Dear Tax Office, Where’s My Tax Refund?

The tax return is on its way to the tax office. Well done! So when exactly will the tax office send through your tax return?

    01.

    How Long Does the Tax Office Need to Process a Tax Return?

    The time taken by the responsible tax office to process your tax returns depends on several factors. When did you file your taxes? Where do you live? How complicated is your tax calculation? What’s the availability of employees at the tax office?


    On average, it takes 1-3 months to receive a tax assessment.


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    02.

    Does the Tax Office Need More Time to Process Tax Returns During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

    In 2020, the tax offices were already processing the delayed income tax returns from 2019. The average processing times aren’t always applicable.


    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have received Kurzarbeitergeld. This increases the number of tax returns for 2020 and in the following years, as it’s mandatory in most cases to file a tax return. Besides, there are other wage replacement benefits, such as Unemployment Benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld), as additional calculations. All of this adds up to considerably more work for the tax office.

    03.

    Where are the fastest tax offices in Germany?

    Not every tax office works at the same pace. According to the current data from the Association of Taxpayers (BdSt), Berlin bags first place with a tax return processing time of 38 days. Hamburg comes in second with 39.5 days, followed by Saarland with 42 days. Bremen occupies the last places with around 60 days and North Rhine-Westphalia with up to 180 days until receipt of the tax assessment.


    You can find the waiting times of all federal states at a glance at the Taxpayers Association (BdSt) e.V. (as of December 31, 2019).

    If you haven’t received your tax refund in a year, you can sue the tax office, and after 15 months, it is possible to claim interest on the late tax refund.

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    04.

    Up to How Long Can the Tax Office Take to Process My Tax Return?

    The tax office cannot take an eternity to process your tax return, nor can it do it in the blink of an eye. At the latest, you should receive your tax returns within six months of submitting your tax return.


    If the tax office has further inquiries and requests you to submit documents, the processing time extends accordingly.


    If you have waited six months for your tax refund and have not yet received a response from the tax office, it is advisable to ask the tax office what the status of your tax assessment is and act accordingly.


    If this does not help, you have the option of submitting an inactivity objection (Untätigkeitseinspruch) to the responsible tax office.

    If you haven’t received your tax refund in a year, you can sue the tax office, and after 15 months, it is possible to claim interest on the late tax refund.

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    Only answer what's related to your case, avoid non-necessary information.

    05.

    Can I shorten the wait?

    You may think it wise to file your tax return as early as possible to get an early refund. Of course, you may send it across as early as January—however, tax offices aren’t as active between the beginning and the middle of March.


    The reason being that until the end of February, health insurances and other authorities transmit their data to the tax office. So, the tax office expends all its effort in processing these documents. Besides, there are often tax changes at the beginning of the year that making their way into the tax authorities’ system.


    When you submit your tax return electronically, you’re at an advantage. This spares the tax officer from entering your data from the paper into electronic forms. Also, there are fewer numbers to be dealt with. However, there is no preferential treatment. As a matter of fact, tax returns are processed according to their date of receipt.


    To avoid inquiries from the tax office, it is advisable to send all the necessary documents and supporting documents directly.

    06.

    Tax Assessment Received? Tax Refund is on its way!

    Once you have completed your tax return, you can usually expect a tax refund. It may so happen that your tax refund has reached your account before you have received the tax assessment.

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