No more “ElsterFormular” – what alternatives are there?

The end was planned for a long time, now it is becoming reality: The “ElsterFormular” is history. What this means for your tax return and which software you can use instead.

So far, taxpayers still had the choice: “ElsterFormular” or “Mein Elster”? Both programs helped you file your income tax return electronically, but they worked fundamentally differently.

While you could do everything online with “Mein Elster”, you stayed largely offline with “ElsterFormular”. This intermediate step between the paper form and the completely electronic tax office no longer exists. “ElsterFormular” has been abolished.

What does the end of “ElsterFormular” mean?

Since “ElsterFormular” is no longer available to you, this initially means, quite banally, that you have to make your tax return for 2020 using a different program (see below). If you are required to file a tax return, you must submit it by July 31, 2021.

Why was “ElsterFormular” abolished?

The end of the software was decided a few years ago in order to reduce the administrative effort. The more taxpayers submit and submit their information directly online, the less work the tax offices have with it. In the future, they even want to get to the point where tax returns can be checked completely automatically – without a clerk having to look at them.

“ElsterFormular” was, so to speak, only the one-to-one translation of the old paper forms onto the PC. You could download these and fill them out offline. You could then send it online to the tax office so that the tax return was considered to have actually been submitted – but you still had to print out a compressed version of your tax return, sign it and send it to your tax office in the same way by post.

This compressed tax return had two functions: it bore your legally binding signature and gave the person in charge at the tax office the telephone number with which he could call up your data for processing.

Good to know: In the case of registration taxes – such as sales tax and wage tax registration by the employer – it was also possible to use “ElsterFormular” completely without paper and to transmit the data using an electronic certificate. However, this was also not possible without prior registration with “Mein Elster”.

What alternatives are there to “ElsterFormular”?

Instead of “ElsterFormular” – as before – you can use the electronic tax office “Mein Elster”, which is also free of charge. This is how you submit your tax return authenticated with an electronic certificate that serves as proof of identity to the tax office. You will receive the certificate when you register at “Mein Elster”.

Printing out forms and signing them is no longer necessary – and also no longer possible. As an alternative to logging in with a certificate, you can also log in with your ID card and a six-digit PIN, provided this has an activated online ID function.

At “Mein Elster” you can not only submit your tax return, but also extend deadlines, adjust advance payments or object to the tax assessment. Submitting the tax return via “Mein Elster” is particularly suitable for taxpayers if your case is not particularly complicated.

If you would like more support, you should use a fee-based helping tax program. There you will be guided step by step through your tax return using questions, for example. There are also tips on where there is still potential for savings.

The Stiftung Warentest last tested 14 such tax programs in 2019. The offers from Buhl Data calculated best. The browser application “Wiso Steuerweb” and the download program “Wiso Steuerparbuch” shared the victory, followed by the much cheaper “Tax”.

Wolters Kluwer, maker of the tax savings declaration, offers this program for the 2020 tax return free of charge for all those who switch to “ElsterFormular”. The prerequisite for this is that you have created and submitted a declaration using the “ElsterFormular” for the 2019 tax year. The switch should be possible from February 2021.

Can I take my data with me in other software?

That’s fine. You can export your tax data to “Mein Elster”. The function can be found in the menu item “Export”. If you transfer your data in this way, you save yourself work because you do not have to re-enter information that you have already entered.

The export also works if you use other tax software. You can find detailed instructions in the Info assistants on – also as Video.


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