Tax number and tax ID in Germany: What is it?


Updated on Nov 05 • 3 minute read

Tax number and tax identification number in Germany: Two terms that could hardly be more similar and with their resemblance create confusion- not only for internationals. Though the tax number and the tax identification number might come across like identical twins, their purposes are actually different.

As a matter of fact, if you want to kick start your career in Germany, you’ll need both a German tax number and a German tax ID number. We promise: once you’ve dipped into this topic, the difference becomes visible right away.

What is the difference between the tax number and tax identification number in Germany?

In a nutshell: the thirteen digits of your tax numbers are the mouthpiece between you and your local tax office. You receive them upon registration of your residence and are your constant companion for your tax return. With the eleven-digit tax identification number that German citizens receive at birth and international citizens upon arrival in Germany you can open a bank account and has to be recorded on your income tax return as well.

Just to play it safe, you should provide both your tax number and your tax identification number when communicating with the tax office.

Good to know, in the long run, the tax identification number will replace the tax number for income tax purposes! However, it's not yet decided for how long the old tax number will remain valid.

Why do I need a tax ID in Germany (Steueridentifikationsnummer)?

So what is a tax identification number actually needed for, you wonder? The tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) is intended to be one thing above all: efficient. With the eleven-digit number, you have your own identification mark, which you:

  • Use for all requests, notifications or declarations regarding income tax to the tax office
  • Must indicate in your tax return.

The tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) stores all your relevant data, such as first name, surname, current and past addresses, day and place of birth, doctorate, your tax authorities and even the date of death. In this way, it allows you to use an electronic income tax card and employers can directly retrieve relevant data from the Federal Central Tax Office.

In brief: your tax identification number simplifies the communication of all tax-relevant information to the tax office.

Did you know that the tax identification number is also supposed to uncover tax evasion?

Where do I find my tax ID in Germany (Steueridentifikationsnummer)?

With birth, every citizen in Germany receives his or her individual tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer), which is then valid for life - no matter whether you move to a new federal state or get married.

For international residents, the 11-digit number is issued at your registration. This means that international residents will also receive their individual tax identification number as soon as the registration office has transmitted your data to the Federal Central Tax Office.

When relocating to Germany, the eleven-digit tax identification number will not be the only document issued to you. So it comes as no surprise that a number might get lost in a pile of documents at home. However, if you just can't find your letter of notification, this number can still be found on other documents:

  • Income tax statement of the employer
  • Your last income tax assessment
  • In any correspondence with the tax office.

Still not found again? Then you can request a new letter of notification of your tax identification number. On the website of the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, you just have to fill out the online application form and you will find the letter in your mailbox within a couple of days.

Why do I need a tax number in Germany (Steuernummer)?

As the name suggests, the tax number is also used to manage your tax affairs and to handle all taxes (tax assessment). You will need to include your tax number with every tax return you file. This is true for all types of taxes, such as income tax, sales tax, trade tax or corporate income tax. You might ask yourself why this is so? Your tax number simplifies the administrative work for the tax authorities and your request can be assigned much easier.

To put it simply, you will need your tax number once a year for your income declaration and for any correspondence with the tax authorities.

Where do I find my tax number in Germany (Steuernummer)?

You will get your tax number from the local tax office in your area as soon as you are a taxpayer. Once you file your first income tax return, you’ll be issued a written notice with your tax number by the tax office.

In case you can't find the written notification among your pile of papers, you can also have a look at the tax statement of your last tax return! Are you still missing your tax number? Then you can ask for it at your local tax office.

For the record, tax numbers are structured quite logically: a/b/cp stands for the federal tax office number: b shows which tax office in which district it is; c is your personal tax number and p is a one-digit check digit.

In other words: as soon as you leave your room in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin amidst hip cafés and find rental home in the Hamburg in it's sought-after neighborhood Eimsbüttel, another tax office is responsible for you and you will receive a new tax number. And also when you get married, you'll be issued a new tax number!

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