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9 important tax allowances for freelancers

Written by Sophia Merzbach, creative writer and content producer
Updated on
Read in 5 minutes

To make use of tax allowances or lump sums in the tax return sound good at first. They make your life easier when it comes to claiming many individual expenses for tax purposes. Instead, you can deduct a whole amount with a lump sum.

But is it actually beneficial to make use of tax lump sums as a self-employed person? Here you can find out which lump sums exist and in which cases you should use them.

The most important lump sums for the self-employed professionals in Germany are:

  1. Pendlerpauschale (Commuter allowance)
  2. Verpflegungspauschale (Lump sum for meals)
  3. Pauschale für Werbungskosten (Lump sum for work-related expenses)
  4. Homeoffice-Pauschale (Home office allowance)
  5. Umzugskostenpauschale (Lump sum for moving expenses)
  6. Sparerpauschbetrag (Savings lump sum)
  7. Pflegepauschbetrag (Lump-sum for care)
  8. Behindertenpauschbetrag (Disability lump sum)
  9. Ehrenamtspauschale (Honorary work allowance)

1. Pendlerpauschale (commuter allowance)

Many self-employed people work in a coworking space, an office or in a workshop. The costs for the commute from home to work can be claimed in the tax return. For this purpose, there is the commuter lump sum (also called the distance lump sum or kilometre lump sum).

With this lump sum, you can deduct € 0.30 for each kilometre between your home and your first place of business. Since 2022, you can also claim € 0.38 per kilometre for tax purposes from the 21st kilometre onwards. The actual working days in the respective calendar year are decisive for the calculation, because you can only claim this flat rate once per working day. If you use public transport to get to work, a maximum amount of € 4,500 applies to the commuter allowance.

If you use your own car or a company car, you can claim your travel costs as business expenses – even if the vehicle used is a private vehicle. In this case, however, you must prove the costs incurred. In addition to fuel expenses, this also includes the costs for vehicle tax, insurance, maintenance and depreciation.

2. Verpflegungspauschale (lump sum for meals)

If you can prove that you travelled for business reasons and that this business trip lasted longer than 8 hours, you can deduct your travel costs. There is a lump sum for meals, also called additional meal expenses. You can declare this flat rate as a business expense.

For trips within Germany, a flat rate of €14 applies for the day of arrival and departure. In addition, you can deduct €28 for each full day that you travel on business (as of 2023).

The situation is somewhat different for business trips abroad. In that case, different flat rates apply from country to country. You can find more about it here.

There is also a lump sum for overnight stays, but only €20 per night is taken into account. As a rule, however, this only applies to employees. Self-employed persons can claim the full costs for accommodation if they can prove this with their invoices.

Different lump sums also apply for overnight stays abroad. It depends on the city in which you stay overnight. This can also be found in the official table of the Federal Ministry of Finance, which is updated annually.

3. Pauschale für Werbungskosten (lump sum for work-related expenses)

For employees, the lump sum for income-related expenses is €1,000. Self-employed persons, on the other hand, can also claim costs that are far above this lump sum. These can be all business expenses resulting from your activity, there is no maximum limit. It is only important that you collect your receipts in order to be able to prove the expenses.

4. Homeofficepauschale (home office allowance)

Since many self-employed professionals are working more and more from home, it can make sense to officially register your office at home as a workplace. However, in order to be able to deduct private rooms as an office in the tax return, strict requirements had to be met until now.

But good news – since the introduction of the home office allowance, it has become much easier for employees and the self-employed people to deduct costs for working at home!

➡️This is how you claim the home office allowance!

➡️Working from home? This is what you need to know!

➡️This is what you can claim on taxes!

5. Umzugskostenpauschale (lump sum for moving expenses)

If you have to move for professional reasons, for example because you accept a new job in another city, you can claim these costs as business expenses for tax purposes. Unfortunately, this does not apply if you move for private reasons. The lump sum is €860. Like many lump sums, it is adjusted annually.

➡️You’re moving due to professional reasons? Don’t forget to change your address!

6. Sparerpauschbetrag (savings lump sum)

If you have profits from capital income, such as shares, you have to pay tax on them. However, there is a lump sum of €801 (or €1,602 for married couples). Gains from shares are tax-free up to this amount.

7. Pflegepauschbetrag (lump-sum for care)

If you take care of a family member in need of care at home, you can deduct a lump sum for this. The prerequisite is that you do not already receive other remuneration such as care allowance. Since 2021, the amount depends on the care level. For care degrees 2 and 3, it will be €600 and €1,100 respectively. Care degrees 4 and 5 will be €1,800.

8. Behindertenpauschbetrag (disability lump sum)

Since a disability represents a special burden, you can also claim a lump sum for it. It depends on the degree of disability. The lump sum for the disabled was increased in 2021 for the first time since 1975 and amounts to at least €384, depending on the degree of disability.

9. Ehrenamtspauschale (honorary work allowance)

If you do voluntary work in your spare time or as a part-time job, you can make use of certain lump sums.

Typically, you also receive a small payment for voluntary work. If the amount you receive does not exceed the limit of €840 per year, this income remains tax-free. However, your voluntary work must meet certain requirements. For example, you must work for a public or non-profit association, or for an institution such as a kindergarten or old people’s home.

There is even another lump sum for which you can receive up to €3,000 per year tax-free, the so-called “Übungsleiterpauschale”. Here, too, you have to work part-time for the above-mentioned non-profit associations or institutions. The difference is that you are mainly involved in the educational field. Übungsleiter (exercise leaders) can be, for example, educators, supervisors, trainers or carers.

Summary – These are the lump sums self-employed professionals can make use of

So that some expenses do not have to be declared individually, there are certain lump sums for simplification. You can deduct these from your tax without having to provide individual receipts.

However, it may be that your actual expenses as a self-employed person are higher than the lump sum. In this case, it is of course more profitable to declare the costs individually, but you must then also be able to prove them with receipts.

Some lump sums cannot be claimed by everyone. In order to claim certain lump sums, such as the honorary lump sum, you must meet certain requirements and be able to prove, for example, that you are actually engaged in voluntary work.

FAQ – Lump sums for the self-employed

What lump sums can I deduct as a self-employed person?

As a self-employed person, you can deduct certain expenses as a lump sum without having to submit detailed receipts. Some of the common lump sums are business expense lump sum, kilometre lump sum, meals lump sum and home office lump sum. For the self-employed, however, flat rates are not always the most advantageous tax option. This is because in some cases the actual expenses may be higher than the lump sums.

Which lump sums can I use as a Kleinunternehmer (small business)?

As a Kleinunternehmer in Germany, like other self-employed persons, you can use the typical lump sums, like the one for business expenses and allowances for business travel, meals, etc. to reduce your tax burden.

What is the tax-free allowance for the self-employed in Germany?

The basic tax allowance is €10,908 in 2023. No taxes are due up to this amount. If you have children, you can also claim the child allowance, which is adjusted annually. In addition, self-employed persons can then claim certain lump sums and business expenses.

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Sophia Merzbach, creative writer and content producer
Sophia Merzbach, creative writer and content producer

Sophia loves literature and writing. She's happy to have joined the Accountable team and is becoming a pro on all things tax related.
In her free time you will find her in a boulder gym, studying Italian or discovering the streets of her new hometown Berlin.

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