Taxes, contributions and contracts - Good to know

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In Germany, taxes and various social security contributions are automatically deducted from your pay.

However, the regulations regarding students are quite generous – you pay either nothing or only little.

No guarantee is given that the following information is always correct and up-to-date!

What is a tax identification number and when do I need it?

  • As a rule, if you work in Germany, you need a tax ID number (Steuernummer), which is used to administer all tax-related issues.
  • The tax office (Finanzamt) of the municipality where you live assigns your tax ID to you.

Income tax

  • The amount of taxes depends on how much you earn and on your tax bracket. The taxes deducted over the course of a year are considered advance tax payment. After the end of the calendar year, you file your income tax return; the tax office checks this and then decides whether you are reimbursed for some of the taxes already paid, or whether you have to pay some more. The taxes are calculated based on the average income during a calendar year; therefore, if your income varies from month to month, it is likely that your tax return will result in a reimbursement.
  • Tax allowance: If you do not earn more than 9.000 EUR (as of 2018) over the course of the year, you do not pay taxes / the tax office will reimburse you after checking your tax return.
  • Note: If you have a student job, you often do not have to pay any taxes. Usually these are so-called mini jobs / 450-Euro jobs, for which no taxes are payable.
  • Tax brackets: In Germany there are different tax brackets. Your tax bracket is determined based on your marital / family status and e.g. the number of jobs you hold.

Pension insurance

  • Every employee in Germany who is subject to mandatory social security contributions must pay part of their income to the state pension insurance scheme. Normally this amounts to 9.35% of the income.
  • Mini jobs with an income of no more than 450 EUR are exempt from these contributions provided that an exemption has been applied for. Otherwise, 3.7% of gross income is due (reduced rate). Reduced rates also apply to income between 450 EUR and 850 EUR per month or if the job amounts to up to 20 hours per week. In this case you cannot apply for an exemption however.

What can I earn in a student job?

  • Germany has a minimum wage of 8,84 EUR/hour
  • The minimum wage also applies to voluntary internships of more than 3 months
  • Exceptions: all mandatory internships and voluntary internships of less than three months
  • How much you earn with a sideline job depends greatly on your skills, the industry and the regional job market. For example, at the university you are covered by a higher tariff as a graduate student than as an undergraduate student.

What is a mini job?

Most sideline jobs for students in Germany are offered as so-called mini jobs/minor employment (also known as “450-Euro-Jobs or “geringfügige Beschäftigung). This refers to an employment relationship where you may not earn more than 450 EUR per month. Under German law, no payment into health, care or unemployment insurance schemes is due for someone with a “minor employment“ job. It is possible to get an exemption from the pension insurance schemes. Note: You are permitted to have several mini jobs at the same time, but you should inform your employers about this and your income may not exceed €450.

What is a Werkstudent (student trainee)?

Student trainees are full-time students who also work for an employer, but not in a mini job. The rule for student trainees is that neither the student nor the employer pay contributions to health, care and unemployment insurance schemes, no matter how much money the student trainee earns. Only the contributions to the pension insurance scheme have to be paid. The amount of time a student trainee is permitted to work is limited to 20 hours per week – with a few important exceptions.

  • Work during the semester breaks: During the semester breaks, there are no limits for the amount of time student trainees may work, irrespective of whether this is in addition to a regular job of up to 20 hours per week or exclusively in their capacity as student trainee.
  • Student trainees may also work more than 20 hours per week for a maximum of nearly 26 weeks (181 days). [Only applies to students from the EU and EEA]
  • Temporary employment for a maximum of three months: Student trainees can also work more than 20 hours per week if it is agreed upfront that the job is limited to a maximum period of three months.

Health insurance / care insurance

  • As a rule, even if you work, you are insured as a student, not as an employee. That means that you pay the student tariff offered by your health insurance (applies to students up to the age of 30 or until their 14th subject semester).
  • However, if you work more than 20 hours per week, you may be subject to a different health insurance tariff. Clarify this with your employer!
  • If you are not sure, contact your health insurance to ask for advice before accepting a job.

Unemployment insurance

As a rule, students do not have to pay unemployment insurance if they are in minor employment /mini job (geringfügig beschäftigt) or work as a student trainee. However, this also means that they cannot claim unemployment benefits.

Self-employment, contracts for work and labour, freelance work

  • Caution: International students who are not from an EU or EEA member state are as a rule not permitted to engage in self-employed work!
  • If you are working as a freelancer your customer or principal usually asks for an invoice, or you agree on a contract for work and labour.
  • Money thus earned is not taxed in advance. However, you have to notify your income to the tax office the end of the year and must file an income tax return.
  • Please inform yourself thoroughly about regulations for self-employment or freelance work!