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Ask Hans-Torsten: Tax ID numbers and the new registration law

Hans-Torsten Richter answers your questions about surviving and thriving in Berlin. Write to [email protected].

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Dear Hans-Torsten:

I am a father of two and recently received an alarming email from other parents from my kids’ kindergarten. According to the email, all parents will have to submit their Steuer-IdNr. (tax ID number) and those of their kids to the Familienkasse by December or else their monthly Kindergeld (child allowance) payments will stop. I have tried to get more info about how to tackle this – I didn’t even know my kids had tax ID numbers! Please shed some light, HT…


Dear Bernard:

In 2007, Germany assigned a beautiful, life-long, 11-digit Steuer-IdNr., or Steuerliche Identifikationsnummer, to every living, breathing, registered human being in the country. Don’t confuse it with the similarly named Steuernummer! The Steuer-IdNr. is a tax ID number you keep all your life, while your Steuernummer changes every time you move to different area with a different Finanzamt or begin a new type of employment (switching from employee to self-employed, for example). You may not have noticed at the time or you threw away the letter, but your kids each received their own tax ID numbers too. Babies get one at birth! And yes, from 2016 onwards, the Familienkasse, the agency that transfers that monthly €188 per child to your account (€190 from January) wants the Steuer-IdNr. for you (the parent who receives the Kindergeld and your kid(s). This is apparently an attempt to crack down on Kindergeld fraudsters who are getting payments for non-existent, made-up kids.

Parents with newborns will have to provide the kid’s tax ID numbers from the start. Those already receiving Kindergeld must send the numbers for both themselves and the kid(s) in writing to their local Familienkasse. There are three different Familienkassen (Mitte, Nord, Süd) in Berlin; I suggest phoning the central government number, 115, to find out the address of yours. Many of the operators speak capable English. If you can’t find your Steuer-IdNr., or your kid’s, you can ask to get it sent to you via a form on the website for the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern: www.bzst.de. Beware, due to sudden mass panic among parents at the prospect of possibly being denied their Kindergeld, it could take up to three months to get your Steuer-IdNr. sent by post! But don’t worry: despite rumours that payments will stop, the authorities say that parents have until the end of 2016 to send in the tax ID numbers.

Dear Hans-Torsten:

So what’s up with these new rules requiring a letter from my landlord if I want to get angemeldet? I thought having a rental contract was enough?


Dear Jenny:

Just as lawmakers have been trying to crack down on Kindergeld cheats, with the new Meldegesetz (registration law) that went into effect on November 1, they’re hoping to prevent criminals and potential terrorists from registering at fake addresses. These ‘criminals’ include parents who illegally register at a friend’s flat in a more affluent part of the city so that their kids can attend a more desirable school. So yes, as of November 1, the Bürgeramt requires written confirmation (officially known as a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) from your landlord that you have actually moved into the flat on a specific date. A rental contract will no longer make the Bürgeramt happy! Ideally, when you sign the contract, the landlord or the agency representing him, will have a form letter prepared which you can show the Amt. Subletting?

Then you need to get the main tenant (Hauptmieter) to sign the document. Type Wohnungsgeberbestätigung Muster into your favourite search engine for a printable PDF that you can hand to him or her to fill out. Tenant advocacy groups are already complaining that the burden is placed on the tenant to provide the document, which might mean having to chase up the letter from a negligent landlord. Then there is the age-old question of actually getting an appointment at the Bürgeramt. You’re legally required to register within 14 days of moving in, but happily the Berlin authorities ignore this rule, as it’s nearly impossible to get an appointment: all online Termine were booked out through January last time I checked, but that’s another story. If you just want to get it over with, walk into your Amt and “bring some time with you”, as we say in German.

Originally published in issue #144, December 2015.