U.S. Forces personnel are exempt from most German registration and census laws. However, if you own any real estate in Germany, you will be required to respond to one special type of German census. There are two German censuses that are occurring this summer: a population census and a real property census. U.S. Forces personnel are not required to respond to the first but, if they own real property in Germany, are required to respond to the second. In addition, real property owners have to respond to yet another letter from the German tax office concerning data collection related to property tax reassessment.
Ten percent of the population residing in Germany will be randomly selected and interviewed for the population census (“Haushaltsbefragung”). The participation criteria is based on residency and registration. It aims to gain data on persons and their economic family situation. U.S. Forces personnel with status under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement are exempt from German regulations in the field of registration of residence and aliens control. Therefore, if selected, you are NOT required to participate in the population census, but should inform the interviewer about your SOFA status.
Census concerning real property and buidlings
The second census deals with real property and buildings (“Befragung zur Gebäude- und Wohnungszählung”). It applies to ALL owners of such property. There is no exception for U.S. Forces personnel with SOFA status. Persons who own real estate in Germany are obligated to comply. The census questionnaire can be completed online at https://www.zensus2022.de/DE/Home/_inhalt.html. After entering the access code contained in the letter requesting your participation, you can switch the language on the website from German to English. In the alternative, you can talk to the interviewer directly. Failure to comply can ultimately trigger a fine.
Data collection for proerty tax reassessment
You are also required to comply with a data collection effort related to property tax. The German States have been required to implement a property tax reform (“Feststellung des Grundsteuerwerts”). Therefore, they enacted new real estate property tax laws. While property tax continues to be assessed on an annual basis at the level of the German municipality in which the real estate is located, the calculation will now change.
Independent of the above-stated census concerning real property and buildings and in addition to it, ALL real estate owners have to submit a data collection return during the period July1 through October 31.
In order to allow for a proper assessment real estate owners have to submit electronically a tax return schedule with information on the location of the real estate, its size, the standard land value, the type of building, living space size, and the year of construction… The new schedule from will be released on July 1, and needs to be summited no later than October 31.
Compliance requires registration on the ELSTER.de online tax platform. That triggers a tax number. Moreover, the schedule is only available in German and needs to be completed when logged on. Consequently, you may want to consider engaging a German tax consultant to carry out this task on your behalf as these professionals have special access rights to Elster.de.
Based on that information, the finance office will calculate the real estate value and property tax assessment basis to be used by the municipalities in setting the new annual property tax.
The new rules will enter into effect as from Jan. 1, 2025, onwards and be based on the valuation date for the property set at Jan. 1. Additional information can be obtained from the following websites (all in German): https://www.elster.de/eportal/login/softpse and https://grundsteuer.de/steuererklaerung/formulare