return for April 2012 = filing by May 10, 2012 at the latest
VAT return for January to March 2012 = filing by April 10, 2012 at the latest

Wages tax return

Employers are obliged to report and pay wages tax (Lohnsteuer).

Further information is available: Employer obligations

Withholding taxes - General

Taxes on certain income have to be withheld. This means a tax will be deducted and paid to the tax office at the time of payment to the beneficiary.

For certain types of domestic income such as

  • income from employment
  • specific income from capital assets
  • income from artistic performances or participation in sport in Germany or income from the exploitation of rights (copyright, royalties, patents, etc)

Income tax is deducted at source and is paid directly to the German tax office at the time of payment to the beneficiary. By deduction at source the German income tax is deemed to be paid at all. A tax assessment only takes place in special cases.

Obligation to deduct tax and exemption process s

The Federal Central Tax Office has a special procedure for exempting foreign taxpayers from certain taxes deducted at source or exempting the German contracting party from the obligation to deduct them in accordance with the German Income Tax Act ( EStG ) and the applicable double taxation agreement ( ..

Obligation to deduct tax from income under Section 50a paragraph 1 Income Tax Act ( EStG )

Foreign individuals or legal persons are subject to limited tax liability in respect of the income they derive in Germany within the meaning of Section 50a paragraph 1 EStG (Section 1 paragraph 4 EStG and Section 2 of the Corporation Tax Act in conjunction with Section 49 EStG ). The tax is withheld at source.

Examples:

  • Income from the exploitation of rights (copyright, royalties, patents, etc)
  • Income from artistic performances or participation in sport in Germany.

The party liable for payment (remuneration debtor) must deduct the tax for the account of the remuneration creditor with restricted tax liability (tax debtor) and pay it to the Federal Central Tax Office responsible for the latter. Said party is obliged to issue the remuneration creditor with a tax certificate on demand (Section 50a paragraph 5 sentence 6 EStG ).
Only the Federal Central Tax Office is authorised to decide whether tax is to be deducted from and paid on certain types of income under Section 50a paragraph 1 EStG ..

Procedure for exemption from the deduction of tax at source (exemption and refund)

Should a double taxation agreement ( ) stipulate that income liable for tax deduction at source should remain untaxed or be taxable at a lower rate, the remuneration creditor can apply for full or partial exemption from tax deducted at source under Section 50d

Further details can be found in the instruction cards and forms

Exemption from deduction of tax on the payment of licence fees between associated companies in different member states of the European Union

Payments of interest and licence fees accumulating in a Member State are exempt from any taxation whatsoever in this "Member State of origin", whether deducted at source or in the course of assessment, if the remuneration creditor is a business in another Member State or has premises in a Member State other than that of the parent on which it depends.
Tax exemption is based upon Council Directive 2003/49/EC of 3 June 2003 on a common system of taxation applicable to interest and royalty payments made between associated companies of different Member States. In such cases applications may be made for exemption from tax deducted at source under Section 50g in conjunction with Section 50d

Recording procedure ( KMV )

The recording procedure ( KMVKMV ) is a simplified procedure for reducing or granting an exemption from taxation under Section 50a paragraph 1 no 3 EStG , which, under certain circumstances, authorises the remuneration debtor to waive the deduction of tax in whole or in part under Section 50a EStG , within the scope of the respective double taxation agreement.

Note for beneficiaries of foreign licence payments:

The Federal Central Tax Office is only responsible for exemption from German taxes deducted at source. As a courtesy, we provide application forms made available to us by foreign tax authorities (partly in German).

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Tax on income from Capital Assets from 2009

Memo withholding tax on icome from capital assets:

barrier-free⁄barrier-low file Tax on income from Capital Assets from 2009 (PDF, 48 KB, barrier-free⁄barrier-low file)

Special tax rate for income from capital assets as of 1/1/2009

Income from capital assets is taxed at a standard tax rate of 25 % (plus solidarity surcharge).

Special regulation for sole proprietorships and partners in a partnership

In general, profits are taxed at the personal tax rate. For corporate profit, which remains in the company, taxation at a flat tax rate, which corresponds to taxation of corporations, can be applied for. On withdrawal of profits, retrospective taxation is also applied at a flat tax rate.

Capital gains tax relief

The following information concerns capital gains tax relief for taxpayers with restricted tax obligations resident overseas.

Dividends and certain other capital gains paid by companies domiciled in Germany to residents of other countries are subjected to restricted taxation in Germany. Persons with neither their permanent residence nor habitual abode in the domestic country at the time the capital gain is received are subject to restricted taxation. The revenue earned are subject to withholding tax of 25% plus 5.5% solidarity surcharge in Germany.

However, foreign recipients (creditors) of dividends and certain other capital gains may be entitled to full or partial relief from capital gains tax in accordance with the provisions of the German Income Tax Act (EStG) and/or in conjunction with the relevant Double Taxation Agreement. The reimbursement process for payments already made is governed by Art. 50d Par. 1 of the German Income Tax Act ( EStG ) and the exemption process for future payments is governed in Art. 50d Par. 2 of EStG . Both processes are subject to abuse provisos governed in Art. 50d Par. 3 of EStG . If the facts comply with this provision, a claim for tax relief is excluded.

For information for foreign applicants see the sub-headings.

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Avoidance of double taxation

Double taxation is avoided via a variety of national regulations and international law agreements. Some of the best known methods are listed below:

Double Taxation Conventions

Double taxation conventions are international law agreements used by countries to avoid taxation of one taxpayer by multiple governments, and to eliminate or reduce taxation barriers regarding international economic exchange.

The conventions usually cover income and property tax. There are also other conventions, such as for inheritance and gift taxes.

The current convention texts are available at the following link:
Double Taxation Conventions

Fiscal harmonisation within the European Union

The Directive on parents and subsidiaries, the Directive "mergers", the Directive "Interest and Royalties" remove fiscal obstacles with the direct taxes, which are in the way of cross-border entrepreneurial collaboration.

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Advance ruling (Verbindliche Auskunft)

If you, as a taxpayer, entrepreneur, investor, are planning a certain matter, you can apply to the fiscal authorities for an advance ruling. This ruling gives you legal security regarding the tax assessment of the matter you present.

If no local tax office is responsible for you at the time of application, as you are applying from overseas, the German Federal Central Tax Office will process your application. Otherwise, the local tax office is responsible.

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Registration of a company

The registration obligations of the entrepreneur depend on whether a business is to be established or an activity in a professional service is to be carried out.

Further information is available:

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Partnerships

A partnership is created when at least two natural and/or legal persons join up to achieve a common goal and provide capital. A partnership has only restricted legal capacity.

The most important partnerships in Germany are the civil-law association (GbR), the general partnership (oHG) and the limited partnership (KG).

A major characteristic of partnerships is the personal liability of the partners with their private assets (exception is the limited partner of the limited partnership) for company liabilities. Because of the takeover of a share of the business risk and the decision-making powers, the partners of a partnership are fiscally termed as co-partners (Mitunternehmer).

The bases of taxation are determined on the level of the partnership; however the tax is not levied on the partnership but on the partners.

Unwithdrawn profits are taxed according to a flat tax rate, which is equivalent to the taxation of a public limited company. After withdrawal of these profits, retrospective taxation is also applied at a flat tax rate.

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Corporation Tax

Unlimited corporation tax liability

Corporations are, for example, the joint stock company (AG), the limited liability company (GmbH) and the association (e.V.).

Partnerships (e.g. general partnerships, oHG) are, however, not subject to corporation tax; the individual partner is subject to income tax for his income.

Corporations have an unlimited tax liability with their world income if either their management or their registered office is within Germany.

Calculation of income

The basis of taxation for corporation tax is – just like for the income tax – the income which the corporation has made within the fiscal year.

The determination of the taxable income is based on the results of the commercial accounting according to the German Commercial Code (HGB). What is deemed income and how the income is to be determined for the concerns of taxation, depends furthermore on the regulations of the income tax act. In addition there are some special regulations of the corporate income tax act that must be considered here, too. In particular constructive dividends (verdeckte Gewinnausschuettungen) must be taken into consideration.

The profit from the sale of a shareholding of a domestic or foreign corporation is, on principle, exempt from taxation. Dividends from a domestic or a foreign corporation are also exempt from taxation.

Further information is available:

Tax rate

The corporation tax rate for retained and distributed profits is 15 % (flat-rate-tax). On the level of the involved parties, a capital yield tax is levied on principle with a tax rate of 25 percent.

Total tax burden

Further information on total tax burden of a corporation is available:

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Trade tax (Gewerbesteuer)

Taxable unit of the trade tax is the business entity. Every business entity is subject to trade tax, as far as it is operated in Germany. Permanent establishments of foreign businesses are subject to trade tax as well. Activities, which are to be regarded as the conduct of a free-lance profession or any other independent personal service, are not subject to trade tax.

The basis for taxation is the income from the business (Gewerbeertrag). This amount is the profit to be determined from this business entity pursuant to the regulations of the income tax act and the corporation tax act, increased or decreased by certain amounts.

The tax rate is determined by the municipality.

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Value added tax

Value-added tax - VAT

In contrast to personal taxes (e.g. income tax), value-added tax is a tax on transactions. As a transaction tax, value-added tax is designed such that financially it has to be borne by the end consumer. In technical terms though, it is not possible to charge the value-added tax to the consumer, and so it is owed by the entrepreneur actually doing the trade. The entrepreneur passes the value-added tax on to the customer by including it in the sales price.

Entrepreneurs whose turnover is not generally tax-free have the possibility of deducting from their own value-added tax bill the value-added tax they have been openly charged by other businesses, so-called input tax (Vorsteuer). This way, value-added tax is only charged on the “value added” (i.e. the difference between the net cost price and the net sales price) of the product or service. For that reason VAT is often called Mehrwertsteuer.

Taxable turnover

On principle, all goods and services provided by an entrepreneur in Germany are subject to value-added tax, unless they are tax-free. Taxable are:

  • supplies of goods and services,
  • import of goods (import turnover tax),
  • intra-Community acquisition (i.e. supplies of goods from another member state of the European Union) and

Value-added tax law contains an extensive catalogue of goods and services which are exempt from value-added tax. These include e.g.:

  • intra-Community deliveries,
  • export deliveries,
  • services provided by certain professional groups (e.g. doctors),
  • financial services (e.g. granting loans),
  • insurance services,
  • buying and selling real estate,
  • letting property in the long-term,

In most cases, an entrepreneur providing goods or services which are value-added tax-free is not allowed to deduct input tax.

Intra-Community movement of goods

Intra-Community movement of goods (innergemeinschaftlicher Warenverkehr)

When the European Union internal market came into force on 1 January 1993, the customs barriers between the member countries of the European Union fell. If an item from one member state is supplied to another member state of the European Union, then the entrepreneur performing is making a tax-free intra-Community supply, provided the recipient is likewise an entrepreneur and is acquiring the item for its business. The value-added tax is levied on the customer.

Aspects affecting the seller

If a supply to an entrepreneur in another member state of the Euorpean Union is to be treated tax-free, the business performing (the seller) has to furnish various kinds of proof to the tax authorities. Amongst other things, he has to be able to prove that the item of the supply really is taken to territory belonging to the European Union, and that tax is levied when it is purchased there.

The entrepreneur making the supply may not treat its supply tax-free, if for instance the customer does not have a valid value-added tax identification number (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer).

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Aspects affecting the buyer

Tax is charged on the item when it is acquired by the entrepreneur who is the customer (the buyer). The buyer must declare all his intra-Community supplies of goods in its ongoing value-added tax return, and pay to his tax authority the value-added tax rate charged in his country. At the same time, the buyer may deduct the value-added tax on the intra-Community supply of goods as so-called input tax (Vorsteuer) from its value-added tax debt.

Place of supply/of service

Germany has implemented the regulations of the European Union concerning the place of supply or of service. A permanent establishment is on par with an entrepreneur in case that the permanent establishment actually generates or receives the sales.

Full description of the European Commission:
http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/vat/how_vat_works/vat_on_services/index_en.htm

Tax rates

The value-added tax act covers two tax rates: the general tax rate of 19 %and the reduced rate of 7 %

Most turnovers are subject to the general tax rate.

The reduced tax rate is applied in particular to the supply, import and intra-Community supply of nearly all food – except beverages and restaurant turnover. It also applies to, e.g. regional public transport, turnover on books, newspapers and certain objects of art.

Tax debtor

As a rule, the entrepreneur providing the goods or services is the party who owes the value-added tax.

In some cases however, the tax debt passes to the customer or purchaser. This is the case for instance if an entrepreneur who is not resident in Germany provides services in Germany for a German business. The same applies for a provision of labour and materials (Werklieferung), which involves the processing of an item that uses materials procured by the (in this case: foreign) entrepreneur providing the services.

Payment of tax

On principle, the value-added tax is incurred at the end of the reporting period during which the taxable supply of goods or service was provided.

Within ten days of the end of each calendar quarter, the entrepreneur has to send electronically the tax office a VAT tax return in which it has to give its own computation of the tax for the preceding calendar quarter (reporting period).

As of the 1.1.2013, it is only be permissible to file the VAT -tax-return electronically with authentication. To get the electronic certificate which is needed for authentication the entrepreneur has to register electronically at ElsterOnline-Portal under www.elsteronline.de .

The amount payable is the value-added tax invoiced minus the amounts of input tax which may be deducted. The amount thus calculated has to be paid to the tax office as an advance payment. Larger businesses have to submit this advance return every month. For businesses which have only just taken up professional or commercial operations, the monthly reporting period likewise applies during the first calendar year and in the year after that.

It is possible to apply for permanent extension regarding the filing of preliminary VAT returns as well as for VAT advance payments at the responsible local tax office.

At the end of the calendar year, the entrepreneur has to submit an annual VAT tax return in which it again has to calculate the tax itself.
Entrepreneurs effecting turnover which is exempt from value-added tax may not deduct the input tax that is invoiced to them.

Small companies

Entrepreneurs whose turnover (plus the respective apportioned value-added tax) has not exceeded 17,500 € in the previous calendar year and will most likely not exceed 50,000 € in the current year (small entrepreneur/business), do not need to pay value-added tax. As a result, they are not allowed to charge VAT in the invoice.

These small companies do not have the right to deduct the billed input tax. Because they are denied the right to deduct input tax, the special regulation for the small companies can have an unfavourable effect. The law therefore grants them the option of waiving the special regulation and to choose taxation according to the general rules. They are then tied to the waiver for 5 years.

VAT ID

Entrepreneurs wanting to deliver goods to other European Union countries or buy goods from other European Union countries have to have a so-called value-added tax identification number (USt-IdNr.). This number is issued by the Federal Central Tax Office (Saarlouis Branch) on written request, provided the business concerned is registered for value-added tax purposes at its local German tax office.

Anyone procuring goods from other European Union countries and wanting to make sure that the VAT ID of the foreign business partner is correct can make use of the confirmation procedure offered by the Federal Central Tax Office. The enquiring party can thus find out whether the name of the business and its street, postcode and location match the particulars in the database of businesses kept in the respective European Union member state.

Recapitulative statement

Any entrepreneur making intra-Community supplies of goods / services is under obligation to submit a so-called recapitulative statement. The recapitulative statement has to be filed with the Federal Central Tax Office electronically within 25 days of the end of each month. It has to state amongst other things the entrepreneur’s own VAT ID and that of its foreign business partner, and the total turnover exported to each individual business.

Businesses in other European Union member states also have to file these statements in their own country. The information thus collected throughout the European Union is compiled in a database which can be accessed by the tax authorities in all the European Union countries. This way every European Union member state can check whether all intra- Community supplies of goods have been duly taxed.

Import turnover tax

Goods imported into Germany from a non-European-Union country are also subject to value-added tax, but value-added tax on imports is called import turnover tax (Einfuhrumsatzsteuer).

In contrast to value-added tax (VAT), this is an excise duty and import levy within the meaning of customs law. Import turnover tax is levied by the Federal Customs & Excise Administration. Import turnover tax can be owed either by an entrepreneur or by a private individual. Entrepreneurs can deduct import turnover tax from their value-added tax bill, provided the items have been procured for business purposes.

The assessment base for import turnover tax is the so-called customs value. Various costs have to be added to the customs value, e.g. freight costs from the EU border to the goods’ (initial) destination in this country.
The tax rate for imported goods is the same as it is for turnovers within the country. It is 19 % of the assessment basis; for certain goods it reduces to 7 %.

Further information on import turnover tax can be obtained on the Internet under Federal Customs & Excise Administration:

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Investment grant

Investment grants are state subsidies. They are provided for initial company investments in the manufacturing sector, certain production-related services and in the accommodation industry in the grant region.

The grant regions include the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

Taxpaxers as defined in the Income Tax Act (Einkommensteuergesetz) and the Corporation Tax Act (Koerperschaftsteuergesetz) are entitled to apply. Corporations exempt from tax are not entitled to apply for grants. In the case of partnerships, the partnership is entitled to claim in place of the taxpayer.

The purchase and manufacture of new movable fixed assets subject to depreciation (initial investment projects) are subsidised.
In general, they must remain assets of a company or a permanent establishment and be kept within the grant region for a binding period of five years. During this time, private use may not exceed 10%.

New buildings used for business purposes can also be subsidised under certain conditions.

The investment grant is calculated based on the total purchase and manufacturing costs.

In general, the subsidy rate is 2.5% of the purchase or manufacturing costs of assets. Small and medium-sized companies receive up to 5%. Other subsidy rates can apply in the grant regions in Berlin.

The application must be made on the official form to the tax office responsible for taxing the entitled party.

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Taxes on real property

Property tax in Germany generally only applies to real property and the disposal of real property.

Real property tax (Grundsteuer)

The annually levied real property tax is designed property related and refers to the condition and value of a real estate.

Subject to real property tax are domestic properties as well as agricultural and forestry establishments.

The tax rate is determined by the municipality

Real property transfer tax (Grunderwerbsteuer)

Legal acts concerning domestic real estate, in particular purchase contracts and other legal transactions, which establish a claim to conveyance of a domestic property are subject to real property transfer tax.

As a rule, tax debtors are the persons involved in the purchase procedure, therefore, e.g. the property buyer and vendor. Usually the tax burden is contractually transferred to one of the involved persons.

The tax rate is from 3.5 percent to 6,5 percent – depending on the Federal State. Siehe http://www.steuerliches-info-center.de



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