German Tax ID Number

German TAX ID Number: A Guide For Expats

German Tax ID & German Tax Number

To begin, you should know that the German tax ID and the German tax number are different! Employees need a German tax ID. Freelancers and small businesses need a German tax number.

The German tax ID is sometimes referred to as the tax ID number, Identifikationsnummer, IdNr, Steuer-ID, Steuer-IdNr, or Steueridentifikationsnummer. The German tax number is also called Steuernummer.

For the purposes of this article, I will refer to them as the tax ID and tax number respectively.


Sections in this article: 

  • Why is there a tax ID and a tax number?
  • Do I need a tax ID or a tax number?
  • Do I need to request a tax ID every year?
  • How to get a German tax ID.
  • How to get a German tax number.
  • Who can legally ask me for my tax ID?
  • I lost my tax ID.
  • Do children receive a tax ID?

Why is there a tax ID and a tax number?

When I first started learning about the German tax system, this topic was a bit confusing. Why is there a German tax ID (Identifikationsnummer/IdNr) and a German tax number (Steuernummer)? Well, some brief history explains why Germany has both a German tax ID and a German tax number. 

For a long time Germany only used a tax number. In principle, German tax authorities could fulfill their duties in the field of tax administration with just this tax number. Identifying people with this number, however, took a substantial amount of time and effort because their name, address, date and place of birth also needed to be transmitted. 

Not only did this take much longer for tax administration, but it also left room for error. For example, if there was any minor inaccuracy in the spelling of a name (‘Muler’ instead of ‘Müller’) tax authorities could not identify the person with certainty.

Most EU countries already used unique identification numbers for tax purposes. Although Germany was (and still is) a highly industrialized country, it was trailing behind.

As a result, in 2007 Germany introduced the tax ID (Identifikationsnummer). You will often see this term abbreviated to IdNr.

The tax ID makes the taxation process faster and more accurate because your name, address, date and place of birth don’t need to be transmitted. The only thing you and the tax authorities need is your tax ID. In addition, your tax ID never changes. 

As a result of the tax ID, Germany has modernized the taxation process to save time and money and made filing taxes an easier process for German citizens and residents.

The tax ID will eventually phase out the traditional tax number for income taxes.

The tax ID is an 11-digit identification number.


Do I need a tax ID or a tax number?

Since Germany has not yet completely phased out the German tax number, there is some overlap.

You need the German tax ID if you’re an employee. Your employer uses your tax ID to pay you. If you don’t provide your employer with your tax ID, your income will be taxed at the maximum rate (between 42% and 45%). You need your tax ID in order to request a tax refund. It will also help you open a bank account.

On the other hand, freelancers and small businesses need the German tax number. In the future, the tax ID will be ubiquitous, and freelancers and small business will use the tax ID. The procedure for issuing business tax IDs, however, is still being developed. Therefore, freelancers and small business are still using the tax number.

You also need a tax ID for exemption orders. In Germany, capital gains are tax exempt up to a certain amount. If you are eligible for an exemption order, it is important that you have a tax ID.


Do I need to request a tax ID every year?

No. Your tax ID never changes – not even if you change your address or marry. The tax ID you are first assigned stays with you for your entire life.


How to get a German tax ID.

You will automatically get your tax ID in the mail 2 to 3 weeks after you register your German address (by completing the Anmeldung form at your city’s Einwohnermeldeamt registration office).


How to get a German tax number.

If you’re a freelancer or small business, you need to fill out the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung. You submit this form to your local tax office (Finanzamt). Afterwards, you will receive your tax number in the mail.


Who can legally ask me for my tax ID?

Your pension fund, health insurance company, employment office, the family pay office (Familienkassen) (child benefits) or non-profit organizations may legally ask you for your tax ID. Such social service providers are (or will be) obliged to tell the tax authorities any tax data relevant to you. For example, social service providers may need to communicate tax-relevant data such as contributions to insurance plans for retirement, illness, and disability. For non-profit organizations, you need to disclose your tax ID if you donate money or things and would like the donation receipt to be submitted directly to your tax office.


I lost my tax ID.

You can find your tax ID on your last income tax assessment or on your employment tax statement. If you still cannot find your tax ID on either of these documents, you can request your tax ID from the Federal Central Tax Office. Your tax ID will be sent to you by mail to your current registration address. Your request will take about 4 weeks to process. In some cases, this can take longer if there is a high number of requests to process. The Federal Central Tax Office cannot legally send you your tax ID by e-mail or phone due to data protection.

You can request to have your tax ID mail to you through the Federal Central Tax Office’s website or in writing to the Federal Central Tax Office, Department St II 6, 53221 Bonn. Although the tax office cannot legally give you your tax ID over the phone, you can call the office if you have additional questions. You can reach the Federal Central Tax Office at 0228 406-1240, Mon. to Fri. from 8:00am to 4:00 pm. lf you are calling from abroad, dial +49 228 406 1240.

If you’ve lost your tax ID, the easiest way to retrieve it is through their website.

To request your tax ID online, click here.


Do children receive a tax ID?

Yes, children are also given a tax ID. Technically everyone is liable for income tax from birth. Although children normally do not have income tax, it is possible. For example, if a child receives investment capital yields from an inheritance, income tax must be paid.


If you have more specific questions, please comment below, and we will do our best to guide you in the right direction! Please note that we are not certified tax agents. For the most up-to-date information, visit the German Taxation Office website.


One last thing – By law, you must have German health insurance if you live in Germany. It’s also necessary in order to apply for a residency permit/visa in Germany as a non-EU citizen. Our article, “German Public Health Insurance: A Guide For Expats In Germany,” provides more information about health insurance in Germany.


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