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Mein ELSTER: Kein Papierkram mehr - Belege einfach aufbewahren

Elster Download 2021: How to File Your Tax Return Online in Germany

If you are living and working in Germany, you may need to file a tax return every year. This can be a daunting task, especially if you are not familiar with the German tax system and language. Fortunately, there is a way to make this process easier and faster: using Elster, the online tax office in Germany. In this article, we will explain what Elster is, how to register and log in, how to download and use the software, and how to fill out and submit your tax return with Elster.

What is Elster and why use it?

The meaning and history of Elster

Elster stands for Elektronische Steuererklärung, which means electronic tax return. It is a system developed by the German Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) to enable taxpayers to submit their tax returns online. It was introduced in 1996 to reduce the amount of paper documents and make the tax administration more efficient. Today, more than 90% of businesses in Germany use Elster, as well as many private individuals.

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The benefits and requirements of using Elster

Using Elster has many advantages over sending your tax return by post or using other software. Some of the benefits are:

  • You can save time and money by avoiding printouts, postage, and installation.

  • You can access your account from any device with an internet browser, including tablets and smartphones.

  • You can use pre-filled tax returns that automatically retrieve your personal information from your employer, social security schemes, and other sources.

  • You can check the status of your tax return and receive your tax assessment faster.

  • You can benefit from high security standards and encryption methods.

To use Elster, you need to meet some requirements:

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  • You need to have a German tax identification number (Steueridentifikationsnummer) that is assigned to you when you register your address in Germany.

  • You need to register for a free account on the Elster website and choose a login method.

  • You need to consent to the data collection and processing by the tax office.

How to register and log in to Elster

The steps to create an account and choose a login method

To create an account on Elster, you need to visit the website and click on the button that says "Benutzerkonto erstellen" (create an account). You will then have to fill out an online application form with your personal information, such as your email address, date of birth, tax ID, username, and password. You will also have to choose how you want to log in in the future. There are different options, but the most common one is using a digital signature (Zertifikatsdatei) that you can download for free. You will receive a confirmation email with a link to activate your account.

The options to participate in pre-filled tax return and consent to data collection

During the registration process, you will also be asked whether you want to participate in the pre-filled tax return (vora gefüllte Steuererklärung). This is a service that allows you to access your tax data from various sources, such as your employer, your bank, your health insurance, and so on. This can save you a lot of time and hassle, as you don't have to enter the data manually. However, you need to give your consent to the data collection and processing by the tax office. You can do this by ticking the box that says "Ich stimme der Datenübermittlung zu" (I agree to the data transmission). You can also change your settings later in your account.

How to download and use Elster software

The difference between ElsterFormular and Mein ELSTER

Once you have registered and logged in to Elster, you can choose between two software options to file your tax return: ElsterFormular and Mein ELSTER. ElsterFormular is a desktop application that you need to download and install on your computer. It is more suitable for complex tax situations, as it offers more forms and features. Mein ELSTER is a web-based application that you can access from any device with an internet browser. It is more user-friendly and convenient, as it does not require installation or updates. However, it has fewer forms and features than ElsterFormular.

The features and functions of Elster software

Both ElsterFormular and Mein ELSTER have similar features and functions that help you file your tax return online. Some of the main ones are:

  • You can select the tax year and the type of tax return you want to file, such as income tax, value-added tax, or corporate tax.

  • You can fill out the forms with your personal and financial information, such as your income, expenses, deductions, allowances, and so on.

  • You can use the help function to get explanations and tips for each field and form.

  • You can use the calculation function to estimate your tax liability or refund.

  • You can use the validation function to check for errors or inconsistencies in your data.

  • You can use the print function to create a PDF file of your tax return for your records.

  • You can use the submit function to send your tax return electronically to the tax office.

How to fill out and submit your tax return with Elster

The forms and documents you need for your tax situation

The forms and documents you need for your tax return depend on your tax situation, such as your income sources, your marital status, your residency status, and so on. For example, if you are an employee in Germany, you will need the following forms:


MantelbogenThe main form that contains your personal information and general data.

Anlage NThe form for income from employment.

Anlage VorsorgeaufwandThe form for social security contributions and insurance premiums.

Anlage AVThe form for private pension contributions.

Anlage KAPThe form for capital income.

Anlage AUSThe form for foreign income.

Anlage RThe form for pension income.

Anlage KindThe form for child-related benefits.

Anlage UThe form for alimony payments.

Anlage SThe form for self-employment income.

Anlage GThe form for business income.

Anlage EÜRThe form for income-expenditure calculation.

Anlage SOThe form for other income.

Anlage FWThe form for property-related deductions.

Anlage WA-EStThe form for joint assessment of married couples.

In addition to the forms, you will also need some documents to support your information, such as:

  • Your annual wage slip (Lohnsteuerbescheinigung) from your employer.

  • Your bank statements (Kontoauszüge) showing your interest income and dividends.

Your certificates (Bescheinigungen) from your health insurance, pension scheme, already submitted it with Elster, you can still make changes or additions within a certain period of time. You can do this by logging in to your account and clicking on "Steuererklärung ändern" (change tax return). You will then have to fill


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