The tax offices are so slow

The tax offices are so slow

Dhe tax return is work and annoying. But it’s worth it. Because more than 80 percent of the employees then get money back, on average around 1000 euros. And because it is particularly expensive in the supermarket at the moment, the citizen is all the happier when that Tax office hurries, quickly issues the tax assessment and transfers the money.

Dyrk Scherff

Editor in the “Value” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

Unfortunately, the offices have recently become slower. The processing time for the 2021 tax return has increased by an average of seven days compared to the 2020 return. It was only four more days in Hesse, but 16 additional days in Bremen. On average, depending on the federal state, it now takes between 40 and 62 days for the tax office to issue the tax assessment to the citizens.

These are the results of a survey of the tax authorities by the Taxpayers’ Association (BdSt), which FAS. available exclusively. “All federal states are feeling the lack of staff, the consequences of the Corona crisis, the increasing number of tasks and the increasing number of declarations,” says Daniela Karbe-Gessler, head of the tax department at the BdSt. Last year, for example, when 2021 returns were being reviewed, millions of homeowners’ extraordinary property tax returns added another burden to the agencies.

In Berlin it takes 40 days, in Bremen the longest

The tax offices are fastest there, of all places, where the administration is always criticized as slow and inefficient: in Berlin. And since 2016 even every year. Processing there in 2022 took 40 days, a little faster than in Hamburg. Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate also do well, with 46 to 48 days. Brandenburg and Bremen stand out negatively. Hessen shines because it made the biggest leap forward from 13th place to eighth place. North Rhine-Westphalia is unpleasant because it is the only state that does not provide precise data.

Checking the tax returns of employees was faster than that of the self-employed and freelancers. This is not surprising because the issues are simpler. The Berliners also have to wait the least for employees – only 37 days. In Bremen, on the other hand, it takes the longest at 65 days. Among the self-employed, Hamburg is ahead with 40 days, which in 2022 pushed ahead of Berlin with 43 days. Fast processing of declarations is particularly important for the self-employed, because other factors often depend on the tax assessment, such as the amount of tax advance payments.

The survey by the Taxpayers’ Association also revealed that the computer in the tax offices is increasingly checking the tax returns automatically, namely 17 percent of the returns – most in Thuringia with 22 percent, least in Hamburg with 13 percent. This has advantages for the citizen. Because such declarations are checked much faster, and the decision is with the taxpayer after ten to 14 days.

Tax return in the spring comes back faster

If, on the other hand, the citizen uses the computer himself and sends the declaration to the tax office by Elster, this hardly saves him any time. Electronically submitted tax returns are not given preference over paper-based returns Taxpayers Association. In some federal states, the processing time is reduced by one or two days at best, since the data is already available in digital form. “It’s quicker if the declaration is submitted in spring, or early summer at the latest,” advises Daniela Karbe-Gessler.

After that, there is a risk of a high workload in the tax offices due to the tax returns for 2021 that tax consultants prepare. You have until the end of August 2023 to do this. In addition, due to the short-time allowance paid in 2022 and the energy price flat rate, more workers than before are forced to submit a tax return.

If you submit early, you will get the notification sooner – this is shown by the experience of the taxpayers’ association. “Because the declarations are always processed in the order in which they are received. The offices have been processing the income tax returns for 2022 since around the end of February 2023,” says the BdSt. Accordingly, the assertion that the tax authorities delay cases when they have to pay something back to the taxpayer is also not correct.

Irrespective of this, the processing time can vary significantly from tax office to tax office within the same federal state, even though they all use the same software. The causes are then, for example, the different levels of occupation in the tax offices due to illness, vacation or parental leave and the different tax behavior of the citizens.

In general, the processing times can also be longer due to a higher proportion of tradespeople. Their tax returns are more complex than those of employees, who can be more easily checked by computer.

Incidentally, it is not true that the tax office has any amount of time for the examination. According to the taxpayers’ association, the tax assessment should be available after six months at the latest. Then you should inquire about the current processing status. If there is still nothing to do, those affected can file an appeal for inaction. After another six months without a notification, you then have the option of filing an action for failure to act. If taxpayers receive a tax refund, they are entitled to interest from 15 months in arrears. But it rarely takes that long.

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