Tax ID and Tax Number in Germany [2023 English Guide]
Updated: Mar 5
Everything you need to know about a tax number and a Tax ID in Germany. How do you get a tax ID and its uses? What's the difference between the two?
In Germany, every resident receives a Tax Identification Number (Steueridentifikationsnummer in German). And this Tax Identification Number in Germany is valid for life.
A tax Identification Number (Tax ID) differs from a Tax Number (Steuernummer in German).
Federal Central Office for Tax (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern in German) only stores your data for tax purposes.
You need a Tax ID for
exemption orders for bank accounts in Germany
and tax deductions of maintenance payments.
The federal government plans to link tax IDs with individuals' bank accounts to pay out public services quickly.
This is how you do it
Your personal tax identification number is in your annual income tax statement or tax assessment.
The last resort to finding your tax identification number is contacting the Federal Central Tax Office. You can apply to receive your tax ID online. But the tax office sends the tax ID by post. Hence, receiving your tax ID can take up to four weeks.
Table of contents
What is a German Tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer in German)?
How do you get a tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) in Germany?
Tax Identification Number (Steueridentifikationsnummer)
What is a tax identification number?
German Tax ID number has the following characteristics.
Tax ID in Germany has eleven digits.
It is unique.
Your tax id is valid for life and even up to 20 years after death.
The tax office automatically assigns a tax identification number to everyone who registers themselves in Germany.
Tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer in German) is often referred to as Tax ID (Steuer-ID in German).
People also refer to Tax ID as
TIN (Tax Identification Number),
Tax ID helps tax authorities to uncover tax evasion more easily.
What information does a Tax ID contain?
The tax office saves the following information under your Tax ID.
Date of birth
Place of birth
Last name, first name, previous names
Current or last known address
Responsible tax authorities
And even the death date.
How do you get a tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) in Germany?
Since 2008, the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) has sent every person registered in Germany a unique identification number by post.
Since then, babies have received their tax identification number within three months of birth.
How can foreigners get a Tax id in Germany?
Everyone in Germany must register at the local municipal office (Rathaus in German).
Once you register at the local municipal office, they will share your data with the federal central tax office.
After receiving your information, the central tax office sends you a tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer in German) by post within 2 to3 weeks.
For what do I need the tax identification number in Germany
You will need your Tax ID for the following activities.
While communicating with the tax office.
While filing a tax return or tax declaration.
Employers need your tax identification number to transmit important tax data to the tax authorities.
Social service providers such as health insurance companies and employment offices (Arbeitsämter in German) might ask for your tax identification number. They also need it to transmit required tax data to the tax authorities.
From 2022, employers offering mini-jobs must transmit the Tax IDs of their mini-jobbers to the mini-job center.
Where can you find your Tax ID?
1. You can find the tax identification number on your annual income tax report (Lohnsteuerbescheinigung in German) sent by the employer.
2. Your last tax return report (Steuerbescheid in German) sent by the local tax office also contains the Tax ID.
3. The official document issued by the federal central tax office contains the Tax ID.
4. You can also find it on your salary slip.
What can you do if you lose your tax identification number?
You can request your employer to share your Tax ID with you.
You can request your tax identification number from the Federal Central Tax Office using this form online.
Your local municipal office (Rathaus) or registration authority (Meldebehörde in German) also knows your tax identification number. Hence, you can request your tax ID from them also.
NOTE: For data protection reasons, the tax office or registration authority will send your tax identification number by post.
8 uses of tax ID in Germany
#1 Child benefit (Kindergeld in German)
Since January 2016, you must submit your's and your children's tax identification number at the family benefits office (Familienkassen in German) to receive child benefits (Kindergeld in German).
#2 Maintenance payments
If you pay maintenance - for example, to your divorced spouse - and want to deduct the amount for tax purposes as a special expense, then you need the tax ID of the recipient (your divorced spouse).
#3 Fast data reconciliation
The tax identification number helps the tax authorities to access personal data quickly and easily.
For example, if you move to another city, the registration and tax offices can exchange your data via your tax ID.
Hence, saving you time and effort.
Moreover, your tax-relevant data can be shared across national borders using the tax ID.
#4 Electronic income tax card
The electronic income tax card in Germany become possible because of the tax identification number.
Moreover, German employers can get all your tax-relevant data directly from the Federal Central Tax Office.
Hence, you don't have to worry about providing tax-relevant information to your employer.
#5 Electronic tax return (Steuererklärung in German)
Electronic tax returns (Elster) are possible thanks to the tax identification number.
Elster website checks the data for correctness as one enters. Thus, the tax office (Finanzamt) does not have to request tax-relevant information as often.
Hence, processing the tax return is faster.
#6 Pre-filled tax return (Vorausgefüllte Steuererklärung (VaSt) in German)
Since 2014, the German tax authorities have offered a service called "pre-filled tax return" (VaSt) to taxpayers filing tax declarations online.
Most of your tax-relevant data is already available digitally. Hence, it can be pre-filled in the income tax return form online.
Thus, making filing tax declarations online easier for taxpayers.
The following data is available digitally to the German tax authorities :
contributions to health and nursing care insurance
pension expenses, etc.
The service is also known as receipt retrieval (Belegabruf) or certificate retrieval (Abruf von Bescheinigungen).
To use the service, you need an Elster account. You can create one for free using your German tax ID on the Elster portal.
#7 Tax ID for an exemption order
Since 2011, banks have needed your tax identification number for exemption orders (Freistellungsauftrag in German).
Banks assign your capital gains (if any) to your tax ID for tax purposes. Hence, making it possible that the bank doesn't have to withhold any taxes on your capital gains.
Thus allowing you to use your capital gains to invest further during the year and pay taxes when you file your annual tax return.
On the other hand, banks must withhold the withholding tax on interest payments and capital gains if they do not have your tax ID (exemption order).
The withholding tax is 25 percent of the capital gains, plus solidarity surcharge and church tax.
Hence, submit an exemption order containing your tax id to your bank.
#8 Link Tax ID with bank account
The federal government plans to link your tax ID to your bank account.
It will allow German public authorities to pay out state benefits more easily.
In the draft of the Annual Tax Act 2022, the German government announced that public services could pay out state benefits via direct payment method using the tax identification number.
The idea of linking tax ID with the bank account was originally to easily pay out the climate money (Klimageld).
But the government soon realized that linking tax ID with bank details can also be helpful in other places. For example, paying Energiepreispauschale (EPP) or relief amount during natural disasters.
However, as you can imagine, implementing the idea will take some time.
It is because the government has to store more than 80 million bank details (IBAN and possibly BIC) in the IdNr database along with the tax identification numbers.
Criticism of the tax identification number in Germany
Many people criticized using tax identification numbers in Germany based on data privacy.
#1 Civil rights objections
Civil rights activists fear that the Tax ID database can also be used for purposes other than tax.
However, the good news is that, per the current law, only the tax office may use this data.
#2 Tax Id as a personal identifier
Since the tax identification number is unique to a person, it is theoretically possible to compare all databases in which it is stored.
This way, all the information about the citizen's life would be accessible in one fell swoop.
What is eTIN?
eTIN stands for Electronic Transfer Identification Number. It is created using the employee's last name, first name, and date of birth.
German tax authorities introduced it for electronic tax returns via Elster.
But nowadays, eTIN is rarely used.
Earlier, employers needed eTIN to transmit employees' wage tax data to the tax office. But with the introduction of the tax identification number, employers no longer need an eTIN.
Moreover, section 41b of the Income Tax Act stipulates that an employer can use eTIN only if they do not have the tax identification number.
Tax Number (Steuernummer)
What is a Tax Number?
Your local tax office (Local Finanzamt) issues the tax number (Steuernummer), which differs from your tax identification number.
It's a 10-13 digit number that indicates which tax office is responsible for you.
You can break down the German tax number into four parts.
The first 2/3 digits identify your local tax office (Finanzamt)
Next 2/3 digits identify your district
Next 4/3 digits identify you
The last digit is used as the check digit.
Difference between a Tax number and a Tax identification number
Tax identification number
It's a 10 to 13-digit number.
It's an 11-digit number
Issued by local tax office at the time of first tax declaration.
Issued by the Federal central tax office.
You get the tax number in Germany when you submit a tax return in that city for the first time or apply for it.
You get your tax identification number at birth or when you register in Germany.
It indicates which tax office is responsible for you.
It doesn't indicate anything.
You will receive a new tax number when you move to a different city or leave the area of responsibility of your previous tax office.
Tax ID is unique and stays the same even if you move to a new city or your marital status changes.
The coexistence of these two numbers mentioned will continue for the foreseeable future.
In addition, there are other tax numbers for other types of taxes. For example, property tax number (Grundsteuer), business or freelance tax number (Wirtschaftssteuer), sales tax or VAT number (Umsatzsteuer), etc.