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Germany before the tax jam

For the first time in years, the processing times for tax returns in Germany's tax offices have increased again.

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Germany before the tax jam

For the first time in years, the processing times for tax returns in Germany's tax offices have increased again. Last year, the tax authorities needed an average of 54 days to issue a tax assessment. That was five days more than 2021. The results come from an evaluation of the online tax portal wage tax compact, which is exclusively available to WELT AM SONNTAG.

Berlin's financial administration worked the fastest again. In the capital, it took an average of one and a half months, 46 days to be precise, before the decision was received. In Hamburg it was 47 days. In Bremen and Brandenburg, citizens had to wait 82 days and 73 days respectively.

The bottom of the list of tax offices included in the assessment was in Potsdam. Here, the processing took 105 days, i.e. three and a half months. That's 22 more days than it took the slowest tax office in 2021. For comparison: The fastest work was done in Hofgeismar in Hesse. According to the evaluation, only 21 days passed before the tax assessment came.

According to Florian Koebler, head of the German Tax Union, the nationwide delays are just a foretaste of what taxpayers can expect this year. "In 2023, the average processing time for tax returns will increase dramatically," said Köbler.

The employees in many tax offices could not keep up with the processing. “Up to 50 percent more declarations are already piling up in the tax offices than at the same time last year,” said Köbler. In some regions, the waiting time is already three months. Normally it only takes half as long from receipt of the declaration to the final decision.

From Köbler's point of view, the 36 million property tax returns that also have to be processed by the offices are decisive. "These have been a burden on the tax administration since the second half of 2022 and will also have a drastic impact on processing times in 2023," said the representative of the employees in the financial administration.

In addition, the number of income tax returns will increase because the federal government has usually built a social component into its relief measures and aid payments would therefore have to be taxed. Many unsettled citizens, who may have to submit a tax return because of the help, also called the tax offices or went to the service centers. This stops the employees.

The Federal Ministry of Finance is also not giving the all-clear. "It can be assumed that processing times will still increase in 2023," the ministry said on request. However, there is only one reason for the additional work associated with the relief packages.

From the ministry’s point of view, the main reason for the delays is the extended deadlines for submitting tax returns during the corona pandemic. In 2021, this initially led to a relief for the offices. The positive one-off effect was corrected in 2022, but only partially.

The statements correspond to figures from the online tax portal. Accordingly, taxpayers are increasingly adapting to the new deadline, especially for classic income tax returns. "In 2022, 29 percent of all tax returns were submitted in the three months before the October deadline," said Felix Bodeewes from the wage tax compact.

When the main period ended at the end of July, only 17 percent of the declarations related to the period August, September and October. In the previous year, the clustering in early autumn also collided with the first receipts of the special declarations required from real estate owners in preparation for the property tax reform.

According to the operator of the wage tax compact, the average values ​​of the processing time now collected are based on almost 400,000 tax returns that were created via the platform in 2022.

In order to avoid excessive distortions, only those tax offices where at least 50 tax returns were submitted via the platform were included in the evaluation. That was 479. There are a total of around 550 offices in Germany. The current increase in processing time is the first since 2018. Back then, anyone expecting money from the tax office had to wait an average of 56 days for the tax assessment.

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