Student tax returns—why they're worth it!
College entails costs; tuition fees, books and student life are a big financial burden.
You can compensate for many of your study costs by filing a student tax return. We give you all the tips and information you need about deadlines, deductible expenses and the obligation to file a tax return.
Contents: Tax returns for students
When is a tax return worth it for a student?
If you are a student, you’re usually not required to file a tax return. However, filing a voluntary tax return is worthwhile because you can get money back from the state—a significant amount of money at that.
Many students assume that a tax return is not worthwhile for them because they do not work full time. However, this is a myth, because as a student, you have more expenses during your studies than you might initially think. Many of these expenses are tax-deductible and can help you get money back.
When are students obligated to file a tax return?
Students may also be required to submit a tax return in some cases:
- If you have more than one employer, i.e. you work multiple jobs but the income tax is not done for all the salaries together.
- In the case of a loss carried forward from previous years.
- Other cases as stated in our article about the obligation to file a tax return.
Get 4x taxes back with your student tax return!
Claim your 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 student expenses back with Taxfix. It’s easy with Taxfix—browser or app.
How much from tax do you get back as a student?
There’s no fixed answer to this question. The latest figures show that employees who have submitted their tax returns for a certain year have received an average of 1,072 euros back from the tax office.
For students, the refund amount is usually lower. Yet, even in the case of students, it’s financially beneficial to complete a tax refund.
How do you file a tax return as a student?
Taxfix is the easiest way for students to file a tax return. For your student tax return with Taxfix, you don’t need a diploma or a master’s degree in tax law. We make the tax return understandable for you:
1. Our simple question flow walks you step-by-step through your tax return. You only answer simple questions. Extensive and complex forms have no place with us.
2. When you answer, your necessary data is compiled and automatically entered into the official tax forms.
3. All your study costs are stated in the tax return.
4. The expected tax refund is calculated immediately, free of charge and without risk.
5. When you’re satisfied, you can securely submit your tax documents to your tax office paperless.
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What are my tax deductibles as a student?
The expenses during your student years may be different or even lower than when you are employed. Yet, you have the chance to get a lot of money back from the tax authorities!
You can claim these costs for tax purposes:
Costs Examples Eligibility for student allowances Additional information Student fees Semester fees, examination fees, expenses for admission test, seminar expenses Not eligible Read more about deducting tuition fees or start filing your taxes with Taxfix Commuting costs Expenses of travelling to the university or the library. Also includes trips between the main residence and the second residence 0.30 euros/km one way for the first 20 kilometres. From the 21st kilometre, 0.38 euros/km. Max: 4,500 euros Know more about deducting deducting travel expenses during your studies or start filing your taxes with Taxfix Phone and internet costs Smartphone contract, Internet at home, landline 20 euros per month (240 euros per year) Find out how to deduct internet costs during your studies or start filing your taxes with Taxfix Computer Costs of buying computer, tablet, software and peripherals Not eligible for allowances, although full depreciation is possible in the same year or within 12 months. Only partial use for the study can be claimed for tax purposes Deduct the costs of your computer and tablet or start filing your taxes with Taxfix Reading materials and other necessary tools Specialist literature, special equipment, didactic materials, printing and copying costs, pens, pads, etc. Not eligible for allowances, but full depreciation is possible in the same year or within 12 months. Only partial use for the study can be claimed for tax purposes Deduct the costs of literature and learning materials or start filing your taxes with Taxfix Accommodation costs Possible when the student apartment is a second home Not eligible; rent is fully deductible Deduct your second home (DE) or start filing taxes with Taxfix Student loans Interest on student loan repayment Not eligible; credit costs are fully deductible Claim a student loan for tax purposes or start filing taxes directly with Taxfix
As you can see, there are many ways to deduct expenses on your tax return. The Taxfix app allows you to claim these tax-deductibles effortlessly. Simple questions enable you to list all possible student expenses accurately and in the correct fields.
Here’s a complete list of tax deductibles for students in our blogpost.
What's your tax class as a student?
As a student, you are usually in tax class 1. It is also the standard class for employees. However, deviations are possible:
- If you have several employers, tax class 6 applies
- Tax class 2 is intended for single parents
- Other life circumstances such as marriage also result in one of the other tax brackets
Loss carryforward: Save future taxes
Not an earning student? File your tax return anyway. With a loss carryforward (Verlustvortrag), you can still benefit from it later.
This is how it works: When you submit your tax return to the tax office, your income and expenses are offset against each other. If you have a loss due to excessive costs, you carry this into the next tax year, where it is then offset against your income at that point.
With the loss carryforward, you can take your losses with you into the time after your studies. When you then earn your first money, you save taxes in the first year of work with your studies.
Tax return for secondary education (Zweitstudium)
In contrast to the first degree, a second degree/training is considered as advanced training. You can deduct expenses from for your master’s degree, or a degree after completing your apprenticeship or another degree in your tax return as ‘training costs’.
They count as income-related expenses and can therefore be fully deducted. This maximises your tax savings as a student
Tax return for the first degree (Erststudium)
If the first degree is the very first training received, it is also considered to be initial training.
So if we assume here that the first degree is also the first training, the permissible expenses are only deductible as special expenses, not as income-related expenses, as in the case of the second training (see above). The maximum amount that can be deducted is limited to 6,000 euros.
Deadlines for the student tax return
If you are a student who is obligated to submit a tax return, you have the same tax deadlines as every other mandatory tax filer. Unfortunately, there are no easier tax returns for students. It’s best to keep this deadline in mind.
Tax deadlines for mandatory tax filers:
- Tax year 2022: October 2nd, 2023
- Tax year 2022 with a tax advisor: July 31st, 2024
In general, however, students are not obligated to file a tax return. Since a tax return can still be beneficial, we recommend calculating the possible tax refund quickly and easily with Taxfix. As with other groups, students have four years to file their voluntary tax returns.
Tax deadlines for voluntary tax filers:
- Tax year 2022: December 31, 2026
- Tax year 2021: December 31, 2025
- Tax year 2020: December 31, 2024
- Tax year 2019: December 31, 2023
Submitting a retroactive tax return as a student
Even if you haven’t submitted a tax return in recent years, you’re likely not too late to submit one right away. As a student, you can also voluntarily submit your tax return 4 years later and top up your pocket money.
For example, you can still submit your tax return for 2019 and the following years retrospectively to the tax office up to the end of the year 2023.
Can I still file a tax return for my student years after I graduate?
Retrospective tax returns apply to your taxes in this case as well. A loss carryforward can usually be claimed retrospectively for up to seven years.
The tax office pays you an interest
However, a few conditions apply here, for example the interest period does not begin directly at the end of the tax year.
Find out all about it in our article on earning interests on your tax returns.
Average refunds of €1,072
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Tax returns for students: ELSTER vs. Taxfix
As you can guess, Taxfix is very different from the classic ELSTER online (link in German) service from the tax office. Students who do their tax returns with ELSTER have to fill out complex forms that are often obscure.
The questions in the Taxfix app are intuitive, simply worded and accompanied by bite-sized explanations if you don’t know what to do. While at ELSTER you usually have to fill out several forms, at Taxfix you can complete the questionnaire in one go. Meanwhile, you can switch from smartphone to app and back – your data is constantly synchronized.
We also suggest deductible expenses that you might not have thought of. Combined with the plausibility check for your entries, there is no easier path to your optimized tax refund. And best of all: filing taxes with Taxfix takes less than half an hour on average!
Lino Teuteberg and Mathis Büchi founded the fintech startup Taxfix in 2016. Taxfix helps hundreds of thousands of people file their annual tax returns quickly, correctly, and without stress. Experienced tax experts, lawyers, and developers collaborate at Taxfix to demystify taxes and create an intuitive tax-filing app. The goal: simplify tax returns to make refunds accessible to all taxpayers.