U.S. expat taxes in Germany

As a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder working in Germany, taking care of your U.S. expat taxes can feel like a complicated task. Knowing which tax rules affect you and understanding your options is a lot to stay on top of.

With H&R Block, you can rest easy knowing you’ve found the right expertise for U.S. expat taxes in Germany. Whether you need expat tax guidance on filing from abroad or information on FATCA and FBAR rules, we’re here to help.

Ready to file your expat taxes? We’ve got a tax solution for you—whether you want to DIY your expat taxes or leave it to one of our experienced Tax Advisors. Head on over to our Ways to File page to choose your journey and get started.

What U.S. citizens working in Germany should know about U.S. taxes

U.S. citizens working in Germany who have to file U.S. expat taxes

For thousands of U.S. citizens working in Germany, filing U.S. taxes comes with new considerations and questions: "Do I have additional information to report to the IRS? How do my German financial accounts affect my filing? What options do I have to reduce my tax bill? How do I file U.S. taxes from Germany?"

For starters, Americans and U.S. Green Card holders living in Germany should continue to file a U.S. tax return each year.

Working as an American in Germany can affect your taxes even if you don’t stay for very long. For example, if you earn income while on a short-term assignment, you’ll need to report that income on your U.S. taxes. As you establish deeper financial roots in Germany, you’ll have more considerations for your American tax filing.

You may need to report your German financial accounts and assets. Generally, U.S. taxpayers with more than $10,000 in foreign bank or financial accounts are subject to FBAR filing and reporting requirements. You may also be subject to FATCA reporting requirements if you have foreign assets valued at $200,000 and higher.

You can lower your U.S. bill and avoid dual taxation with certain tax strategies. Expats may take advantage of one of two options, detailed below, to lower their taxes.

  • The foreign earned income exclusion allows you to exclude your wages from your U.S. taxes. This option is available to those who meet certain time-based residency requirements.
  • The foreign tax credit lets you claim a credit for income taxes paid to a foreign government.

Your German pensions can get special treatment. Thanks to the United States - Germany tax treaty, you can deduct or exclude your contributions to a qualified German pension scheme or retirement investment plan on your U.S. taxes up to the U.S. limits.

  • If you have a German state pension, the distributions are treated as U.S. Social Security benefits for U.S. tax purposes, meaning they may be partially or fully tax free.
  • If you invest in a voluntary pension through your employer and you are a U.S. citizen, the treaty also allows you to deduct these contributions from your U.S. taxes up to the U.S. limits for qualified retirement plans. The reporting requirements for these types of accounts can vary, but income earned inside the plan is generally only taxable when distributed from the plan.
  • If you invest in a private pension scheme, it may be subject to more complicated reporting requirements but generally is taxable similarly to employer-based pension arrangements.

Depending on the type of account and the value, your employer and private pensions might be subject to FBAR or FATCA reporting.

Your H&R Block expat tax advisor will ensure that your benefits are reported correctly, so you don’t pay more tax than needed.

German Tax Filing Considerations

As an American working in Germany, you may have to pay German taxes. Here at H&R Block, we dedicate our expertise to U.S. taxes. If you have questions specific to your German tax return, it’s best to speak to an expert on local German taxes.

Your German income taxes are based on your residency status. Generally, you’re considered a German resident if you have a residence or intend to stay in Germany six consecutive months or more during the tax year (considered a “habitual abode”).

  • German tax residents are taxed on all income, regardless of where they earn it.
  • Nonresidents are taxed on German source income.

The income tax rates range from 0% to 45%. Similar to taxes in the U.S., the percentage of tax that you pay increases as your income increases. Due to the wide ranges of Germany’s top brackets, many U.S. expats in Germany, would pay higher income tax rates locally than in the U.S.

With this in mind, it’s typically better for most U.S. taxpayers to use the foreign tax credit rather than the foreign earned income exclusion. One of our experienced tax advisors can help determine the best choice for your situation.

2020 Germany income tax rates

Tax rate Taxable Income (for single filers)
0% € 0 - € 9,407
14% – 42% € 9,408 - € 57,051
42% € 57,052 - € 270,500
45% € 270,501 and up

In addition to income tax, there are a couple of other taxes to consider. First, your income will be subject to a separate 5.5% solidarity tax. Additionally, if you’re a member of certain registered, religions you might pay a church tax of 8% or 9%, depending on which federal state you reside in.

The tax filing season is similar to the U.S. tax year, but with a few differences. German taxes follow a January to December tax year. Tax returns are due by May 31. If a professional prepares the return, the deadline is automatically extended to December 31.

How to file U.S. taxes as an American expat in Germany

Need to file U.S. taxes from Germany? Here’s how to file your U.S. expat taxes online:

  • Head on over to our Ways to File page
  • Pick your journey—in the driver’s seat with our online DIY tool or letting a Tax Advisor take the wheel.
  • Once you’re through your chosen journey, you review your return and pay
  • We file your return with the IRS
  • You sit back knowing your taxes were done right

H&R Block is here to help Americans working in Germany with U.S. tax prep

Are you a U.S. citizen living in Germany? H&R Block Expat Tax Services is here to help you get your U.S. taxes in order. With multiple ways to file, we’ve got a tax solution for you. Get started with our made-for-expats online expat tax services today!