Course costs can result in a significant tax saving upon commencement of professional life. It will particularly benefit students
- who have completed an apprenticeship or at least a 12-month training prior to their studies
- studying a Masters course
- completing a second degree
- completing an integrated degree programme
- completing studies in tandem with their career
- completing a doctorate
The course costs include all costs immediately associated with the course, e.g. course/examination fees, semester fees, specialist literature, photocopies, work materials (e.g. computers, software), language classes, revision courses, private tutoring, meetings, excursions, travel expenses, accommodation expenses and interest for student loans.
As students generally earn little or no income, course costs might put them in debt. These losses are transferred over to the following year as so-called “losses carried forward” (Verlustvortrag) and are set off against the results of the corresponding year. Thus, the losses of several years of studying can be accumulated and can possibly lead to a tax reduce after the final exam. However, if any profit (income) is realized while studying, the tax office will set off former losses immediately, so that for income below the basic exemption, but above the recognized losses, the losses carried forward are ineffective. While the deadline for a volunteer tax return ends after four years, losses carried forward can still be asserted retroactively for the last seven years.
How it works: Students submit a tax return for each year of studying; for freelance or commercial income (compulsory assessment) no later than 31.7. of the following year. There is no limit for course costs deduction, so it is worth collecting receipts for these costs and prepare them for the audit by the tax office.
Unlike the aforementioned student groups, course costs for students completing their first degree (initial training) are presently only taken into account for the current calendar year, and only up to a set maximum amount. This only creates a tax benefit for income well above the basic exemption in the same calendar year.
Tax returns are submitted to the local finance authority (Finanzamt). Students registered in Hamburg can find their corresponding tax office here. An overview of all other tax offices outside of Hamburg is available here.
Tax advisors and wage tax assistance associations as well as the counselling service of the students’ union (AStA) of University Hamburg can offer advice and counselling on tax-related issues.