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Tax returns: Is now the best time to file?

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Tax returns: Is now the best time to file?

Monday, February 26, 2024, 10:15 a.m

If you would like to receive your tax assessment for the past year quickly, you can submit your 2023 tax return now. As a rule, the tax office does not send the notice before the end of March. Why is that? Can processing be sped up? And by when does the 2023 tax return have to be submitted to the responsible tax office at the latest? The income tax assistance association United Income Tax Assistance e.V. provides answers to this. V. (VLH).

Can tax return processing be accelerated?

In theory, the income tax return for the previous year can be submitted as early as January 1st of the following year. But very few taxpayers are so early. However, many people don’t want to wait too long and therefore submit their tax return early. Either because they expect a tax refund and would like to have the money in their account quickly. Or because they expect an additional tax payment and want to get this out of the way quickly.

These three tips increase the chances that the tax return will be processed quickly:

First come, first served: submit your tax return as early as possible. The tax office processes tax returns as they are received, at least from March onwards. Digital takes precedence over analogue: Send the tax return electronically to the tax office using ELSTER. Because these tax returns usually require less effort than those that come in paper form. Many ELSTER declarations are now processed fully automatically at the tax office. For these, the tax assessment is issued particularly quickly. Quick response to questions: keep evidence, receipts and vouchers to hand. Taxpayers can then react quickly if the tax office has questions or asks for evidence.

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When can you expect the tax assessment at the earliest?

At the beginning of the year, current tax law changes must first be fed into the software in the tax offices. In addition, the tax offices are first waiting for the tax data that is transmitted electronically by employers or insurance companies. This must be done by the end of February. Only then will tax returns for 2023 be processed. As a result, taxpayers can usually only expect their tax assessment from the end of March, even if they have already submitted their tax return in January.

How long can the tax office take?

In principle, you must allow for a waiting period of several weeks after submitting the tax return before the tax assessment arrives. The state of Rhineland-Palatinate had the fastest tax offices in 2023. They needed an average of 49.87 days to process an income tax return. The tax offices in Hamburg (50.01 days) and North Rhine-Westphalia (50.06 days) were almost as quick. Brandenburg came last: there, people waited an average of 68.85 days for the tax assessment. The Herne tax office leads the list of the fastest tax offices individually with 29.8 days. (Source:

In principle, there is no official requirement as to the time frame in which the tax office must process a tax return. However, if a taxpayer waits three months for the decision, he or she can definitely ask the responsible tax office. This can be done in writing or, even better, in a short telephone conversation, and a lot can be clarified.

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Deadline for filing the 2023 tax return

While the tax offices do not have to meet a legally regulated deadline for processing a tax return, the situation is different for taxpayers. At least for those who are obliged to submit a tax return: You must have submitted the 2023 tax return by September 2, 2024. The official deadline is August 31st, but since it is a Saturday, there is still time until the following Monday.

Anyone who has their 2023 tax return prepared by a wage tax assistance association or a tax advisor has longer time: in this case, it does not have to be at the tax office until June 2, 2025. Here too, the official deadline falls on a Saturday (May 31st), so submission is valid until the following Monday.

By the way: For citizens who have to submit a tax return, this is a mandatory assessment. The voluntary submission is called an application assessment – and this can be done retroactively for up to four years.

The VLH: Largest income tax assistance association in Germany

The wage tax assistance association United Wage Tax Assistance e. V. (VLH) is Germany’s largest income tax assistance association with more than a million members and around 3,000 advice centers nationwide. Founded in 1972, the VLH also provides the most consultants certified according to DIN 77700.

The VLH prepares the income tax return for its members, applies for all tax reductions, checks the tax assessment and much more within the scope of the advisory authority in accordance with Section 4 No. 11 StBerG.

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