How to save taxes with the church tax

You don’t even have to pay for some private expenses completely on your own. The state pays part for you – if you state the costs as special expenses in your tax return.

Donations, Riester contributions and much more: those who claim special expenses in their tax return save a lot of taxes. Although the tax office always takes a lump sum into account, the actual expenses are often significantly higher.

We will show you what counts as special expenses, which forms you need for them and the amount up to which the various types of special expenses are deductible.

What are special editions?

Deductible special expenses are listed in § 10 to § 10g of the Income Tax Act (EStG). These include:

  • Pension expenses such as contributions to pension, health and long-term care insurance, contributions to unemployment, earnings and occupational disability insurance as well as to accident and liability insurance,
  • Donate,
  • Church tax,
  • Payments into a Riester contract,
  • Maintenance payments to the separated or divorced spouse,
  • Vocational training costs,
  • School fees,
  • Childcare costs,
  • Refurbishment costs for a self-inhabited or rented monument.

The tax authorities automatically take you into account Special expenses lump sum from 36 euros for singles and 72 euros for married couples or registered partners. “For the vast majority of taxpayers, however, it shouldn’t be a problem to prove higher expenses,” says Jana Bauer from the Federal Association of Wage Tax Assistance Associations.

In many cases, the church tax alone easily adds up to several hundred euros per year. And the contributions to pension, health and long-term care insurance often add up to a respectable amount over the year – which means that the prospects for a tax refund are not bad for many.

Where do I enter the special editions?

“They are entered in different forms,” ​​says Isabel Klocke from the taxpayers’ association. The investments pension expenses, special expenses and, if applicable, the child or the maintenance system are required.

Contributions to pension, health and long-term care insurance belong in the Investment pension expense. Special expenses such as church tax, donations, contributions to political parties and independent electoral associations or expenses for a first degree or first professional training are included in the Appendix special editions to be entered.

In the plant child Parents note daycare or after-school care fees as well as school fees. The same applies to contributions that were incurred for the child in terms of health insurance – even if the child is a policyholder himself.

Maintenance to the divorced or permanently separated spouse belongs to the Plant maintenance. And Riester savers need that Annex AV.

How much can I deduct special expenses?

“The taxpayer enters the costs that he had borne,” explains Bauer. However, the tax authorities do not always fully recognize them. The amount of something that is deductible depends on the type of special expenses.

Pension expenses

A distinction is made between the pension costs Basic care respectively Retirement expenses and other pension expenses.

The basic pension and pension expenses include:

  • Contributions to statutory pension insurance,
  • to the professional pension fund,
  • to the agricultural retirement fund
  • and for a Rürup pension.

For example, the tax office considers pension contributions for 2020 up to 25,046 euros (singles) and 50,092 euros (married couples). When paying contributions to the Rürup pension – if it is about your own pension or that of your spouse or partner – the tax authorities will recognize a total of 90 percent of the contributions for 2020. In 2019 it was 88 percent. The proportion will increase over the next few years. From 2025 onwards, all contributions will be special editions.

Other pension expenses are contributions to:

  • Unemployment insurance,
  • Disability insurance,
  • Occupational disability insurance,
  • Accident insurance,
  • Liability insurance,
  • Term life insurance,
  • Annuity and endowment insurance that you took out before 2005 and for which you also paid your first premium before 2005.

There is one for other pension expenses Maximum amount: It is 2,800 euros for self-insurers or 1,900 euros for employees and 3,800 euros for jointly assessed employees and pensioners, i.e. married couples and life partners.

“However, this is only possible if the maximum amount has not already been exhausted through contributions to basic health and statutory long-term care insurance,” said Klocke. The contributions to basic health and long-term care insurance have been in effect since 2010 deductible in full as special expenses.

Tip: If the insurances exist for professional reasons, they fall under income-related expenses for employees or under operating expenses for the self-employed.


Donations and membership fees to tax-privileged and non-profit associations are taken into account by the tax office up to a level of 20 percent of the total income. “Anyone who has exceeded the maximum amount of 20 percent in donations in one year can also carry over the amount to the following year,” explains Bauer.

The tax office provides one Donation lecture fixed at the end of the year. In the tax return of the following year, the taxpayer then fills in line 6 in the “Other” annex – and can thus claim the remaining partial amount for tax purposes.

Church tax

Church tax can you to be deducted in full as a special edition. This also applies if the tax is incurred on investment income that you have taxed at your personal tax rate. Church tax as a surcharge on the final withholding tax, however, does not count as a special expense.

Contributions to the Riester pension

Worry with one Riester contract In addition, for old age, count your self paid contributions (including state allowances) as special expenses. But only until Maximum amount of 2,100 euros.

It is especially worthwhile for high earners and taxpayers without children Tax advantage often stronger than the allowances. For families it is usually the other way around. The tax office automatically calculates what brings you more by means of a cheaper check when you state your Riester payments in your tax return. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of the Riester pension here.


Payments to the ex-spouse are also considered special expenses. In addition to the compensation payments in the case of pension adjustment, these include ongoing or one-off maintenance payments (Real splitting).

You can do that a maximum of 13,805 euros drop. If you also pay health and long-term care insurance contributions for your ex in addition to maintenance, the sum increases accordingly.

However, there is a problem with this type of special edition allowance: you need the Signature of your former partner. Because what you can deduct as special expenses goes to him or her as other income – and must be taxed. The ex-partner can therefore demand that you reimburse this tax disadvantage.

Tip: If it does not work with the necessary signature, you can also deduct the maintenance payments as extraordinary expenses. However, the amounts that are still considered to be a reasonable burden are quite high.

First vocational training

Expenses for the first vocational training and for that Undergraduate degree (Master does not count) you can only deduct a limited amount of special expenses – up to 6,000 euros in the year. However, they only have an effect if you have generated taxable income at all.

Possible deductible costs are, for example:

  • Fees for courses, seminars, courses, studies,
  • Work equipment such as a laptop, desk or specialist books,
  • Ride costs,
  • Costs for internships and semesters abroad.

You cannot deduct any special expenses for further vocational training, a master’s degree, doctorate or habilitation, as well as a first degree that you take up after vocational training, but you can Advertising expenses.

That has the advantage that this not limited upwards are and also carried forward as a loss in the following years may be. This makes sense because the tax burden later on in your job is usually greater than in your studies or training – and the income-related costs then lead to higher savings.

Childcare costs

Parents can per child and year childcare costs of up to 6,000 euros as special expenses in your tax return. The tax office deducts two thirds of this, i.e. a maximum of 4,000 euros, to reduce taxes.

Childcare costs include, for example:

  • Fees for kindergartens, daycare centers, day nurseries, children’s homes,
  • Costs for child minders and all-day care centers,
  • Costs for au pairs,
  • Household help costs,
  • Travel expenses for grandparents who look after their grandchildren free of charge.

School fees

You can pay school fees for private schools such as a Waldorf school or boarding school 30 percent as special expenses start, a maximum of 5,000 euros per child in the year. However, you cannot claim costs for accommodation, meals and care.


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