Taxes For Members

EXPLAINED: Why it's worth filling in your annual tax return in Austria

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Why it's worth filling in your annual tax return in Austria
(Photo: Scott Graham / Unsplash)

Income tax return has many names in Austria, but the 'Steuerausgleich' or employee assessment, could be a way to claim back some money owed to you by the Austrian tax man.


If you are an employed worker in Austria, chances are you've heard of the Steuerausgleich most Austrians fill in each year. It's the income tax return form in Austria. However, since it's an optional process, many people - especially foreigners still learning German - end up not going through it. 

However, when you don't do it yourself, the government does it for you. That means that many tax credits you could've claimed to reduce your tax burden will not be taken into account, and you might not receive as much money back. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What we know so far about Austria's new income tax plan

What is the Steuerausgleich?

In Austria, income tax is calculated automatically and taken from the monthly pay of salaried workers. The process is simple, and you don't have to fill out many forms every year.

However, by the end of the tax year, the taxes due to the government are automatically recalculated and can lead to a credit for the worker. 

What is an automatic tax return? 

Since 2016, Austria has introduced an application-free tax assessment for employees to ensure that low-income people receive their tax credit even if they did not submit a specific form. 

However, many people benefit from the automatic returns, as long as they follow specific prerequisites such as not having submitted an L1 form for the previous year by June 30th and having a tax credit to receive according to the tax authorities.

All taxpayers eligible for automatic tax equalisation for the first time receive an information letter in the second half of the following year so they can confirm account details or waive their right if they plan on filing an assessment themselves. 

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You can get a tax credit this way if there are changes in your income (due to job changes, for example) or if you have certain special expenses (such as donations) which are automatically transmitted to the tax office. 


Why is it worth it to do it yourself then?

There are many tax credits and expenses you can deduct that won't be done automatically by the tax authorities. This means that, on average, people who submit their tax assessments receive more money back than those who just wait for the automatic process. 

Austrian media has reported that those who file their assessment themselves get an average €437 more than those who don't. Citing government figures, the reports state that the manual application leads to an average of €714 being paid back to workers. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about filing taxes in Austria

All the things taken into consideration in the automatic assessment (such as social security refunds) are also already considered in the manual submission - so you already start with a base amount you'd get automatically. 

From there, you can add many "income-related expenses", which are costs you incur due to your professional activity. This can be equipment such as work clothes, internet, computers, and training and further education. 


There are also certain allowances and tax credits that you can deduct, including a commuter allowance, the family bonus deduction (up to €2,000 per child) and other family matters (for example, a single parent deduction). 

Costs due to illnesses or disabilities, including doctors' fees, medical expenses and even spa treatment costs, can be deducted. 


How do I do it myself?

The easiest way to submit a tax assessment is via the Lohnsteuerausgleich page with FinanzOnline. There, you can go through a step-by-step process to calculate how much you can get back (if it ends up, you would need to pay more taxes, you can always just waive that year's assessment). The main form is the L1, but you might need to fill out other forms as you deduct different types of expenses. 

READ ALSO: Do I need to open a local bank account when moving to Austria?

The tax office has six months to process your application - but you can submit it up to five years later. This means that you can still apply manually even if you haven't made it before (and even if you did get something automatically from the tax office). 

You have five years to complete the so-called voluntary employee tax assessment. This means you can still retroactively submit your 2019 tax return until the end of this year. For 2023, you then have until the end of December 2028.


Comments (1)

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Jimi 2024/02/08 08:50
Dead link to FinanzOnline (missing .bmf ?)
  • Amanda Previdelli 2024/02/08 08:56
    Hi, you're right. It should be fixed now! Thanks for letting us know.

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