Many citizens filed their tax returns especially early this year – because they had an unusual amount of time, but above all because every cent of refund is urgently needed in the corona pandemic.
Nevertheless, the taxman still has the hard part ahead of them, as 31. July is the deadline for filing the 2019 tax return.
Many tax officials still work from their home offices. Print an eye here and there now because of the difficult conditions? The head of the german tax union, thomas eigenthaler, believes this is entirely possible. "It may be that in the fall we will no longer complain about every little thing, that after the vacations we will more often "grunt" at the traffic lights switch", he told the news portal "t-online".
It is unlikely that normal employees will get away with cheating on their tax returns this year. Eigenthaler said he expects hardly any delay in the simple cases. The union boss, who has been working on the 80.000 people employed by the tax authorities, is more likely to talk about the complicated cases of the pandemic. Rolling up balance sheets, checking ancillary income, all that takes time.
At the same time, however, tax officials are busy with tax deferrals and other corona arrangements. "We don’t want to be faced with a wave of tax returns," eigenthaler emphasized. "That’s why we have to think carefully about what we review – and what we don’t review."
Leniency in tax matters does not go down well with the ministry of finance. "We assume that the tax authorities will audit the tax returns to the extent provided for by law," a spokeswoman stressed on wednesday. There is no reason to believe they are not fit for work because of the pandemic, he said.
In fact, even in good times, the tax offices do not check every tax declaration thoroughly for a long time. According to eigenthaler, 10 to 15 percent are processed fully automatically, without a tax official ever getting his hands on them. The goal is to increase this rate to 50 percent. However, "the legislature has often had to cut corners, but I don’t agree with that," said eigenthaler.
Numerous other tax declarations, mostly simple ones from normal employees without high special incomes, are only checked for plausibility. Gross deviations from the previous year are noticeable here – for example, when the mileage allowance rises sharply even though the place of work and residence remain the same. Only a random sample and selected special items are scrutinized in detail.
Overall, processing could take a little longer this year, individual tax offices warned as early as april – too few staff and too many additional tasks in connection with the crisis. On the other hand, many tax offices are more accommodating when it comes to deferrals and late payments.
In the coming year, on the other hand, the tax return may become more complicated for many – especially for all those who just work from the kitchen table, from the children’s desk or from the home office. The mileage allowance for the commute to work is naturally eliminated for the time of the home office, said eigenthaler. Those who hope to be able to deduct their home office from their taxes will often come away empty-handed. Currently, this is only recognized if the room is used almost exclusively for work – a desk in the living room or bedroom does not pay, nor does the dining table in the kitchen. "Many people don’t have such rough housing conditions," complained the union boss.
Eigenthaler therefore believes that a home office allowance is the right thing to do, as does the hessian finance minister, michael boddenberg (CDU). Deducting a lump sum of 600 euros from taxes is "a sensible idea". "Because if we in the tax office now start to shorten the mileage allowance, but offer nothing in return, it will only bring more trouble."
The ministry of finance has not yet considered such a flat rate. The bund der steuerzahler, on the other hand, considers even 100 euros a month, or up to 1200 euros a year, to be appropriate. "Even those who only have a provisionally furnished work corner or are active at the cake table and keep their company running should receive tax recognition here," demanded association president reiner holznagel. A photo of the workplace must suffice for the tax authorities.
Many employees do not yet realize the additional costs of working from home. You have to expect higher electricity bills. The use of private computers, internet access, telephone costs, higher parking costs, all these expenses should be charged to home workers in the coming year, the taxpayers’ association demands. Which also relieved the tax authorities, who did not have to check masses of telephone bills and workrooms.