Taxes in Germany

The following information serves as an orientation and as preliminary information. The Graduate Academy does not provide any form of tax consultancy. For a general overview on the german system of taxation, click here. If you have detailed individual questions, please contact your local finance authority, a tax auditor of your choice, or a tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein).

General information about taxes in Germany can be found here.

Tax deductability of doctorate

Costs incurred in context with your doctorate may be tax-deductable. Tax-deductable costs include, for instance, your semester fee, materials needed for your work, technical literature, computing costs, travel expenses, course fees or the printing costs for your dissertation. As a rule, these costs are regarded as tax-deductable professional expenses (Werbungskosten) or special costs for education and training (Sonderausgaben).

Offsetting costs as professional expenses

You can offset the costs of your doctorate as professional expenses (Werbungskosten) in an unlimited amount (as of 1st March 2014). It is not a prerequisite that you have a taxable income against which to offset these costs, as you may carry forward professional expenses to the following years. However, it is a prerequisite that obtaining the doctoral degree is essential or at least highly important for the advancement of your career in order to put it in context with taxable income generated at a later point in time. Consequently, you need to provide proof that your doctorate is driven by reasons of your professional advancement (e.g. better career opportunities). 

If you have detailed individual questions, please contact your local finance authority, a tax auditor of your choice, or a tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein).

Offsetting costs as costs of education and training

If you cannot furnish proof that your doctorate is primarily driven by reasons of professional advancement, the costs incurred count as special expenses (Sonderausgaben) for education and training, and can be offset up to a maximum amount of € 4,000 per year (as of 1st March 2014). However, you can only offset these costs if you have generated taxable income in the calendar year in question exceeding the tax-exempt base amount defined in the income tax tables (e.g., through your employment as an academic employee, if you are doing an extra-occupational doctorate, or if your spouse is in gainful employment). Carrying forward special expenses to the following year is generally not possible. If you have detailed individual questions, please contact your local finance authority, a tax auditor of your choice, or a tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein).

Further information

Your local tax authority, a tax assistance association or a tax auditor can provide you with more detailed information. As some of them are also offering their service in English, we have compiled a list of these. The following links will also be helpful:

The Graduate Academy does not assume liability for the contents of external links.

News