Submitting a corporation tax return
The tax office levies corporation tax (Körperschaftsteuer) on the income of legal entities.
The laws on income tax and corporation tax specify what is regarded as income and how it must be determined.
Corporation tax is an annual tax amounting to 15 percent of the taxable income generated during a calendar year. A solidarity surcharge of 5.5 percent is also charged on the tax due.
Corporation tax is a community tax. The income goes to the federal government and federal states jointly.
The tax office in the district where the management or registered office is located
If the management office or registered office is located in Germany, the following are fully liable for corporation tax:
- corporations (e.g. GmbH, AG),
- mutual insurance companies,
- other legal entities under private law (e.g. societies, trusts) and
- commercial enterprises run by public legal entities (e.g. by the municipalities)
All income is taxable.
Companies who generate income in Germany but have neither a management office
nor a registered office in German are only partly liable for corporation tax. Only the income generated in Germany is taxable.
The management office is the place at which major corporate decisions are made. The company’s registered office is decided by the partners and entered into the Commercial Register (Handelsregister).
Note: Charitable organisations only have to pay corporation tax on their commercial revenues insofar as these amount to more than 5,000 euros.
You must authenticate your corporation tax return and send it electronically to the financial administrative authority (Finanzverwaltung). The same applies to the relevant
- tax balance sheet or trade balance sheets with reconciliation and
- income statements
The information you send will be authenticated by the ELSTER certificate. This certificate serves as an electronic signature and as a form of security. Its purpose is to
- guarantee confidentiality
- protect the sender's identity and
- ensure that the content of the
data transmitted cannot be changed.
In order to obtain a certificate, you must register with the ELSTEROnline portal. The registration process involves several steps (e.g. sending the registration data, sending a confirmation mail via the ELSTEROnline portal, sending the activation code by letter). Please register in plenty of time.
You can use the Elster programme to send the information electronically free of charge.
The tax office decides how much tax is to be paid. You will then receive an assessment including a demand for payment or information on returning surplus tax payments.
- Submission of corporation tax return for the preceding calendar year: by 31 May
- Advance corporation tax payments:
- 10 March
- 10 June
- 10 September
- 10 December
You must pay one quarter of the tax calculated for the preceding year on each of these dates.
- Corporation tax declaration with corresponding enclosures
- Tax balance sheet or trade balance sheets with reconciliation account
Depends on the individual case
Note: The corporation must pay tax on its profits. It can also pay them out to its shareholders. Shareholders are obliged to pay income tax on these dividends.
In order to minimise this double taxation, dividends paid to shareholders are only taxed at a rate of 25 percent. Alternatively, shareholders can apply in their income tax returns to have 60 percent of the dividend taxed at their personal income tax rate (partial income method).
You can also obtain further information from your tax office.
The German original version of this text was drafted in close cooperation with the relevant departments. The Finanzministerium, represented by the Oberfinanzdirektion Karlsruhe, released it on 16.08.2017. Only the German text is legally binding. The Federal State does not assume any liability for the translated texts.
In cases of doubt or if you have any questions or problems, please contact the relevant authorities directly.